New York

NYC immigrant housing centers would follow right-to-shelter rules under new City Council bill


The Adams administration’s large-scale emergency housing facilities for migrants would have to comply with local right-to-shelter rules under a bill to be introduced in the City Council on Thursday, the Daily News has learned.

Unlike traditional homeless shelters, the administration’s so-called Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers for migrants are being operated by the Office of Emergency Management and NYC Health + Hospitals.

Migrants arrive at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York City on Monday, January 30, 2023.

Homeless advocates have accused the administration of handing authority of the centers to those two agencies — as opposed to the Department of Homeless Services — in order to let them operate outside the city’s right-to-shelter law. The law sets requirements for housing conditions in shelter settings, including bed spacing and laundry access.

The new legislation, expected to be introduced by Brooklyn Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, would require all current and future migrant relief centers to comply with all provisions of the right-to-shelter ordinance.

“[The bill] I am introducing today will ensure every facility that houses asylum seekers has the highest humanitarian standards. In one of the richest cities on Earth, we can do better than warehousing people,” said Hanif, a Democrat who is chairwoman of the Council’s Immigration Committee.

“We can ensure everyone who arrives in our city, no matter where they come from, is given a dignified place to sleep,” Hanif said.

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in the Red Hook neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City on January 25, 2023.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Adams said Wednesday that his administration is open to exploring Hanif’s proposal.

“While we have handled this crisis largely on our own, we welcome discussions with government partners as we look for long-term solutions,” the spokeswoman said.

Hanif’s bill comes a month after Adams said he does not believe the tens of thousands of mostly Latin American migrants who have arrived in the city since last spring “fall into the whole right-to-shelter conversation.”

Most of the administration’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, commonly known as HERRCs, are operating out of hotels. Homeless advocates have not complained about those.

However, advocates and Democratic Council members raised alarm about the tent-style HERRC the administration operated on Randalls Island, where hundreds of migrant men slept on cots lined in tight rows in sprawling dormitories.

The Randalls Island site was shut down in November, but the administration has opened another large-scale HERRC at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on the Red Hook waterfront that remains open. Similar to the Randalls facility, the Red Hook site has tight rows of cots that migrants sleep on head-to-toe.

A Council source who worked on Hanif’s bill said the legislation aims to put a lid on the Red Hook site and any future facilities like it.

“It would essentially make facilities like the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal one illegal,” the source said, noting that right-to-shelter requires beds to be at least 3 feet apart.

The Legal Aid Society, which has multiple times accused Adams’ administration of violating right-to-shelter stipulations during the migrant crisis, welcomed Hanif’s bill.

“With more and more migrants coming to New York seeking our help, we must ensure that HERCCs comply with the well-established court orders, as well as state and local law,” Legal Aid attorney Kathryn Kliff said.


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