The Adams administration has crippled essential New York City agencies best suited to address the needs of an influx of migrants by underfunding and understaffing them amid a national crisis, according to a City Council report released Wednesday.
Critics of Mayor Eric Adams’ response have painted a bleak picture of what life looks like for migrants entering New York as they seek asylum in the U.S., pointing to an inability for the city to meet their basic needs.
“New York will always be a welcoming city that opens its doors to new arrivals,” the report reads. “However, the sudden increase in asylum-seeking migrants has exposed the ways our existing city services are failing to meet the moment – for asylum-seekers and longtime New Yorkers alike – and need to be overhauled.”
The deluge of migrants, which advocates have deemed a full-fledged humanitarian crisis, has challenged the pillars of the city’s own identity as a safe haven for those seeking refuge. More than 31,000 migrants have passed through the city’s migrant intake center since last week.
“The administration’s underfunding and understaffing of city agencies has largely left non-profit, community-based organizations to provide essential services for asylum-seekers and New Yorkers facing similar conditions,” the report reads. “Yet, many of these organizations have not been funded or reimbursed by the city for their additional efforts during this crisis.”
Adams and other city officials have floated the possibility of reopening controversial tent facilities on Randall’s Island in anticipation of another major surge of entrants. The 1,000-bed site provided temporary housing for roughly 500 migrants, many of whom are seeking asylum, for less than a month before closing in mid-November due to waning demand.
Since the flow of migrants began this spring, a slate of social service organizations outside of city government have attempted to fill the void. But the Council's report pushes for more urgency around migrants’ immediate and long-term needs, laying out a series of recommendations for the city to adopt.
“Service providers, community-based organizations and everyday New Yorkers have stepped up to provide resources for migrants, including transportation for relocation, interpretation services, and necessities such as food and clothing,” the report reads. “Most of these organizations have not been compensated or reimbursed for their efforts.”
Among other things, the Council called for more proactive planning with other cities and states, “even before a migrant arrives in NYC.” It recommended expanding access to language and mental health services, as well as further assisting migrants seeking to settle with family in areas outside of the five boroughs by supporting transportation services that can assist with relocation.
“Currently, only rough estimates of the number of migrants expected in NYC and generalized information about their needs are readily available, making it challenging to assess gaps in services and immediate needs,” the report reads.
The Council will also weigh pieces of proposed legislation, including the creation of standards for humanitarian centers and the easing of documentation requirements for shelters.
A spokesperson for Adams directed Gothamist to his comments in a press conference Wednesday. Adams said he had spoken to mayors in Houston and Chicago about coordinating a response.
“No city should have to experience this. El Paso should not have to go through this. Houston, Washington, Chicago, New York — this should be a national response to this problem,” Adams said.
A federal spending proposal expected to pass by the end of the week directs $800 million to cities contending with the arrival of thousands of migrants in recent months. Spokespeople for Gov. Kathy Hochul did not immediately say how much of that funding would be headed to New York.
Gwynne Hogan contributed reporting.