Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday defended the city’s plan to move a tent camp intended to house asylum seekers from Orchard Beach to Randall’s Island, calling it a “cost-effective” decision made due to weather concerns. .
The decision, which Adams announced on Monday evening, came amid growing fears that the original site of the Orchard Beach car park could be flooded – but has drawn ire from advocacy groups who have maintained that Randall’s Island would be no better.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Adams said officials had seen “water accumulation” at the Orchard Beach site, adding that relocating to Randall’s Island would be “more cost-effective” .
What do you want to know
- Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday defended the city’s plan to move a tent camp to house asylum seekers from Orchard Beach to Randall’s Island
- The decision came amid growing fears that the original site of Orchard Beach was susceptible to flooding – but has drawn ire from advocacy groups who have argued Randall’s Island will not wouldn’t be better.
- The Orchard Beach location was the first of several tent camps city officials said they planned to open. Republicans and Democrats had harsh words for the plan
“We could have mitigated water pooling, but [NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol] made the decision — he called me and said, “Eric, it’s best if we use Randall’s Island. It is a higher peak. The parking lot is best used for this. And so we pivot and change,” the mayor said.
“One of the reasons we didn’t initially set up camp on Randall’s Island was because of seasonal use, and that ends after Monday, so Randall’s Island is now available in a way that doesn’t. was not when we started this process,” added Iscol. . “It’s also more profitable. We’re actually saving money by moving to Randall’s Island at this point.
Adams said he could not yet say how much the move would cost.
In a statement released late Monday, the mayor said that while the city “would be able to put in place the necessary mitigation measures to mitigate the ponds, the relocation of the Orchard Beach Humanitarian Relief Center to the island de Randall is the most effective and efficient path, and work is underway to make this move.”
“This new location is less prone to flooding, is closer to public transport and will provide temporary respite for 500 asylum seekers,” he said. A City Hall spokesperson later clarified that the Randall’s Island Humanitarian Relief Center would be located in the Icahn Stadium parking lot.
Ahead of Adams’ Tuesday afternoon press conference, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless released a joint statement saying their concerns about Orchard Beach’s location also apply to Randall’s Island.
“The city must look to alternatives instead of tent cities, where our customers will be isolated, vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and far from public transport and other essential services,” the statement said.
The ‘Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centres’, or HERCs, were intended to help ease some of the stress on the city’s shelter system as asylum seekers continue to arrive by bus from the southern states.
Both advocacy groups suggested the city instead consider housing asylum seekers in hotels, which they said “have always been the best short-term option.”
The groups also argued that the Adams administration should reinvent the city’s housing voucher process to move more homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing and create space for new entrants to the system. of shelters.
“While we appreciate City Hall’s commitment to housing rights, the flooding in Orchard Beach is set to serve as a canary in a coal mine, and the Adams administration must abandon this flawed plan in favor of the actions we have been advocating for ever since. the beginning of this crisis,” the groups wrote.
The Orchard Beach location was the first of several tent camps city officials said they planned to open. Republicans and Democrats had harsh words for the plan.
“Once you come here, you are a New Yorker and you are welcome to the rights and responsibilities of New Yorkers, including the right to housing,” said Christine Quinn, the former city council president of New York who now runs Win, one of the city’s largest shelter providers.
Bronx community leaders, veterans and clergy held a press conference in the parking lot on Monday, criticizing Mayor Adams for placing migrants in what they believe to be inhumane conditions.
“Now they are being treated here in the Orchard Beach parking lot in the freezing cold and the puddles,” added Bronx Republican Party Chairman Michael Rendino. “It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the people of the Bronx.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Adams said the city has been in talks with Governor Kathy Hochul and the mayors of Washington, DC and Chicago about the crisis.
“I just find it ironic that these buses are coming to three cities with three black mayors – it’s not lost on me – who are already experiencing crises, and I think the actions that are taking place [are] really compromising our ability to deal with the crisis we are already facing,” he said. “So we communicated.
Hochul, for her part, said she would send National Guard members to all five boroughs to help the city deal with the crisis, Adams said.
“We reached out to the governor and asked her for help, and that’s one of the areas she decided to help us with,” he said. “And that sends the right message that we are going to use everything we have to deal with this humanitarian crisis that we are facing.”