New York City, NY

Legal Aid Condemns Mayor for Trying to Ease NY's Right-to-Shelter Law During Migrant Crisis

Anne Spollen

For more than forty years, New York City has followed a right-to-shelter mandate, requiring the city to provide temporary housing for any person who needs it. No other major US city has such a standard, and now, with the sudden arrival of 70,000 asylum seekers since last spring, Mayor Adams is attempting to change that ruling.

The mayor said, "New York has done its share. Our shelter system is buckling. We are trying to prevent it from collapsing. We are now seeking clarity from the court to really deal with this issue that is a national problem,” he added. Adams is requesting the city's obligations be suspended if it lacks the capacity and resources required.

Not everyone agrees with the mayor's attempt to bring relief to New York's housing problem. The Legal Aid Society, representing the plaintiff in this case, is challenging the mayor's request to the court.

“If the city were successful with the request they were going to make, they would be able to ignore decades of constitutional protections for every New Yorker and leave people exposed to the elements, to injury or worse, without any place to go,” Josh Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society, said. “And that’s not a world where New Yorkers want to live in. What do they think is going to happen if they’re successful? They’re not going to stop people from coming. Instead, we would just have people living on the streets, getting sicker and dying.”

The mayor's chief counsel, Brendan McGuire, says that's not the intent.

“The intention here is not to get a court order and have thousands of people living on the street,” he replied. “That is not how this administration thinks about this.”

In a statement, the mayor said, "Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border."

With the addition of over 44,000 migrants currently housed in the city shelter system, New York's shelters are at the historic level of 93,000 people.

As of this writing, the state has not granted the mayor his request.

“Right now, I’ll simply say right now we’re dealing with complicated legal issues and we’ll see how it unfolds in the courts,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

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Native Staten Islander, writer following the migrant crisis, urban issues, lifestyle topics, human interest, current events, and stories that resonate. Published novelist and essayist.

Staten Island, NY

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