Amid heat wave, at least one shelter for asylum-seekers lacks air conditioning

NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said the city limits the age of residents of a Harlem shelter that doesn’t have air conditioning.

This week’s heat wave has been even worse for asylum-seekers staying at a facility without air conditioning.

This week’s heat wave has been even worse for asylum-seekers staying at a facility without air conditioning. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Dangerous heat has arrived in New York City. The five boroughs are under an excessive heat warning from Thursday, July 27, through Saturday, July 29, with a heat index exceeding 105.

“Heat kills more New Yorkers every year than any other kind of extreme weather event,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a Thursday morning press conference, where he and administration officials made recommendations on how New Yorkers can stay safe, including at the city’s public cooling centers.

But the heat wave comes as some residents of shelters housing asylum-seekers have reported sporadic or unreliable access to air conditioning at those facilities over the past month. And the city confirmed on Thursday that at least one shelter doesn’t have air conditioning.

“Not all of them do,” said New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, when asked at the press conference whether all of the city’s shelters, and the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, for asylum-seekers have air conditioning.

Iscol said that it was “really one” location that doesn’t have air conditioning – the former Lincoln Correctional Facility just north of Central Park in Harlem. Iscol did not say how many people are living there now. The city received permission from the state to use the facility to house asylum-seekers there in late May.

“We’ve limited the age of people at that place,” Iscol said. “We’ve opened up access to cooling centers. We have a cooling room and, if needed, we can provide cooling buses at those locations.”

But over the past month, residents at a handful of other facilities being used as shelters for asylum-seekers have reported unreliable or nonfunctioning air conditioning. Last week, Hell Gate reported that a temporary shelter for asylum-seekers at a Touro University office building in Midtown didn’t have working air conditioning. Earlier this week, Gothamist reported that a shelter for asylum-seekers in a former hangar near JFK Airport recently only had air conditioning turned on in part of the facility. On July 7, Documented reported that a shelter on the border of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant has had sporadic access to air conditioning.

The local City Council members whose districts included those shelters did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether they’ve heard more reports of problems accessing air conditioning at those locations.

Spokespeople for the mayor did not respond to questions about what protocols are taken when they receive reports of nonfunctioning air conditioning or whether they are aware of other shelters that have had problems with air conditioning.

At a Wednesday press conference on the city’s ongoing response to the influx of asylum-seekers, administration officials reported that more than 93,200 asylum-seekers have come through the city since last spring, and more than 56,200 are still in the city’s care.