New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced the city will close the migrant relief center on Randall's Island next week. The move comes less than a month after the city opened the sprawling 84,000-square-foot facility designed to assist with the sharp increase of asylum seekers entering the shelter system.
New York City Emergency Management opened the facility amid an effort spearheaded by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to bus migrants to Democrat-led cities as a way to protest the Biden administration's immigration policies. While the governor's efforts have been criticized by some as a political stunt, the sudden increase of migrants entering the shelter system caused Adams to declare a state of emergency in October.
In a statement Thursday, the mayor made clear that while the rate of arrival has "slowed in recent weeks" the city is still providing services to thousands of asylum seekers. He also announced that the opening of a new humanitarian emergency response and relief center at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan that will provide 600 rooms for single adult male asylum seekers coming to the city. Women and families with children continue to be housed at other shelters the city has already established throughout its five boroughs.
"We continue to welcome asylum seekers arriving in New York City with compassion and care. This Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center will provide asylum seekers with a place to stay, access support, and get to their final destination," Adams said in the statement. "The city is currently caring for over 17,500 asylum seekers, a number that continues to grow steadily. We will continue to pivot and shift as necessary to deal with this humanitarian crisis, but it's clear that we still need financial assistance from our state and federal partners."
The city's emergency management office first started building the facility at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, but had to relocate due to flood risk. At an event marking the opening of the facility on Randall's Island, NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol told reporters that demobilizing that location and installing it on the island cost roughly $750,000.
Critics of the facility, including The Legal Aid Society, urged the mayor to focus on finding more permanent solutions.
"The City is doing the right thing by moving people to a setting where they can have their own space and get settled. We are glad that this new location will be much more accessible to public transit so clients can access services and easily travel to and from the site. The migrants still need lawyers and work authorization so they can move on with their lives. The City should pivot to moving people currently living in shelters into permanent housing so it can further reduce its reliance on hotels to meet its obligations to shelter people who have nowhere else to go," Joshua Goldfein, staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society, said.
In October, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would begin expelling Venezuelan migrants who try to cross into the U.S. under the authority of Title 42, a Trump-era public health statute that allows the quick expulsion of migrants, citing the risk of COVID-19.
"Almost four times as many Venezuelans as last year attempted to cross our southern border, placing their lives in the hands of ruthless smuggling organizations," the DHS said when it announced the new enforcement process.
The implementation of Title 42 has, in part, stemmed the flow of migrants to the city. Goldfein told ABC News that despite having the capacity to temporarily shelter over 900 migrants, the Randall's Island facility has been mostly empty and as of Wednesday had 285 people staying there.
Editor's note: Story updated to correct that as of Wednesday, not Tuesday, there were 285 people staying in the migrants facility.