A pair of advocacy groups blasted Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday morning for appearing to say in a radio interview that the city’s “right to shelter” law doesn’t apply to the over 41,000 asylum seekers who’ve been arriving in the Big Apple since last spring.
Hizzoner made the remarks during an interview on WABC’s “Sid & Friends in the Morning,” — a show he frequently calls into, hosted by Sid Rosenberg. During the conversation, the mayor said the city’s status as a sanctuary city is “codified in law;” but his administration doesn’t believe asylum seekers are covered by the city’s right to shelter policy, which requires City Hall to provide shelter to anyone seeking it and is enshrined in municipal law.
“Now, when we talk about a sanctuary city, that is codified in law — there was a lawsuit, and this is a state and city of law and order, the courts ruled that this is a sanctuary city, we have a moral and legal obligation to fulfill that,” the mayor said in response to a question from Rosenberg on New York’s sanctuary city status.
“We don’t believe asylum seekers fall into the whole right to shelter conversation,” he continued. “This is a crisis that must be addressed based on what was created on this national platform.”
A few hours after Adams made the comments, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless — both frequent critics of how the mayor has handed the crisis — released a statement noting that the right to shelter applies to “anyone in need of shelter” and the mayor can’t decide when it does and doesn’t apply.
“Anyone in need of shelter, including asylum seekers, is entitled to such, as prescribed by multiple long-standing court orders and local law,” they said. “This is not a responsibility that Mayor Adams can decide to shirk, and he knows better. Flouting the law would accomplish nothing and such a move would only land this administration in front of a judge for contempt. The Mayor must clarify his remarks from this morning immediately.”
Another advocacy group, the New York Immigration Coalition, also took aim at Adams’ remarks in a Tweet.
“It’s @NYCMayor’s job to follow our laws including our Right-to-Shelter law,” the group wrote. “It’s not up to him to decide who can be excluded based on how they got here.”
The mayor’s office pushed back on those criticisms in an email to amNewYork Metro, noting that when the right to shelter law was initially implemented about 40 years ago, no one would have anticipated this crisis. Plus, they said, the city has stepped up and provided shelter, food and a suite of other services to the migrants who’ve come here so far.
“Right to shelter was implemented about four decades ago and, at the time, no one ever thought the number of people in our shelter system would nearly double in less than a year as a result of an influx of more than 41,600 asylum seekers arriving in our city,” a spokesperson said. “As the mayor frequently notes, we are providing shelter, food, health care, education, legal support, and a host of other services to asylum seekers arriving here — more than any other city in the nation.”
The mayor’s office also claimed that no migrant family has slept on the street because they weren’t offered shelter and that “everyone who has come to us seeking shelter has been provided shelter.”
Additionally, they pointed to the mayor again calling the migrant crisis a “national problem” that the federal government must address.
Adams’ comments come after the city announced, over the weekend, plans to open another large-scale shelter to help handle the influx. The newest 1,000-bed “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC)” will be located in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.
Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless also came out against the mayor’s citing of the new facility, listing concerns about it being located in a flood zone, far away from public transportation and that it potentially will leave migrants exposed to the elements. City Hall, however, said the new HERRC will be entirely indoors and temperature controlled, rather than a tent shelter that was erected and taken down on Randall’s Island last fall.
This isn’t the first time the mayor has suggested the city doesn’t have to follow its right-to-shelter law when it comes to asylum seekers. Last fall, when asked if the first HERRC — originally cited for Orchard Beach in the Bronx — would follow right to shelter rules, Adams said the migrant crisis should be seen as separate from the city’s shelter obligations.
“The migrant crisis is outside of the housing initiative that we are doing for right to shelter,” he said at the time. “These are two different entities.”