NYC Mayor Adams: “I Don’t Believe the Right to Shelter Applies to a Migrant Crisis”

NYC Mayor Adams: “I Don’t Believe the Right to Shelter Applies to a Migrant Crisis”

Editorial credit: lev radin /

By Fisayo Okare | September 29, 2023

The fight for, against, and concerning New York City’s right-to-shelter law was in full force this week in the courtroom, in City Hall, and in the media.

Yesterday morning, Mayor Eric Adams appeared on Sid Rosenberg’s radio show arguing that there’s a huge need for immigration reform on a national level, and for more federal resources to fund the city’s response to the migrant humanitarian crisis.

Rosenberg later raised a concern from Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican Congress member for Staten Island and Brooklyn, who said Adams should not appeal a Staten Island judge’s decision. Justice Wayne Ozzi on Tuesday blocked the city from using the site of a former Catholic school as a respite site for migrants while criticizing the right-to-shelter law as a “relic from the past.”

“On one hand, the Mayor is saying he’s going to court, he wants to roll back the right-to-shelter,” Rep. Malliotakis said in a previously recorded program. “But on the other hand, here’s a victory, a judge’s decision that tells him straight out right-to-shelter is meant for New Yorkers not for the migrants … This is his out. This is what he claims he was looking for. And yet, he’s going to appeal the decision. Why?”

Adams responded by criticizing Malliotakis for using the radio station to communicate with him, and instead said they should work together to urge Congress to provide more resources.

And after adding that he would appeal the judge’s decision to vacate the Staten Island shelter, he still debated the right-to-shelter law’s relevance in the migrant crisis.

“I don’t believe the right-to-shelter applies to a migrant crisis,” said Mayor Adams — a sentiment he has shared in the past several months.

During his trip to El Paso in January, Adams said migrants are given a “false impression” of how the right-to-shelter law works in New York. The day before his State of the City address in January, he said his administration does not believe asylum seekers fall into the “right-to-shelter conversation.”

His response comes as no surprise following his increasingly ominous comments and announcements regarding the humanitarian crisis in recent months.

While Mayor Adams’ sentiment about the right-to-shelter law is similar to the conclusions in Justice Ozzi’s ruling in the Staten Island case, he said the City is pushing back because there are some statements in the judge’s ruling his administration disagrees with, such as “This is not an emergency,” Adams said. “He stated we created this emergency by allowing people to come here. Anyone knows I cannot deny people from coming in,” the Mayor added.

Justice Ozzi stated in his court decision and order that “The frantic search for housing of migrants is not the result of a real emergency … It is the product of a lack of alternate planning and/or effective policy implementation.” This latest ruling is Justice Ozzi’s second in favor of plaintiffs in the case about the shelter on Staten Island.

Meanwhile, in a separate right-to-shelter case, Justice Erika Edwards, a Manhattan state Supreme Court judge, recused herself from presiding over the case to determine the fate of the law due to personal concerns. “I wish to avoid any potential appearance of impropriety, that my impartiality might be questioned,” she said at Tuesday’s hearing. The case will be assigned to a new judge.

The City must submit a letter detailing their desired changes to the right-to-shelter consent decree by October 3.

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