New York City is opening fifth aid center amid continued influx of asylum seekers, mayor says

By Gloria Pazmino and Emma Tucker, CNN

New York City is slated to open an aid center at a cruise ship terminal that will provide a temporary respite to the ongoing influx of asylum seekers entering the city, officials said.

The new location will be at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, one of three cruise ship terminals in the New York City metropolitan area, Mayor Eric Adams announced Saturday. It will serve about 1,000 asylum seekers, particularly single adult men transferred from another humanitarian aid center, in addition to newly arriving single men, the mayor said.

The cruise terminal site will be the fifth humanitarian emergency and relief center to open in the city to handle the arrival of immigrants flown in from other parts of the country in recent months, according to the mayor’s announcement. The city has also opened 77 hotels as emergency shelters, according to Zach Iscol, New York City’s emergency management officer.

A spokesman for the mayor gave no timeline for the opening of the new site, saying it is expected to be operational “very soon”. The spokesman also declined to specify the cost of the new site, but said the city will hire an outside contractor to complete the process.

The center is expected to be operational by spring, when the terminal reopens to the public for the cruise season, officials said, and it will also provide on-site medical care, food, laundry, reconnections and a place to stay.

“With more than 41,000 asylum seekers arriving in New York City since last spring and nearly 28,000 asylum seekers currently in our care, our city is at its breaking point,” Adams said in a statement Saturday.

CNN has reached out to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which leases and operates the cruise terminal, for comment.

Proponents express concerns

The structure of the cruise terminal will be “similar” to the tent structures the city opened on Randall’s Island in October, the spokesman said. The center on Randall’s Island closed in mid-November in response to the then-declining number of asylum seekers, city officials said in a press release in November.

The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless, both of which have criticized Adam’s plans to build tent-like structures, issued a statement raising concerns about whether the shelter will comply with the city’s housing rights guidelines.

The statement said the site is in a “high risk flood zone” that will “unnecessarily expose prospective residents to the elements during some of the coldest months of the year.”

“Hotels have always been a better short-term option, as opposed to erecting tents in inaccessible parts of New York City that are prone to flooding,” the statement said.

Adams’ spokesman said the new cruise terminal structure would be housed in an existing building at the terminal, stressing that it would provide “double insulation” from the elements; a concern that proponents had expressed about previous structures.

In October, Adams declared a state of emergency to respond to the city’s migrant crisis, which he said would cost the city $1 billion this fiscal year.

The mayor also called for emergency federal and state aid to deal with the ongoing influx of asylum seekers.

Adams’ statement directed all relevant city agencies to coordinate efforts to respond to the humanitarian crisis and establish the city’s humanitarian emergency response and relief centers.

Biden has publicly denounced Title 42

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last April announced a program to ship migrants who have been processed and released by immigration authorities in Texas border communities to Washington DC, New York City and Chicago.

Abbott and others who advocate increasing immigration restrictions argue that the Biden administration’s policies have created an incentive for more people to cross the border illegally. The bus campaign has sparked a row between Abbott and Adams, whose administration has accused the governor of using people as political pawns and whose city has long been seen as a safe haven for migrants.

Since March 2020, the controversial Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 has allowed officials to quickly expel migrants who crossed the border illegally, all in the name of Covid-19 prevention. There were nearly 2.5 million expulsions, mostly under the Biden administration.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden publicly condemned Title 42 and his administration said it was preparing to end it. But officials have repeatedly turned to Trump-era politics to manage a spiraling situation at the border.

Officials have claimed court decisions left them no choice, but they have also opted to extend the policy beyond a court order.

The Supreme Court ruled in December that Title 42 remains in effect pending legal challenges. This is a victory for Republican-led states, which are asking the Supreme Court to step in and block a lower court’s opinion ordering the agency’s termination.

The CNN Wire
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CNN’s Samantha Beech and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.