New York City is going back to the drawing board in its effort to modify the city’s landmark right to shelter mandate in light of the influx of more than 100,000 migrants to the city since last spring.
In a court conference Tuesday afternoon with the parties involved in ongoing negotiations in the right to shelter case – including attorneys for the city, state and the Legal Aid Society – the city asked to revise its request to modify the 1981 consent decree that established the right to shelter for single adults.
In May, the city initially moved to modify the consent decree, asking for relief from the mandate if the city runs out of resources to provide for them.
The population of asylum-seekers in New York City has grown since then. More than 116,000 migrants have come to New York City since last spring and more than 60,000 are still in the city’s care, according to City Hall. Mayor Eric Adams’ calls for federal and state assistance have also since intensified, as have his warnings about the financial cost of sheltering asylum-seekers. Earlier this month, Adams announced a round of steep citywide budget cuts in light of those costs.
A letter to the judge describing the city’s request to file a motion is due on Oct. 3, and responses to that letter are due in the following weeks. Spokespeople for the Adams administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what they would be asking for.
In a briefing with reporters after the court conference – which mostly takes place behind closed doors – Legal Aid staff attorney Josh Goldfein said that they would not comment on whether they expect the revised request to be more aggressive than the city’s earlier requests, as they haven’t seen the city’s request yet. “The fact that they are making a motion at all and carrying through with that, asking to be relieved of their obligations under the right to shelter, is an escalation,” Goldfein said.
Judge Erika Edwards, who has overseen the case, also announced on Tuesday that she is recusing herself, though she did not explain why.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Staten Island judge said that the city could no longer house migrants at a shuttered Catholic school that has been the center of protests by Republican leaders in the borough. Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Wayne Ozzi delivered a strong rejection of the city’s right to shelter mandate in the ruling, writing, “It is an anachronistic relic from the past,” and arguing that the right to shelter was the result of a consent decree reached to solve a problem much different than the influx of asylum-seekers that the city is facing now.
The Adams administration is fighting the ruling. “We are taking steps to immediately appeal this ruling, which we believe is incorrect in key respects and which threatens to disrupt efforts to manage this national humanitarian crisis,” City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said in an emailed statement. “Instances like this underscore the urgent need for a broader state and national solution, as we've emphasized repeatedly."