Gov. Kathy Hochul is seeking emergency disaster aid from the federal government to handle the influx of migrants into the state, she told county leaders on Friday afternoon.
The governor said she is also asking for more money to handle the thousands of people who come to New York and still are expected to enter the state with the expiration of a pandemic-era policy.
Hochul sent a letter to President Biden asking for additional federal aid, as well as support to find additional sites to house migrants. She said some sites could include Floyd Bennett Field and Department of Defense sites in the northeast.
On the call, Hochul said she is asking for a disaster declaration by the Biden administration in order to treat the issue "like the disaster that this is. This is a hurricane hitting New York City and New York state."
The letter to Biden from Hochul did not specifically seek a emergency declaration. However, the letter cited a federal code for FEMA-state agreements that are made upon the declaration of a disaster or emergency.
County leaders also signaled a frustration over what they said was a glaring lack of communication over the last week.
New York is seeking a range of federal support for housing and other resources, including aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Hochul sought to assure county leaders, comparing the problem to the onset of the COVID pandemic while also pledging to improve communication between New York City and local governments.
"I know none of you asked for this. You have enough responsibilities," Hochul told county officials in the call obtained by Spectrum News 1. "Many of you have a homelessness problem in your own counties."
The letter comes as New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced plans this month to move hundreds of migrants in a voluntary program to Orange and Rockland counties, a plan that drew an outcry form officials there.
Rockland County officials filed a legal challenge to the move and a judge temporarily barred New York City from moving migrants to the county.
Migrants began arriving in Newburgh on Thursday, surprising officials there.
County leaders from across the state this week responded to Adams' program by issuing executive orders to block migrants from housed in hotels in their municipalities.
Hochul has issued an order of her own meant to expand available resources to handle the influx of migrants, including widening the role of the National Guard. New York's budget included $1 billion for migrant resources and support, about 29% of what New York City has said it needs.
On the call, Hochul sought to underscore the depth of the challenge facing New York state and its localities. She told officials "40% of hotel space in Midtown is now occupied by migrants" in New York City.
The request comes as New York City has had to get creative on housing arriving migrants, including using active public school gyms.
“We’re at the point where we're really at the limits of what we have available,” said New York City Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom.
Adams this week moved to suspend the city's "right to shelter" law as more people are expected to enter the city in the coming days and weeks.
The city, Hochul told county leaders "is at a breaking point."
"We're in a crisis," she said. "We're in a national crisis."
In the call, which lasted about 40 minutes, Hochul and top officials in her administration sought to allay concerns from county leaders over the public safety questions raised by the migrant crisis as well as the resources available to them.
Hochul said she wants to expedite efforts to give migrants temporary status so they can work in the state.
On Friday, New York congressional delegation members sent their own letter to the president asking that he expedite work authorization for migrants. Adams made the same request last month.
“They don’t want our free shelter. They don’t want free food. They don’t want free clothing. They’re saying, 'Can we work?” Adams said in April.
Some county officials were also frustrated by the developing events over the last week.
"We have a complete disaster here in Orange County," said Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus. "It's self-induced by the city of New York."
Neuhaus told Hochul 82 migrants have been moved to his county without notice to law enforcement or other county officials.
"Governor, we have a real crisis here. We need help," he said. "This is going to come to the other counties as well."
Hochul is a former county official herself, having served as the Erie County clerk before being elected to Congress. She urged county leaders "to take a breath right now" while seeking to mend what appears to be increasingly frayed relationships between officials.
"This is not a partisan issue," she said. "This is New York state having to deal with something thousands of miles away at the border. But here we are."
At the New York City level, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso has proposed a plan for using private housing stock to house migrants.
“What we would be ultimately doing is expanding like a cityFHEPS program or a voucher program in which we would pay market rate apartments to house migrants,” Reynoso said about his plan on Friday.
He argued that the city would offset the costs of housing asylum seekers by putting them in market-rate apartments.
“What we’re saying is, if I go to apartments.com right now, there is an apartment somewhere going for $4,000 a month. The city is paying a lot more than that in these hotels to house these asylum seekers. So can we instead give the money to one of these luxury apartment developers to house migrants?” Reynoso added.
Reynoso said he has presented his idea to City Hall. He noted that it would be part of a larger plan to help asylum seekers.
“I’m not here to throw stones at an administration that is trying their best, I’m here to offer solutions,” said Reynoso.