Adams administration fails migrants and homeless New Yorkers


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The Editorial Board

Police officers and sanitation workers evacuated a sidewalk encampment of asylum seekers outside the Watson Hotel who were protesting the city’s decision to relocate them to a shelter at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on Feb. 1.

Hours later, Mayor Eric Adams questioned whether the men stationed outside of the Watson Hotel were really migrants or “agitators” at a press conference addressing the incident.

The mayor’s time would’ve been more productively spent considering his administration’s role in their struggle to find a place to live. From his denial that the city’s right-to-shelter law negatively impacts migrants to his administration’s cuts to homeless services and its failure to address a housing and affordability crisis, it’s no mystery as to what led to the unrest outside the Hudson Hotel.

Over 100 single men had been sheltered in the Watson Hotel, located in the Midtown West area, since December. The city recently began pressure to relocate the men to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, citing a need to make space for families.

More than 40,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since last year, with Adams calling a lack of federal support to foot the $2 billion bill required to resettle them “inhumane” and “irresponsible.”

Some of the individuals being forced to relocate to Brooklyn might be forced to quit their jobs because of increased commute time. Those already living in the terminal reported experiencing no heating or hot water and outdoor showers ahead of the arrival of a polar vortex.

They also described a lack of privacy and space to leave belongings due to the facility’s layout, which contains hundreds of beds in one room with no physical separators. Many expressed concern that this setup might be conducive to a COVID-19 breakout.

Last year’s budget cuts caused the Department of Homeless Services spending to plunge from $2.8 billion to $2.4 million after a decrease in federal COVID-related funding.

At the same time, landlords kept more than 60,000 rent-stabilized apartments off-market and regulated rents rose by the most in nearly a decade.

Instead of providing real solutions to a missing social safety net, the Adams administration has chosen to involuntarily hospitalize unhoused New Yorkers and further police them. Migrants have been negatively impacted by that decision.

The men at the Watson Hotel were evicted by the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group, a militarized unit that state investigations found violently and unlawfully targeted Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and currently receives $90 million of the NYPD’s over $5 billion budget.

A hearing on the SRG that would allow members of the public to testify has been rescheduled a third time to March 1.

Hochul’s recently proposed state budget would advocate about $1.1 billion towards resettling migrants — but to even come close to covering the rest, New York City must politically and financially commit to providing housing for all instead of policing its absence.