“Where did the recommendation from the 60-day rule come from?” City Councilwoman Diana Ayala said at the start of a hearing assessing the city’s 60 day shelter limit for single migrant men.
That was the question on local lawmakers’ minds as they examined the city’s recently enacted policy of limiting shelter stays to 60 days for single adult male migrants.
City officials said the policy came out of collaborative meetings. They noted it is meant to free up much needed space, while also helping migrants reach their intended destinations.
“We have to make decisions every day that are impossible choices, that we don’t want to have to make,” Zach Iscol, commissioner of the city Emergency Management Department, said.
“Would you have someone on the streets who has been here for two hours or would you rather give someone 60 days, help them get on their feet and open up a bed for that person,” Iscol added.
However, lawmakers don’t believe the policy is going to be helpful.
“I think the 60 day notices is the wrong way to go. I already see people in the streets increasing. I don’t think we should try to take away their right to shelter,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said.
City officials say they have given over 900 notices out and that most migrants are looking to leave the city’s care.
Under the policy, after two months, migrants will need to re-apply for a new bed at the arrival center in midtown.
The city also plans to help those who receive the notices. Officials are optimistic their plan will not lead to more homelessness.
“Every person that doesn’t come back to the arrival center. We want to shake their hand, wish them well and know that they are going on to take the next step forward in their journey. And again, 65% of the people are telling us that they are ready to do that now if we can give them the help that they need,” Dr. Ted Long said.
Council members also questioned the administration about the issues that led to migrants lining up outside the Roosevelt Hotel earlier this month.
At one point, the line swelled to 200 men who were sleeping on the street for days waiting for a bed.
Councilman Lincoln Restler suggested that the line was a potential political stunt to raise the crisis to national levels. He said that the McCarren Recreation Center was being looked at for at least a month prior to the situation at the midtown hotel.
“They’d been looking at it for a month and they didn’t do anything. Which again underscores this notion that human suffering was used as a political pawn,” Restler said at the hearing.
A City Hall official denied the accusation.
“I think it’s pretty insulting to the thousands of city employees, volunteers and community-based organizations that are working tirelessly night and day,” Fabien Levy, the Mayor’s press secretary, said.
Officials said they plan to open a shelter at the parking lot of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center next week and an emergency site on Randall’s Island the week after.
The Creedmoor facility is intended to house up to 1,000 single migrants, while the Randall’s Island center will house 2,000 men.