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Adams Says Losing Emergency Powers Will Slow Efforts to Help Asylum Seekers

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander has revoked Mayor Eric Adams’ emergency powers to make deals with contractors for migrant services without prior approval, reports said Monday.

Adams was granted the power to make such deals in November 2022, but his subsequent awarding of a no-bid $432 million contract to DocGo, a for-profit medical services firm with no expertise in migrant services, raised eyebrows.

DocGo has been accused of mistreating the migrants it is supposed to provide for. Its CEO resigned in September, days after Lander’s office retroactively rejected its contract, citing “alarming” reports of its performance. DocGo and several other for-profit companies are nonetheless on track to receive new migrant services contracts from the city worth more than $560 million, the NY Daily News reported Monday. 

The comptroller’s latest move doesn’t stop the city from issuing emergency contracts entirely; it merely removes the blanket “pre-approval” for such contracts and instead requires that each use of the emergency procurement system be reviewed, New York’s City Hall Chief Council Lisa Zornberg explained Tuesday.

“Anything that slows us down is not a good thing,” she said during a City Hall briefing.

At the same briefing, Adams criticized Lander for “tying our hands.“

“We have to make these quick decisions on dealing with these contracts and placing people in housing,” he said, adding that he was disappointed Lander wasn’t focusing his attention on getting support from Washington D.C. for this “national problem” instead.

Refugee advocacy groups, however, welcomed the comptroller’s move.

“Given the questionable ways the City has been responding to the arrival of asylum seekers, having the Comptroller ensure that future contracts are given to those with the right expertise and values, who will treat asylum seekers with dignity and provide them the support they need, makes a lot of sense,” Yael Schacher, Director for the Americas and Europe for Refugees International, told Documented.

“The handling of newcomers must be made a part of the new normal and the way things are done in the long run, and done right. Continuing to message immigration as destructive to the city or an emergency that means less resources for long-time immigrants and New Yorkers promotes zero sum, newcomers-versus-the-rest politics that must stop.”

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