After Mayor Eric Adams announced his plan to shut down the temporary migrant relief center on Randall's Island Thursday, city Comptroller Brad Lander sent a letter to the city's budget office asking the Adams administration for a detailed report outlining the project's costs.
When asked about the letter on Monday, Adams appeared aggravated by Lander's request.
"I'm hoping he doesn't turn out like the relationship with the previous comptroller and mayor," Adams said. "Brad, let's work together, Brad. Listen, you sent the letter on Friday. Give us days to respond to your to your letter. We're not going to hide the cost of anything."
Lander responded to Adams Monday night on "Inside City Hall," telling host Bobby Cuza that one of his jobs as comptroller is holding City Hall accountable.
"Look, we just want to know what the cost is," Lander said. "We don't want to quibble about who said what letter when."
The center on Randall's Island, which featured tents that temporarily housed asylum seekers, opened last month. The city moved it from Orchard Beach in the Bronx to Randall's Island because of concerns over upcoming winter weather and flooding.
"We want to know what the cost was of setting the tents up, first on Orchard Beach, where people had said it was going to flood, and they set it up and then they took it down," Lander said. "Then they set it up at Randall's Island, when a lot of folks said it would make more sense to rent hotels, which could be used for shelter in the long-term."
A city Independent Budget Office estimate projected that the city will spend at least $596 million over the course of a year for shelter stays, public school costs and other services relating to the surge in migrants.
"I think it'll have been several million dollars to put up and down these two tents that a lot of people thought were a mistake and that we didn't need," Lander said. "I think that money would have been better spent elsewhere."
Lander, one of the many politicians, activists and city residents who thought housing migrants in tents was not the right decision, hopes asylum seekers can find permanent housing soon.
"What will be successful is if we can help the nearly 25,000 asylum seekers integrate into New York City, have their kids succeed in schools, help them find permanent housing," Lander said. "So a lot of us thought that setting tent cities was not what made sense."
Those who are staying at the Randall's Island center, which only served single adult males, will be offered a spot in a new center at the Watson Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, according to the city.
During his appearance on "Inside City Hall," Lander also discussed the chair of the state Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, who many Democrats have been pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to remove following mixed results in the November general election.
"Compared to all around the country where Democrats did well, here we did very poorly," Lander said. "The person at the top has got to take some responsibility."
The progressive wing of the party has been trying to force Jacobs, a holdover from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, out for months. Most recently, more than a thousand people have signed a letter calling for his resignation, including Lander.
"We also need someone who could really bring Democrats together — both more moderate and more progressive," Lander said. "Look, I'm a progressive Democrat, but I'm not saying we have to have a progressive [chair]. I'm just saying we need one who's not at war with progressives, somebody who can bring us all together for the good of New York state."