Eric Adams’s tent shelter for migrants arriving in New York City opened on Randalls Island Wednesday and may prove to be less temporary than the administration originally claimed. In early comments about the facility — a congregate setting with rows of cots that will house 500 men with space for 500 more — Adams claimed it was intended as a stopgap, calling it an emergency “humanitarian relief” site where asylum seekers would be connected to more permanent options within 96 hours. But even then he offered the caveat that those times would be “subject to change depending on the situation.”
In a press tour of the site on Tuesday, Dr. Ted Long, a health-department official, confirmed as much, telling reporters: “There is no limit to how long people that are seeking asylum can stay in this facility.” Long told the New York Daily News that the goal was still 96 hours, but according to Josh Goldfein, a Legal Aid Society attorney who also spoke to the Daily News, the administration has told his organization that the process could take nearly double that time — between seven to ten days.
As Legal Aid and other housing advocates have noted, the tent city potentially violates New York City’s right-to-shelter law, in which shelter beds must be at least three feet apart. That could be a serious issue as we enter flu season during an ongoing pandemic. Goldfein, this time talking to Gothamist, said the arrangement may undermine the project of getting people into shelter: “If they don’t feel safe, they’re not going to stay there.”