Mayor Eric Adams has announced the opening of a migrant intake center in Hell’s Kitchen, but local advocates argue that the administration’s plan to support and house thousands of new arrivals is largely underfunded, unfinished and will diminish neighborhood resources. 

Red Cross Hell's Kitchen
The American Red Cross Center on W49th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The American Red Cross Center, located at 520 W49th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, has been designated a temporary “navigation center”, along with several other locations operated by the New York City Emergency Management agency NYC Health + Hospitals. 

“This is not an everyday homelessness crisis, but a humanitarian crisis that requires a different approach,” said Mayor Adams, announcing the move at a press conference. “That’s why the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers will be the first touchpoint for asylum seekers, providing them with a range of services and support as families determine their next steps. This emergency response represents what we know must be done during this humanitarian crisis, as we continue to seek assistance from our federal and state partners to continue this work. Like the generations that came to our city before, New York will provide the thousands now coming here with the foundation to build a better life.”

“We need to assess and address asylum seekers’ needs as soon as they arrive, and connect them with services as quickly as possible,” added Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks. “The relief centers will be a crucial piece of our overall response to help these asylum seekers get their necessary assistance.”

Mayor Adams Migrants
New York Mayor Eric Adams, welcoming migrants at Port Authority in August. Photo: Diane Bondareff/Mayoral Photo Office

The administration’s capacity for ensuring every arrival’s right to shelter – as required by New York State law — has come under criticism in recent weeks, as the city resorted to erecting large tents to house asylum seekers, and shelters turned arrivals away.  The city’s shelter population has risen 25 percent in the four months since the first busloads of migrants arrived from Texas, with city agencies struggling to secure permanent housing vouchers for other temporary shelter residents amid their own staffing shortage, according to Hell Gate. 

Joshua Goldfein, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights project told Hell Gate: “There’s a lot of people sitting in shelters today who are ready to be moved out and they are just sitting there.” 

In Hell’s Kitchen, members of Manhattan Community Board 4 met representatives Andrew Kunkes and Eileen Reyes Arias from the Mayor’s Office to discuss the implementation of the intake center and how the city planned to support and accommodate existing homeless New Yorkers, in addition to asylum seekers requiring extra legal, language and social services. 

“We are seeing folks coming off of those buses with hardly anything,” said Reyes Arias. “We are tweaking the onsite services that we are making available and we are able to scale up based on that. We have had to scale back some of those services. But food, water, shelter and ticketing is still happening daily at Port Authority.”

Reyes Arias told MCB4 that they didn’t know how many more asylum seekers to expect — the Texas governor is sending as many as 150-250 people to Port Authority a day, a significant increase from the early weeks of first arriving migrants — and committee members questioned the long-term sustainability of shuttling asylum seekers between Port Authority, the PATH Center in the Bronx and the W49th Street navigation center without a clear system for helping arrivals find permanent housing or the means to travel to friends and family. “We all thought that families were going to the navigation center and then to a permanent shelter and that’s not what’s happening,” said co-chair of the Housing, Health and Human Services Committee at MCB4 Maria Ortiz. “Where do they stay in the meantime? And if they stay in temporary housing is it for hours? Is it overnight? And then if that is the case, do they go to PATH?”

Port Authority Asylum Seekers Arrive
Buses arrive at Port Authority in August with asylum seekers sent by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Photo: Diane Bondareff/Mayoral Photo Office Credit: Diane Bondareff/Mayoral Photo Office

“The city of New York is committed to providing housing for anyone who comes here,” said Kunkes, to which MCB4 member Christine Berthet retorted: “You don’t. We have 60,000 people here without homes, and now we are adding to it – I feel very profoundly for these people but I’m looking at the systems. The systems don’t work. We don’t have the housing for the homeless – looking at this, it looks like we are doing more for the people on the buses than we are for the people here who are homeless.”

Representatives from the city were unable to elaborate the purpose of involving agencies like the Administration for Children’s Services (historically called for children undergoing neglect and abuse) versus other supportive services for arriving families, and were unaware of the overextension of local resources like the Ryan Chelsea Clinton Health Center and PS 111. 

“Ryan Health has an overburdened case load directly related to the Skyline and the asylum seekers from that location – we need to get them assistance,” said co-chair of Housing, Health and Human Services Joe Restuccia. “PS 111 on W52nd Street needs more ESL and bilingual caseworkers — we need better coordination there. We are absorbing a huge influx of people and we need to match them up with the right services rather than shuffle them around.” 

He concluded: “The fact that you chose it on 49th Street — close to Skyline, opened up with no notice to our community — has created a concentration of social service need and activity…Skyline is not set up for this purpose. I hope you hear us when we talk to you — it’s about problem resolution and about doing things equitably around the city.” 

The city representatives agreed to look into the stretched resources at Ryan Health as well as request additional assistance from the Department of Education (DOE)’s Open Arms program

Skyline Hotel
The Skyline Hotel is housing homeless families half a block away from the new “navigation center”. Photo: Phil O’Brien

MCB4 chair Jeffrey LeFrancois asked representatives to establish “regular cadence of communication” and a clear pathway for the community board to advocate for federal, state and city funds. “It would be very useful to advocate directly with our elected officials at all levels for this. It gives them, frankly, the ammunition to take that money out of the coffers in Texas — because  those states have been getting this money for decades, and we have not.”

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1 Comment

  1. On one hand, shame on the Texas Governor for even starting this.

    On the other hand, shame on NYC elected officials to not take proper steps and secure proper funding to assist. It’s clear and obvious the people and the community want to help — but they’re having to scramble and face difficult scenarios because they aren’t getting the help they need.

    Jeffrey LeFrancois hits it on the head in that final paragraph, but lord knows how long that will take…

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