Officials quietly started diverting migrants from the Roosevelt Hotel over the weekend, telling them they could find shelter at a new location where instead they’re only offered a ticket out of town.

Astoria Shelter
Migrants lay on the floor of an Astoria Church after being turned away from an East Village shelter. Credit: Obtained by THE CITY

By Gwynne Hogan Oct 24 3:38pm EDT

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Migrants are experiencing a new level of confusion and hopelessness this week as city officials make a renewed push to get them out of shelters and the city altogether.

Migrants who’d been evicted from their shelters and told to reapply were directed to a site in the East Village that turned out to be a “reticketing center” the city opened over the weekend offering plane fares to anywhere in the world. Those who declined were turned away, with some sent on Monday to a “waiting room” an hour away.

But by Tuesday that option had disappeared as well and new arrivals were simply told there was nothing else for them, and nowhere in particular for them to go, if they didn’t want a ticket. 

“We’re in the street,” said Carlos Gutéirrez, out front of the reticketing center with all his belongings, deciding what to do next. His Midtown shelter had been vacated by the Fire Department on Monday and he’d been sent to the “welcome center” at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown. Hours later, he was told to go from there to a site in Astoria, which was packed with people, so he was told to return to the Roosevelt. On Tuesday morning, workers there sent him to the East Village, where he was again turned away. 

Migrant Carlos Gutierrez poses for a portrait outside an East Village respite center.
Migrant Carlos Gutierrez says he was turned away from four shelter locations, including the East Village, Oct. 24, 2023.

“They’re treating us like children, sending from here to there, from there to here,” he said in Spanish. “The only thing that occurs to me is to leave New York City, but where are we going to go?”

City Hall confirmed the new set up on Tuesday, telling THE CITY men leaving shelters and seeking another placement are guaranteed plane tickets to anywhere in the world and were being sent to the newly opened East Village site to get those tickets. They were not, however, guaranteed a cot to sleep on, according to Kayla Mamelak, a spokesperson for City Hall. 

“With no sign of a decompression strategy in the near future, we have established a reticketing center for migrants,” Mamelak said — though none of the migrants THE CITY spoke with in the East Village understood they were being sent to a reticketing site in the first place. “Here, the city will redouble efforts to purchase tickets for migrants to help them take the next steps in their journeys, and it helps us triage operations at The Roosevelt for new arrivals.”

Throughout the day Monday, a stream of men arrived throughout from shelters all across the city, lugging suitcases and duffle bags having been told that the East Village location was where they should reapply for shelter. They could not.

“They told me here they would help me with a shelter. I got here and it’s a lie,” said Franklin Sosa, 21, in Spanish, who’d been sent to the East Village from his former shelter on Randall’s Island after hitting his 60-day time limit  that the city began giving adult migrants, which was later shortened to 30 days, before they have to leave and reapply for shelter. “They’re giving out bad information. It’s hard to talk because I’ll cry.”

Within minutes of each man arriving, he was turned away, handed a printed-out packet including a Bing map with the address of a Catholic church in Astoria, Queens. 

Men who made the trip from the East Village to Astoria spent the night at St. Margaret Mary, which had been used as a shelter for migrants over the summer. Some of them were handed Mylar rescue blankets for warmth, and photos shared with THE CITY show men laying on the ground. 

“They say they don’t know how long we can stay here,” said a 38-year-old from Burkina Faso, who asked that his name be withheld fearing retaliation. “They haven’t told us anything.”

But even the option of sleeping on the floor in a church was no longer available to men arriving in the East Village by Tuesday afternoon.

Signs stuck to the door, translated to Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian, were how he learned that “THIS IS NOT A RESPITE SITE/SHELTER. THERE ARE NO BEDS AT THIS SITE. WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU GET TO TRANSPORTATION TO ANY STATE, OR COUNTRY OF YOUR CONVENIENCE.”

A sign taped to an East Village shelter informed migrants there was no more room,
A sign taped to an East Village shelter informed migrants there was no more room, Oct. 23, 2023.

‘People Will Be Sleeping in the Streets’

Workers at other migrant shelters started handing out little slips of paper with the East Village site address on Monday, telling men to go there instead of the Roosevelt Hotel, which until this week had been the city’s main intake center for all newly arriving and returning migrants. 

But within minutes of their arrival, the migrants learned one by one, they would not get any help there if they intended on staying in New York City.

A migrant man waits for a subway elevator in the East Village on his way to an Astoria shelter.
Migrant men head to Astoria after being turned away from an East Village shelter, Oct. 23, 2023.

“They can’t give us beds because there’s no beds [and] there are 4,000 people waiting for beds. What they can help us with is with a ticket elsewhere,” a 29-year-old Venezuelan migrant, who declined to share his full name, said he was told Tuesday afternoon at the reticketing site. He and two friends decided to head to the Roosevelt to try their luck there. 

“We are moving people to reticketing to see if they want to be reticketed,” said Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom at a press briefing Tuesday. “If they can’t be reticketed, we put them in a space where they could wait for availability” in a shelter.

That approach appears to violate the city’s right-to-shelter provisions, enshrined in a decades-old consent decree that the Adams administration is currently asking a State Supreme Court judge to suspend parts of — even as it’s already putting a time limit on how long migrants can stay in shelters and planning to send newly arrived families to a tent in southern Brooklyn. 

Adams bristled at a mention of those legal obligations at Tuesday’s press briefing. 

“There’s two schools of thought in the city right now,” he said. “One school of thought states you can come from anywhere on the globe and come to New York and we are responsible, on taxpayers limited resources, to take care of you for as long as you want: Food, shelter, clothing, washing your sheets, everything, medical care, psychological care for as long as you want. And it’s on New York City taxpayer’s dime. And there’s another school of thought, that we disagree.”

“That’s what you’re seeing playing out in the court right now. We just disagree,” he said, adding that it wasn’t a question of if migrants would be sleeping on the streets, but when. 

Adams also said top administration officials were working to identify large outdoor spaces to send people who are turned away from indoor shelters.

‘Bouncing Around All Day’

Compounding the capacity issues as a record nearly 120,000 people, including 64,000 migrants, are now staying in city shelters with 4,000 more arriving each week, the FDNY began vacating shelters for fire-code violations last week — removing hundreds of beds and cots that migrants had been sleeping on in the process.

The FDNY emptied another shelter on Monday at the site of a vacant Touro University building in Midtown that had housed hundreds of men, the same site where Adams’ top advisor Tim Pearson had fought shelter guards last week. A vacate order posted on the door cited a lack of a “required fire alarm system,” which created “a condition imminently perilous to life and property.”

Several men arriving in the East Village who spoke with THE CITY said they’d been kicked out of Touro Monday ahead of their 30-day eviction letters, because of the vacate order, and told to seek a new cot at the East Village location only to be sent to Astoria from there.

Josh Goldfein, an attorney with Legal Aid as it’s in court fighting to maintain the right to shelter, said they’d encouraged the city to find another place to handle intake to avoid a repeat of what happened in the summer months when people slept outside the “welcome center” at the Roosevelt for a week straight. 

Migrants wait to enter the Roosevelt Hotel temporary shelter.
Migrants wait to enter the Roosevelt Hotel temporary shelter, Oct. 10, 2023.

“The city should have an orderly process that conveys to people in their preferred language where they’re supposed to go and what they’re supposed to do,” he said, adding that Monday’s confusion fell far short of that. 

‘I Don’t Know Where To Go’

“This is a psychological exhaustion. You get discouraged. You lose your resolve,” said 40-year-old Alexander, who declined to give his last name and who’d lugged a hefty rolling suitcase and duffle bag on an hour-long trip from the shelter he’d been staying at on Randall’s Island to the East Village location. 

Alexander, had spent his first weeks in New York City at a shelter in Bushwick, where for weeks he had no access to showers and had to try to clean himself in the sinks. 

“It was chaotic there,” he said.

From there he was sent to Randall’s Island, where he spent the rest of his 60 days before being required to reapply. He said his latest shuffle, while carrying all of his belongings on public transit for hours across the city, felt like a deliberate attempt to get him to give up on New York.

“Imagine you’re in a land where you don’t know anyone, a language that’s not yours. No one understands you. Now what do I do, how do I defend myself?” Alexander said. 

As the sun set Monday evening and the fall chill set in, he debated his next move. 

“Here there are no jobs. I’ve been looking for a while. This is one of the most expensive cities in the world,” he said. “There are thousands of people waiting for lodging. How long will I wait?”

After about 30 minutes, he made up his mind. He’d take a plane ticket, and try his chances in Utah.  

“They say it’s better, because there aren’t as many migrants,” he said. 

Katie Honan contributed reporting.

Join the Conversation


  1. As usual, our local website is ahead of the New York Times in covering this sad business. I had a lot of reservations about supporting migrants on the city dime, but the way inept and cruel way this is being handled by the Adams administration is a scandal.

  2. This is beyond cruel. Why are those in charge of ‘helping’ these dispossessed young African people who are trying to fit in and find work in New York being disregarded? Weren’t the people in charge of ‘organizing’ this outrageous rip off given billions of dollars to get them sorted out? Where did that money go? (..Yeah. Right!?)
    I got on the #2 subway going south last week… About a dozen charming young men, African.. communicating in French .. smiling / laughing/ chatting with each other, no English spoken.. One stood up to give me his seat. Bless him.
    Is there no account for this outrageous mess. Those in charge don’t give a stuff it seems. How will these misinformed young people cope as it gets colder in NY and they’ve nowhere to live. And can’t even register for work for 6 months? Pathetic and sadistic. Is the City becoming the Gaza of America?

  3. The number of people worldwide who would like to live in New York City is probably 50+ million. The number who would do it with free food and shelter is probably 500+ million. It’s heartless to pretend we can take in unlimited people and feed them, house them, give them free healthcare, when we’re struggling to accomplish those goals with people already here. There simply isn’t enough space to put everyone.

    Something has to give.

  4. I applaud the City handing out plane tickets to migrants and getting them out of hotels. These leeches will never pass real asylum claims and are only making hotel owners richer and the average NYer poorer.

    Since these people are gathered in one area, why can’t immigration lawyers & judges go to these hotels and process their asylum claims ASAP along with plane tickets in hand back to their home country.

  5. One NYC resident’s local income tax dollar can only be split so many ways. What should we stop funding to pay for the unlimited, global migrants? The subway? The buses? The fire department? The schools? The garbage man? Our water pipes? Free street parking for New Jersey residents? The Staten Island Ferry? The USPS? The parks department?

    Pick one or two. The money has to come from somewhere.

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