Playing nice with the governor might be working out for New York City Mayor Eric Adams, at least when it comes to financial support for shelter and services for the recent wave of asylum-seekers coming to the city. Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged more than $1 billion in her executive budget released Wednesday – even as the state’s overall migrant funding plan seems to be based on a dream of more than a billion dollars in federal funding that may never come.
Still, Adams is likely to welcome whatever financial help he can get. The mayor has been banging the drum for months, saying the city needs help and shouldn’t have to pay for everything on its own. But he largely resisted criticizing Hochul and President Joe Biden directly. Now, some of that money may be coming through.
The bulk of state money, as much as $767 million, would go towards covering a portion of the costs for the emergency shelters for migrants set up by the city. There would also be $25 million for a resettlement fund and $10 million for legal assistance, Hochul’s office explained to reporters Wednesday. The governor’s office also highlighted $162 million in spending on the state National Guard, which was activated to help with the increase in immigration to New York, and $137 million in state funding covering migrants’ health care needs.
Adams’ City Hall has never been clear about just how much it is spending on the asylum-seekers, instead opting for broad, round place holders. First $1 billion, more recently $2 billion. So Hochul, too, said Wednesday that those numbers are an estimate. “This is a transition period, so we don’t know the exact number coming,” she said at a press conference.
But if the state’s spending isn’t clear, federal funding is even less so. Hochul’s budget briefing book said “The Budget creates a framework for the financial burden of (migrant) services to be evenly split between the levels of government: 1/3 New York City, 1/3 State, and 1/3 Federal.” The specifics of this framework weren’t immediately clear Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t clear where that support from Washington would be coming from. The latest spending bill included $800 million for local governments taking in asylum-seekers, but only a portion of that is expected to go to the city. But Hochul said that Biden told her on his visit to the city Tuesday that more money would be coming from the federal government. And if it doesn’t reach the level for this “framework?” “We’re going to keep asking the federal government for their assistance,” she said. “We have federal leaders with great influence in our state.”
Given that lack of clarity, Adams was rather cautious in his response to the state support he’d be asking for. “I commend Governor Hochul for recognizing the need to provide state resources to assist with the ongoing asylum seeker crisis, and we look forward to reviewing her proposal in greater detail to ensure New York City gets its fair share of resources,” Adams said in an emailed statement, adding, “We will continue to need our federal and state partners to do their part, and we look forward to working in partnership with them.”
Speaker Adrienne Adams was more uniformly positive in her response. “The inclusion of significant funding for our city to provide services for people seeking asylum in our country is desperately needed and appreciated,” she said as part of a longer response to Hochul’s budget.
Hochul responded to some of Adams’ other asks in the budget too, including a series of proposals that would help the city convert office buildings in Midtown Manhattan to housing, as well as turn basement apartments into legal residences. She proposed allowing more charter schools in the city – which Adams has generally supported. Per Hochul’s budget book, overall state spending going towards the city would be $1.35 billion higher than the previous year, led by a $569 million increase in Foundation Aid for schools.
But Adams immediately pushed back on Hochul’s proposal to have the city contribute an additional $500 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, as part of her new funding plan. The city gives about $2 billion annually to the MTA already, Adams said in his statement, “and, while we recognize the significant fiscal challenges the MTA faces, we are concerned that this increased commitment could further strain our already-limited resources.”
But Adams, playing nice with his ally in Albany, closed with a compliment. “Governor Hochul has been, and continues to be, a strong partner for the city, and we look forward to working with her and the Legislature in the months ahead to ensure New York City has the resources it deserves.”