fbpx New York City Seeks to Further Modify Right to Shelter - Documented

Hochul, Adams Want to Modify NYC Right to Shelter Law as a Response to Migrants

At a closed-door conference in New York County Supreme Court on Tuesday, city representatives indicated they will seek to revise the right to shelter law, Supreme Court Judge Erika Edwards said. This comes as the Adams administration has, for months, looked to distance itself from obligations to house migrants under the City’s right to shelter. City officials have repeatedly demanded that more aid from the federal and state governments be allocated to the city, and asked for other cities to take up additional responsibilities to shelter migrants.

The City must submit a letter detailing their desired changes to the right to shelter consent decree by October 3. The Legal Aid Society has been engaged in negotiations with the City over the right to shelter law for months.

Despite the state, federal government and the City working together in more “effective” ways in recent weeks, the hearing on Tuesday showed that the Adams administration still plans to ask for permission to be “relieved of the right to shelter in some way,” Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society, told reporters outside the courthouse. 

“It doesn’t make sense at this moment for the City to ask to be relieved of its obligation to protect people from dying on the streets of New York,” he said. But it was unclear on Tuesday what exactly the City would be asking for, and Goldfein noted that Legal Aid will have to wait and evaluate what exactly the request is before they respond to it.

More than 116,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring, according to City Hall. About 300 to 500 people have been arriving per day, with more than 60,000 currently in city care, City Hall said. 

The Adams administration has been communicating with the court since May, looking to modify parts of the right to shelter consent decree, which requires the City to find temporary shelter for anyone who asks for it – legislation that has been in effect for about 40 years. 

“Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement on May 23

On Tuesday, Goldfein said that this latest move would be the City’s third similar request through the court to revise the right to shelter. “What they [the city] have said is that the facts keep changing, and so their requests are changing in response to the situation,” Goldfein said. “Now, their request – they say – will reflect the current reality.”

Judge Edwards said on Tuesday she was recusing herself from the case. “I wish to avoid any potential appearance of impropriety, that my impartiality might be questioned, as it may appear that I may have motive to favor one party,” she said at the hearing,  though she did not provide further information. The case will be assigned to a new judge, Judge Edwards said. 

Now, city officials have amped up their messaging: New York has no more room to house migrants, they have said again and again. In recent weeks, the Adams administration has taken various actions to cut down on the length of stay for migrants in city facilities. In the past two months, the city has given out about 13,000 notices to migrant adults, alerting them that they must leave the shelters they’re staying at within 60 days. 

Last week, Mayor Adams announced that he was cutting down the time that migrants were allowed to stay in shelters even further. THE CITY first reported that migrants who apply for shelter at the Roosevelt Hotel intake shelter will now receive notices that their shelter stays will be limited to 30 days. Deputy Mayor for Health and Human services, Anne Williams-Isom, said on WNYC last week that the City would be asking the court to exclude newly arriving migrants from the city’s right to shelter mandate, Gothamist reported

After President Biden announced an extension of Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul aligned with the Adams administration on the issue–saying on CNN that she would support moves to rescind or pause the right to shelter law. The law, Hochul said, was started to house homeless men on the street. “Never was it envisioned that this would be an unlimited universal right or obligation on the City to have to house literally the entire world,” she said. 

Still, it remains uncertain if state and city directives aimed at stopping migrants from coming to New York are having any effect. At the Roosevelt Hotel intake shelter in Midtown on Monday, dozens of migrants were ushered into the center, where more than a hundred people huddled in chairs crammed next to each other. Many had just arrived on buses from Texas, advocates said, while others were at the center to find another city facility to stay at after their 60-day timeline at their previous shelter was up.

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