After several tenures as a temporary shelter, The Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue is part of the plan to house families arriving in New York seeking asylum as city officials call on the Adams administration for a more permanent housing infrastructure solution.
City Council Members Erik Bottcher and Gale Brewer, along with Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and State Senator Brad Hoylman – gathered for a Friday press conference on the potential reopening of the Midtown Community Court – addressed the significant increase in persons seeking shelter citywide where they clarified the usage of the Skyline.
“Here in Hell’s Kitchen, The Skyline Hotel is being used to house homeless families – a large percentage of the families there are these asylum seekers,” said Council Member Bottcher. “They are getting language access and public education on site.”
In June, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) said they would be using the Skyline in the short-term (6-9 months) to meet the current capacity needs of the City shelter system. They had used the hotel as a shelter during the pandemic and previously vacated in August 2021. Now, the hotel is being used to shelter up to 232 families with children and is operated by Acacia, New York’s biggest shelter contractor.
According to Politico, on a recent evening there were 48,188 people sleeping in DHS facilities — up from 45,000 earlier in the year. A spokesperson for the DHS told Politico that at least 2,800 asylum seekers from Latin and Central America have arrived in the city over the past six weeks.
Struggling to accommodate everyone in the city’s housing facilities, some asylum seekers have been forced to sleep on the floor of DHS facilities, violating the city’s “right to shelter” law to provide functioning housing in a timely manner. Mayor Eric Adams told reporters in a press conference Thursday afternoon that “We should have done better” in providing adequate housing. “We violated the letter of the law.” Adams added: “If we have to get hotel rooms, we get hotel rooms.”
West Side officials expressed dismay at the breakdown, citing an urgent need to make appropriate permanent infrastructure for new arrivals. “I was outraged to learn that the city was breaking the law after people had traveled weeks and weeks to sleep on the floor. That was heartbreaking and unacceptable,” said Senator Hoylman.
“This is a city defined by our centuries of welcoming people seeking refuge from all over the world,” said Borough President Levine. “That is as vital to our character today as it has ever been — and we are not doing right by those seeking refuge here today,” he added. “I was outraged to see people sleeping on the floor – hopefully this will be fixed expeditiously so we can live up to the standards of the city.”
Council Member Bottcher emphasized the need to find longer-term housing solutions, citing a meeting he had with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant affairs where he was told “that they anticipate many more people coming.” While Mayor Adams initially attributed the rise in asylum seekers to the governors of Texas and Arizona sending people to New York, both state administrations have denied any formal program.
“They can’t fall back on the use of hotels,” added Bottcher. “This has been a longtime goal for the last administration and this one. My question is: What are we doing to ramp up the production of actual shelters? And they didn’t have a great answer for that,” he said. “We have to come up with a better plan for that, especially if we anticipate more people coming in. We have to be welcoming,” added Bottcher.
For his part, Adams has called on the White House to provide additional funding for the city to expand housing for asylum seekers. “In order to both meet the legal mandate as a right-to-shelter city and provide high-quality shelter and services for those who enter our system, New York City needs additional federal resources immediately,” Adams said.
Some advocacy groups argued that the responsibility still fell to Adams to repair the broken New York City shelter system that leaves hotels like The Skyline the only housing option. In a joint statement, The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless responded to the mayor. “Let’s be clear: the growing shelter census crisis squarely falls at the Mayor’s feet, and asylum seekers shouldn’t shoulder the blame for this,” they said.
“So long as City Hall allows bureaucratic obstacles to remain in place, hampering our clients’ ability to transition from shelters to long-term and safe affordable housing — which remains in scant supply – this crisis won’t abate anytime soon, and we call for more funding to develop housing truly affordable for our homeless neighbors. Lastly, we condemn the Administration’s continued militarized encampment sweeps which inflict trauma, create conflict, and separate our clients from what few belongings they own. This inhumane policy defines the Adams Administration, and it tarnishes New York’s reputation as an ostensibly progressive city with empathy for our fellow human beings.”
Back at Friday’s press conference, City Council Member Gale Brewer emphasized the urgent need for additional, affordable housing amid a record-breaking housing crisis.
“If we could pull off getting federal money, state money, and city money to actually build affordable housing — that would be a win-win for everyone,” she said.