NEW YORK (AP) — New York City is closing a tent complex for migrants that it had just opened three weeks ago as the influx of people being bused from Arizona and other southern border states has slowed, officials said Thursday.
The temporary humanitarian relief facility at Randall’s Island is scheduled to shut next week, and any occupants will be offered space at a new relief center opening in a midtown Manhattan hotel, Mayor Eric Adams’ office announced.
“We continue to welcome asylum seekers arriving in New York City with compassion and care,” Adams said in a statement, adding that the new hotel center “will provide asylum seekers with a place to stay, access support, and get to their final destination.”
The center had opened Oct. 19 to house single men seeking asylum in the U.S. for temporary periods after their initial arrival in New York City. It helped them determine what resources they needed and whether they wanted to go elsewhere.
In recent months, the number of migrants, mainly from Venezuela, arriving in New York City had sharply increased after officials in states like Arizona and Texas sent them over on buses. Meanwhile, in August in Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order to place empty shipping containers in several gaps in the border fence near Yuma. The containers, stacked two high, are topped with razor wire. The goal isn’t to stop everyone, which Ducey has said is impossible, but he’s confident the big metal boxes will slow the flow of border crossings. In August, some of the containers toppled over, which the governor’s office attributed to people knocking over the 8,800-pound metal boxes. To date, 130 containers have been placed on the border.
On Oct. 14, the Bureau of Reclamation sent an email to the Arizona Department of Homeland Security and the Arizona Division of Emergency Management saying that the placement of the containers is trespassing on federal land and requesting the state stop placing containers on federal and Cocopah tribal land. In the same email, the bureau said Customs and Border Protection already had awarded a contract to fill the gaps along where Arizona placed the containers. It also said the state was actively interfering with the process the bureau had underway to fill the gaps – and that it was a violation of federal law.
Ducey responded with a lawsuit Oct. 21, claiming he had the power to make the decision to place the containers on the border through his gubernatorial “emergency powers.” In August, Ducey declared a state of emergency regarding the increased flow of migrants crossing the border illegally, and as a result, he authorized the placement of the containers.
In New York City, Adams declared a state of emergency over the increased pressure on the city’s infrastructure, with the homeless shelter system bursting. There are more than 63,300 people in the shelter system.
But the Randall’s Island facility, made up of heated tents that included cots for up to 500 people and could have held double that number, didn’t use anywhere close to that capacity.
The mayor’s office did not specify how many migrants had used the facility. It said there are 17,500 people seeking asylum in the city’s care overall.
Even before it opened, immigrant advocates had been concerned about the center over a range of issues including its location, on an island between the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens, and whether it was appropriate to house people in tents instead of built spaces like hotels, and whether migrants would be getting adequate services.
News of its shutdown was met with approval.
“The city is doing the right thing by moving people to a setting where they can have their own space and get settled so they can move on with their lives,” said Kathryn Kliff, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “Also, 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.”
Shane Brennan with Cronkite News contributed to this article.g