Even for the most savvy of New Yorkers, getting to Randall’s Island is a complicated trip that includes multiple train rides and a bus before landing on the secluded section of Manhattan.
The long trip raises concerns over accessibility to the island just as the city begins to construct the first relief center for arriving migrants.
On Monday, tent-like structures were being constructed on Randall’s Island that will serve about 500 asylum seekers. The relief center will be located next to Icahn Stadium and amenities like a portable air conditioning and laundry unit are on site.
What You Need To Know
- The city began construction on the Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Recovery Center on Randall's Island this week
- Tent-like structures have gone up on the island that will house about 500 asylum seekers
- The relief center is the first to be used by the city to temporarily house the influx of migrants being bussed in from the southern border
- The site is meant to act as an intake center for getting asylum seekers to their final destination
Lawmakers, like Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, say the site is supposed to be an intake center but worry it could turn into a makeshift shelter.
“It was presented to us that these would be intake centers and not places for people to have homes. In that scenario, it does make sense, but I would be suspect, as well, because I can tell you sitting here right now there’s going to be people there for more than 3-5 days,” said Williams.
City officials say the goal of the center is to better determine a migrant’s destination and needs.
Lawmakers and housing advocates have been critical of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to house asylum seekers on the island citing the looming winter weather and the potential for flooding. Critics want more aid for the migrants.
Williams said that though the tent structures might be necessary, they should not be the first choice for housing migrants and other indoor structures should be looked at like hotels and venues like the Javits Center.
“I have to say that we may need the structure that is being discussed now, particularly if it is going to be used as some sort of intake. The problems are, it should be a last resort and we have to make sure that we’ve tried everything else that we should, that we need to,” Williams said.
Adams seems to not be phased by the criticism. While marching in the annual Columbus Day parade, he was praised for his handling of migrants in the city.
“Thank you for what you’re doing for these immigrants,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to the mayor as they embraced during the parade on Monday. “We got to do more. Unfortunately, it’s not the way we wanted.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul in a statement said she continues to support the city’s efforts to house asylum seekers while supporting the mayor’s call for federal aid.
“Governor Hochul remains concerned about the safety and well-being of asylum seekers who are coming to our state, and we continue to coordinate closely with the city on the immediate response and support their requests for federal assistance,” said spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hayes.
Hochul has deployed 147 members of the New York National Guard who speak Spanish and English to help support the relief centers. The members will help with administrative and operational duties of the sites.
It’s unclear when the Randall’s Island site will be ready to receive asylum seekers and how they will be transported to the island. Migrants can enter the center voluntarily.