Community groups, faith leaders, and activists took to the streets of lower Manhattan earlier to protest efforts by Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul to suspend the state’s right-to-shelter policy.
“We’re protesting the mayor and the governor trying to suspend the right to shelter,” Carl Bentsen of the Coalition for the Homeless said.
Bentsen and hundreds of people gathered outside of the National Museum of the American Indian Tuesday to demand that the city provide shelter to any New Yorker who needs it.
”Joseph with his pregnant wife Mary caring the baby Jesus were told they were told there is no room,” Reverend Adrienne Thorn of the Riverside Church said. “We do not want to be a city that’s known for no room. No room for families, no room for pregnant women.”
Following Wednesday’s rally demonstrators took to the streets by marching to City Hall.
“I think the mayor is using the immigrant to cover his failures,” Carlos Encarnacion, an organizer for New York Communities for Change, said. “He’s been cutting services and the social safety net in the city since before the immigrants began arriving.”
“Shelter is a right,” Bentsen said.
The city is involved in an ongoing court case and has asked a judge to be relieved of the requirement for single adults. Hochul is siding with the city and is of the opinion that the consent decree is outdated. In a letter to a judge, an attorney for Hochul said the crisis is worsening, citing an increase of 1,500 migrants a week.
The Mayor’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services addressed the issue Tuesday.
“We need the federal government to be able to help us better coordinate what is happening so that we are able to serve people, especially as the colder weather is coming now,” Deputy Mayor Anne Williams Isom said.
Bentsen helped create a tent city at the rally and spray painted the phrase “Hochulville” on all of them.”
“It’s referring to Hooverville, which was the shanty towns that were built up during the depression with President Hoover, so this is what it’s going to come to if people are denied the right to shelter,” Bentsen said.
Though he’s been in New York for nearly 40 years, as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion can relate to newly arrived migrants.
“We’re close to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island, and everyone that knows the history of Ellis island,” he said. “It was a place where people are welcome into the United States. So [the] United States is the country of immigrants.”
Gov. Hochul has opposed the idea that the right to shelter applies state wide.
Meanwhile, the city has spent about $2 billion on providing food and shelter to tens of thousands of migrants who began arriving last spring.
Critics of Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul have argued that revoking the right to shelter would increase homelessness rather than meaningfully addressing the migrant crisis.