Scouring the city and beyond, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has seemingly been on a constant hunt for locations to provide shelter for asylum-seekers, finding over 100 hotels, a pair of sprawling tents on Randall’s Island, a cruise ship terminal, several public school gyms (albeit very briefly), a repurposed shuttered Harlem prison, and soon, dozens of houses of worship.
Now, hoping to “recycle” the city’s dollars back into its own residents’ pockets, Adams suggested at a press conference Monday that he’s looking into enlisting “private residences” to help provide shelter for asylum-seekers. His vision, he said, would be to start with housing migrants at the faith-based organizations – as officially announced that morning – eventually involving private residences. Landlords and homeowners would be subsidized by the city for opening their doors, according to Adams. The idea comes as city budget office officials estimate the city could spend upwards $4.3 billion through next year responding to the influx of new arrivals. More than 46,000 migrants are currently in the city’s care, he said.
“We can take that $4.2 billion, $4.3 (billion) maybe now that we potentially have to spend and we can put it back into the pockets of everyday New Yorkers, everyday houses of worship, instead of putting it into the pockets of corporations,” Adams said. “We should be recycling our own dollars, we should take this crisis and look for opportunities.”
Adams did not provide many details about the potential plan beyond acknowledging that the city would need to first get over some legal barriers before asylum-seekers could begin staying in the private dwellings. He also claimed that City Hall is continuing to push the Legislature to legalize basement apartments. Some New Yorkers have already been opening their private homes to migrants, on a voluntary, ad hoc basis, but this plan would formalize the program, and pay hosts. The initiative to shelter migrants at faith-based organizations, meanwhile, has been solidified and will start next month.
That plan – first detailed in Adams’ March blueprint outlining the city’s path forward with migrants – will initially provide nearly 1,000 asylum-seekers overnight shelter in 50 churches, mosques, and various other houses of worship scattered across the city. Up to 19 single men would stay at each location, but there would be the potential to expand further, according to Adams. The city also plans to open five daytime centers so the participants would have a place to stay during the day.
“We were in a process for months of sitting down with our faith leaders trying to navigate many of the complexities that are associated with how to use spaces as a place for respite centers and for places that people can sleep – and at the same time maintain the worship and services that take place in our various houses of worship,” Adams said. “The faith-based community has never been off our radar.”
For months, Adams has repeatedly stressed that the level of aid the city has provided to asylum-seekers over the past year is not sustainable. He doubled down on that Monday, stressing that neither housing asylum-seekers in private residences or in faith-based organizations resolves the city’s long term needs for work permits, a decompression strategy and “real immigration reform.”
Still, both of those strategies would be cheaper than placing people in large congregate settings or in emergency hotels, according to Adams. Staying the night at a house of worship would cost the city around $125 a day – far less than at a hotel. And the benefits could be more than just saving money.
“If you are a family member where you are bilingual, you are going to be able to help the bilingual person that's coming here,” Adams said. “The closer we bring the asylum seekers and the migrants to everyday New Yorkers, the easier it would be for them to transition into society.”