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Queens Lawmakers Want Asylum Seekers Housed in Hotels, Not Tent City on Randall’s Island

From L to R: Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, Councilmember Julie Won and Councilmember Shekar Krishnan. The lawmakers will take part in a rally outside City Hall at noon Thursday to urge the mayor to stop the construction of a tent city on Randall’s Island. (Photos: Governor’s Office, NY Assembly, Michael Dorgan, NYC Council))

Oct. 12, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

Several Queens lawmakers are calling on the mayor to scrap his plans to house asylum seekers in a tent city on Randall’s Island – and instead find them better accommodation, such as hotel rooms.

Four Queens legislators — Assemblymembers Catalina Cruz and Zohran Mamdani, as well as Councilmembers Julie Won and Shekar Krishnan – will rally outside City Hall at noon Thursday to urge the mayor to stop the construction of the tent city. They will be joined by several other city and state lawmakers.

The tent city is being erected as a form of emergency accommodation to house an influx of asylum seekers to the city in recent months – many of whom have been bused by the governors of Texas and Florida. Around 17,000 asylum seekers have come to New York City from the southern border since April, according to the mayor.

However, the lawmakers say the tent city will not be safe as it will be prone to flooding. They point to a proposal to construct a similar structure in the Bronx that was scrapped last week after rain filled the tents with water.

The lawmakers also say the tents do not provide adequate protection against cold or wind, especially as temperatures are set to drop over the coming weeks.

The legislators say there are better ways to house the migrants including at shuttered hotels throughout the city.

Last week Speaker Adrienne Adams identified 10 closed hotels in Manhattan which she said could be used to house the migrants.

Other alternatives the lawmakers suggest include freeing up the city’s shelters by moving current tenants into permanent housing. The mayor said last week that out of 61,000 people living in city shelters, one in five is a migrant.

Another proposal, they say, would be to open housing assistance programs to undocumented immigrants.

Krishnan criticized the Randall’s Island plan last week and called on the mayor to do more.

“All New Yorkers have a right to clean, dignified and safe shelter – that includes our newest arrivals,” Krishnan said in a statement.

“The proposed tent system for Randall’s Island falls well short of these standards. We must do better for those who have been through so much to get here, as well as those who’ve long been through our homeless shelter system.”

Mayor Eric Adams greeting migrants at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in August (Official New York City government Twitter)

Tomorrow’s rally will come days after the mayor declared a state of emergency to help the city respond to the migrant crisis. The declaration suspended certain land-use requirements and paved the way for the tent city on Randall’s Island to go forward.

The mayor also called for federal and state aid to handle the continued influx of asylum seekers. He said that housing the asylum seekers will cost the city $1 billion this fiscal year.

“We now have a situation where more people are arriving in New York City than we can immediately accommodate, including families with babies and young children,” Adams said Friday.

“Once the asylum seekers from today’s buses are provided shelter, we would surpass the highest number of people in recorded history in our city’s shelter system.”

He also said that 42 hotels have been set up as emergency shelters and 5,500 migrant children have been enrolled in schools.

The city is also exploring a potential program for New Yorkers to host asylum seekers and the “unhoused” in their homes, according to CNN.

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