Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday defended the city’s plan to move a tent camp intended to house asylum seekers from Orchard Beach to Randall’s Island, calling it a “cost effective” decision made due to weather-related concerns.
The decision, which Adams announced Monday night, came amid mounting concerns that the original Orchard Beach parking lot site would be susceptible to flooding — but drew the ire of advocacy groups who maintained Randall's Island would be no better.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Adams said officials saw "pooling of water" at the Orchard Beach site, adding that relocating to Randall's Island would be "more cost effective."
What You Need To Know
- Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday defended the city’s plan to move a tent camp intended to house asylum seekers from Orchard Beach to Randall’s Island
- The decision came amid mounting concerns that the original Orchard Beach site would be susceptible to flooding — but drew the ire of advocacy groups who maintained Randall's Island would be no better
- The Orchard Beach location was the first of several tent camps city officials said they were planning to open. Both Republicans and Democrats had harsh words for the plan
“We could have mitigated the pooling of water, but [NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol] made the decision — he called me and said, ‘Eric, it’s better if we use Randall’s Island. It’s a higher peak. The parking lot is better use for it.’ And so we pivot and shift,” the mayor said.
“One of the reasons that we did not originally place the camp at Randall’s Island was because of seasonal use, and that ends after Monday, so Randall’s Island is now available in a way it wasn’t when we started this process,” Iscol added. “It’s also more cost effective. We’re actually saving money by moving to Randall’s Island at this stage.”
Adams said he could not yet say how much the move would cost.
In a statement released Monday night, the mayor said that while the city "would be able to put in place the necessary ponding mitigation measures, relocating the Orchard Beach humanitarian relief center to Randall’s Island is the most efficient and effective path forward, and work is underway to make this move."
"This new location is less prone to flooding, is closer to public transportation, and will provide temporary respite to 500 asylum seekers," he said. A spokesperson for City Hall later clarified that the humanitarian relief center on Randall’s Island would be located in the Icahn Stadium parking lot.
Prior to Adams' news conference Tuesday afternoon, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless released a joint statement saying their concerns over the Orchard Beach location also applied to Randall’s Island.
“The city must look to other solutions instead of tent cities, where our clients will be isolated, vulnerable to extreme weather, and far from public transportation and other critical services,” the statement read.
The “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers,” or HERCs, were intended to help alleviate some of the stress on the city shelter system as asylum seekers continue to arrive on buses from southern states.
Both advocacy groups have suggested the city instead look into housing asylum seekers in hotels, which they said “have always been the better short-term option.”
The groups also maintained that the Adams administration should move to reinvent the city’s housing voucher process in order to transition more homeless New Yorkers into permeant housing, and creating space for new entrants into the shelter system.
“While we appreciate City Hall's commitment to the right to shelter, the flooding at Orchard Beach should serve as a canary in a coal mine, and the Adams administration must abandon this wrongheaded plan in favor of the actions we've been advocating for since the beginning of this crisis,” the groups wrote.
The Orchard Beach location was the first of several tent camps city officials said they were planning to open. Both Republicans and Democrats had harsh words for the plan.
“Once you get here, you’re a New Yorker and you’re welcome to the rights and responsibilities of New Yorkers which includes the right to housing,” said Christine Quinn, the former New York City Council Speaker who now leads Win, one of the city’s largest shelter providers.
Bronx community leaders, veterans and clergy members held a press conference at the parking lot Monday, criticizing Mayor Adams for putting migrants in what they believe are inhumane conditions.
“Now they are being processed here in the parking lot of Orchard Beach in the freezing cold and puddles,” added Michael Rendino, the chair of the Bronx Republican Party. “It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the people of the Bronx.”
At Tuesday's news conference, Adams said the city had been in talks with Gov. Kathy Hochul and the mayors of Washington, D.C. and Chicago about the crisis.
"I just find it ironic that these buses are coming to three cities with three Black mayors — that’s not lost on me — that are experiencing crises already, and I think that the actions that’s taking place [are] really undermining our ability to deal with the crisis we’re already facing," he said. "So we have been communicating."
Hochul, for her part, said she would send members of the National Guard to the five boroughs to help the city address the crisis, Adams said.
“We reached out to the governor and asked the governor for help, and this was one of the areas she decided to help us with,” he said. “And it sends the right message that we’re going to use everything that we have possible to deal with this humanitarian crisis that we are facing.”