Mayor Eric Adams has abruptly shifted gears and changed the location of New York City’s first “tent city” to temporarily house asylum seekers bused here from border states: Orchard Beach is out and Randall’s Island is in. Here’s what we know about the switch and the rest of the administration’s plans for “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.”

Why did Adams change locations?

The original site in the parking lot of the Bronx’s Orchard Beach drew criticism for its location in a flood zone and its distance from public transit. The nearly complete center was inundated after weekend storms. While the city could mitigate the flooding, Adams said in a statement Monday night that Randall’s Island is the “most efficient and effective” path forward: it’s less prone to flooding and closer to public transportation.

When will the first center open?

Adams says he expects the Randall’s Island site to open “in approximately the same timeframe” as the original location, which was slated to open this week, but no date has been announced.

How many asylum seekers will stay there?

The administration says 500, compared to 1,000 at Orchard Beach.

Does the new location flood?

Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the center will be in the parking lot southwest of the Icahn Stadium.

That lot is in a flood zone, according to the city’s official flood maps, at “high risk” of flooding by the water and “moderate risk” further inland. A tropical storm nearly a decade ago transformed concert fields for the annual Governors Ball music festival into mud pits.

Will the tents hold up in bad weather?

While city officials refer to the large, interconnected structures as “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers,” everyone else calls them tents. At the original Orchard Beach location, the city said the tents would be drilled a few feet into the ground, "climate controlled,” and built to withstand inclement weather and 90 mile per hour winds. They also said they’d set up “tiger dams,” flexible tube barriers,” to prevent tidal floods.

But it’s unclear if and how the city will try to mitigate bad weather and flooding at the new Randall’s Island site.

Workers disassemble hangar-sized tents, in the parking lot of Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Giant tents for temporarily housing migrants arriving in New York City are being moved to Randall's Island after weekend storms raised concerns over flooding.

Julia Nikhinson/AP/Shutterstock

Is there access to public transit?

The M35 bus runs north to south across the island to the corner of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in Harlem, near a subway stop for the 4, 5, and 6 trains. The bus stops on the island from about 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

How are elected officials and community groups responding?

The new plan hasn’t mollified critics. Some are calling on the administration to pursue other options, including converting vacant office space into shelter. The Legal Aid Society said the city should abandon its tent city plans altogether because of concerns about weather, isolation, and lack of accessibility.

Critics also continued to decry the centers as a retreat from the city’s legal obligation to provide shelter with basic minimum conditions for all homeless people – though the city has said those rules don’t apply to the centers, which the administration contended are separate from the city’s shelter system for the homeless.

When did local elected officials find out about the location switch?

City Councilmember Diana Ayala, whose district includes Randall’s Island, said the mayor’s office called her about an hour before they announced the decision Monday night. She said she wishes they looped her in sooner.

And that’s what Zachary Iscol, the city office of emergency management commissioner, promised in a City Council hearing last week. After notifying Bronx officials the “day of” the Orchard Beach location decision, he said the city would contact local elected officials before choosing new locations.

After seeing flood warning signs and water pooling at the proposed parking lot on Tuesday, Ayala said she thinks the city should instead consider other "brick-and-mortar" options, like shuttered hospitals and schools.

How many centers will there be?

The city has announced plans for two centers, including the ill-fated Orchard Beach site, while suggesting there would likely be more.

What exactly are these emergency relief centers?

The city has advertised them as places for newly arrived asylum seekers to briefly rest and get help with traveling to their next destination. But immigration and housing advocates hardly expect them to suffice. White tents and rows of cots are likely, according to example images released by the mayor’s office. The original Orchard Beach center was supposed to offer medical care, food, and assistance in securing longer-term shelter or a ticket to another desired city. (About a fifth of the newcomers opt to leave New York, perhaps to stay with family members elsewhere, according to the city.)

How long will asylum seekers stay at the centers?

No more than about four days. But the city said that number could change.

A bus carrying asylum seekers from Texas arrives at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

How will these centers differ from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the point of arrival for several months?

Besides beds, the centers will offer more time and space to care for the four to nine buses of asylum seekers arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal each day, the city has said. From tables set up in a gated section, city staff and local community groups currently offer medical care, clothing, toiletries, food, and bus tickets to other desired destinations.

At the Orchard Beach location, the city also promised medical care; recreation rooms; a dining hall with South American cuisine and other options; iPads, phones or WiFi to contact relatives; and case workers to help asylum seekers access city services and travel to their next destination.

The city hasn’t yet announced what services are in store at the new Randall’s Island location.

Do the centers violate the city’s right-to-shelter rules?

Adams and local agency officials argue that the new emergency relief centers for asylum seekers are separate from the city’s shelter system – and not subject to the same court-mandated standards.

Nonetheless, city officials say the centers will meet some court-mandated shelter conditions, like providing clean linens and providing one shower stall for every 15 people. But it’s still unclear if other standards will be met, such as ensuring that beds are at least 30 inches wide and 3 feet apart.

City officials have also said they intend to follow separate city and state shelter regulations and house families in private rooms.

Have the asylum seekers strained the city’s shelter system?

According to the city, yes, though critics contend the shelter system was overburdened before the influx of asylum seekers. The Department of Homeless Services has opened 39 emergency shelters since June, mostly in hotels, to accommodate a 30% spike in the shelter population in the last six months. On multiple occasions, the city has denied beds to asylum seekers, in violation of the right-to-shelter rule.

Who are the asylum seekers and where are they coming from?

The city says more than 16,000 asylum seekers have arrived in recent months, often just a few days after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border state governors, like Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, are busing migrants to New York and other Democrat-run cities in what’s been decried as a “political stunt.” Abbott said he chose New York City because he wants to test how much it lives up to being a “sanctuary city.”

The migrants await court hearings where a judge will decide whether to grant them asylum, or permission to remain in the country long term because they fear persecution in their home countries. Many new arrivals in New York City are fleeing poverty and political violence in Venezuela, officials say.

How much will the emergency relief centers cost?

City officials haven’t announced the final cost of the Orchard Beach site, the new Randall’s Island location, or future centers. But the price tag could easily reach into the tens of millions, with no obvious end in sight as the buses keep arriving.

How else is the city trying to house asylum seekers?

The Adams administration is experimenting with other options to temporarily house asylum seekers – like leasing cruise ships.

This article has been updated with new information.