Adams slams City Council members for allegedly refusing to house migrants in their districts

Adams, City Council
Mayor Eric Adams.
Photo by Dean Moses/File

Mayor Eric Adams blasted several unnamed “elected officials” and the City Council for criticizing his handling of the migrant crisis currently engulfing the city, while allegedly refusing to house migrants in their own districts and work cooperatively with his administration in tackling the issue.

Adams launched the broadside during an unrelated news conference at Yankee Stadium Tuesday morning, which came on the heels of his declaring a city state of emergency last Friday over the roughly 18,000 South and Central American asylum seekers who’ve been bussed and flown to the city from the southern border since the spring.

In response to a reporter’s question about opposition to housing some of those migrants on Staten Island, Adams said he’s been getting calls from elected officials who he refused to name asking him not to shelter migrants in their districts. And some of those officials, he said, have been the most vocal critics of his approach to the migrant crisis so far.

“Some of the loudest that are saying ‘we need to make sure we house asylum seekers’ have been some of the loudest saying ‘not on our block,’” Adams said. “The loudest have been the least benevolent.”

“That’s the inconsistency that we continue to see in this city,” he continued. “‘Hey, let’s build affordable housing. Wait, we can’t build it in my district.’ ‘Hey, let’s make sure asylum seekers have a place to stay. Wait, you can’t put it in my district.’ No, you can’t have it both ways. Either we’re in this together, or we’re not. And I’m not listening to that. No one gets a pass during an emergency. Everyone must do their share.”

Mayor Eric Adams takes questions from reporters following speech declaration of emergency for migrant crisis. Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

Those same elected officials, the mayor said, haven’t volunteered spaces the city could use to house migrants in their districts either. That, however, doesn’t include state Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens) and City Council Member Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan), he added, who have reached out to his office asking how they can shoulder some of the burden.

“There’s so many of them that have stood up and said, ‘we want to help,’’ Adams said. “But far too many of the loudest have become silent when it’s time to do what they have been advocating for.”

Last week, Politico New York reported that two City Council members who’ve been among the most vocal in criticizing the mayor – Brooklyn Council Members Shahana Hanif and Lincoln Restler – are among the 29 members who currently don’t have emergency shelters in their districts. Hanif and Restler held a rally outside City Hall last week protesting the tent shelter facility – dubbed a Humanitarian Response and Relief Center (HERRC) – currently being constructed on Randall’s Island, casting as akin to a refugee camp.

Hanif, however, pushed back on that notion in both a statement to Politico last week and through spokesperson Michael Whitesides in an email to PoliticsNY Tuesday. Whitesides said Hanif is “more than willing” to host emergency shelters in her district – which includes the wealthy neighborhoods of Park Slope and Windsor Terrace – and had reached out to the mayor’s office in September asking how they could open sites in the area.

“Council Member Hanif is more than willing for emergency shelters to be designated in District 39,” Whitesides said. “In fact, on Sept. 6 we reached out to the mayor’s office inquiring how we could get sites in our district designated to house newly arrived asylum seekers. We have yet to hear back about the process or if the mayor’s office is interested in taking us up on our offer.”

City Council Member Shahana Hanif and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams holding hearing on asylum seeker crisis. Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.Photo courtesy of New York City Council.

Breeana Mulligan, a spokesperson for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, also rejected the idea that several council members are refusing to host migrants in their districts – pointing in particular to several emergency facilities opened in the speaker’s own southeast Queens district.

“Council members continue to welcome people seeking asylum and accept emergency shelters for them in their districts, including several in the speaker’s district,” Mulligan told PoliticsNY in an emailed statement. “The level of other key support services from the City for these new residents is what has been lacking and must be increased – that is the biggest complaint heard from Council members and advocates alike, and the subject of news reports.”

On Tuesday, the mayor also bemoaned the council’s release of a list of 10 large – currently closed – Manhattan hotels on its website Friday as an alternative to the Randal’s Island facility, charging the city’s legislature should’ve sent the list directly to his office instead of posting it online.

“We were already looking at hotels and what they did was they put out a letter on their website that we should be using more hotels,” Adams said. “Why put it on the website? Why not just give it to us? Why not say ‘listen we’re in an emergency, here are 10 hotels you folks can look at.’ It took us almost three or four days to get that list. See the spirit of cooperation is not posting something on a website. It’s just calling us.”

Volunteer Power Malu rips the Texas tags off of arriving migrants in Port Authority. Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. Photo by Dean Moses/amNY File.

But in her statement, Mulligan also rebuked Adams’ claim that the council didn’t share the locations with his office, saying it was sent “directly to the mayor and every deputy mayor.” Mulligan added the administration should be focussing on getting more of the shelter population into permanent housing, in addition to opening more emergency shelters for migrants.

“It’s counterproductive for this to still be the focus, rather than the city making the necessary policy changes to help people exit the shelter system for permanent housing,” Mulligan said, referring to the mayor’s focus on whether or not the council shared the list of hotels with his office last week.

“Given the inadequately narrow path out of shelters that is contributing to this crisis, the council offered at least five priority policy changes within the city’s authority,” she added. “These need to be a focus to help both New Yorkers who’ve long been stuck in the City’s shelter system and those who are seeking asylum. Continuing to only expand the shelter system without a path out into permanent housing was unsustainable before this crisis, and it remains so.”