Mayor Adams appeared Friday to walk back his claim that asylum seekers aren’t covered by the city’s right-to-shelter law — but maintained his administration can apply the rule differently when it comes to housing migrants.
The latest hubbub over right-to-shelter erupted Wednesday when Adams said his administration is operating under the assumption that migrants do not “fall into the whole right-to-shelter conversation.”
His remark drew backlash from a chorus of local elected officials and immigration advocates who argued there’s no distinction between citizens and noncitizens in the law, which has for decades required the city to provide shelter for anyone who needs it.
Asked about the matter during a Friday morning appearance on WNYC, Adams acknowledged the law does not include a carveout for migrants, seemingly backing off his previous contention.
“Currently, no, it does not,” he said. “Non-citizens come here and they have the right-to-shelter, let’s be clear on that. If someone comes here and they’re non-citizen they have the right-to-shelter, and we comply with that.”
However, Adams also hinted he believes his administration has some leeway when it comes to timelines on providing shelter for the tens of thousands of mostly Latin American migrants who are in the city.
“We believe when you look at the number of hours that someone must be in — when you receive 800 people in one day, 3,000 in one week — the number of hours that they must comply with that rule on right-to-shelter falls in a different category when you’re dealing with a humanitarian crisis,” the mayor said.
It was not immediately clear what Adams was referring to in saying that the right-to-shelter ordinance can be applied differently for migrants when it comes to “the number of hours.” A spokesman for the mayor did not immediately respond to emailed followed-up questions.
[ Mayor Adams admits NYC violated law by failing to house asylum seekers amid shelter crisis ]
In addition to requiring the city to house anyone who don’t have a place to stay, the right-to-shelter law stipulates certain baseline residential conditions, like access to laundry services and a set amount of space in between beds.
It also requires placement in shelter within a set timeframe. As thousands of Central and South American nationals began streaming into the city last year in hopes of obtaining asylum, the Adams administration failed on at least two occasions to shelter people within that timeframe — slipups that homeless advocates said amounted to violations of the right-to-shelter law.
Adams has dismissed criticism over his administration’s right-to-shelter hiccups, saying the focus should be on pushing the state and federal governments to provide more financial and logistical assistance to house and provide services for the more than 40,000 migrants who have arrived since last spring.
“We can’t continue to shoulder this cost on our own,” Adams said in his State of the City speech on Thursday. “We’re going to need our Albany partners. We’re going to need Washington, D.C. The asylum seeker crisis is a national crisis and it should not be just for New York City residents. That’s just unfair.”
[ Mayor Adams vows to improve NYC ‘quality of life’ in light-on-details State of the City speech ]
Immigration advocates have joined the mayor in calling on President Biden’s administration to allocate more aid for the city.
But they have also taken issue with Adams’ rhetoric on the issue, especially in the context of how the migrant crisis will impact the city’s finances.
“In his State of the City address, Mayor Adams barely mentioned immigrants and asylum seekers, and largely excluded them from his vision for NYC,” the New York Immigration Coalition said in a statement Friday. “Yet, the mayor continues to scapegoat asylum seekers for an austerity budget that is sure to hurt all New Yorkers who need deeper investments in education, housing, shelter and social services to build and sustain our communities, economy and our workforce.”
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