City officials cleared a crowd of more than 100 migrants from a Midtown sidewalk on Thursday morning — days after Mayor Eric Adams said there was no space to house the new arrivals.
The migrants had been sleeping on the sidewalks overnight outside the city’s intake center at the Roosevelt Hotel as they waited to be placed in scarce shelter beds. Images of the scene showing more than 150 people corralled within metal barricades received national attention this week.
The sight of migrants huddled in one of Manhattan’s most trafficked areas represented a new extreme in the city’s migrant crisis. But the crowd suddenly cleared Wednesday night into Thursday morning, according to Power Malu, head of Artists Athletes Activists, a community group that regularly distributes food to people waiting in line.
MTA buses arrived on Wednesday night to transport those waiting on the sidewalks to city shelters, Malu said.
“I don’t know how, from one minute to the next, all of a sudden they found beds,” Malu said, adding that he was outside the hotel until 3:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Around 10 a.m., the sidewalks on East 45th and East 46th streets where migrants had previously been waiting were nearly empty. A handful of migrants remained on the blocks, along with advocates distributing sandwiches and water.
Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor, maintained that the city had still run out of shelter space for adult migrants. Children and families are prioritized and found beds every night, he added.
“We are doing our best to offer placements whenever we have space available, have two additional humanitarian relief centers scheduled to come online in the coming weeks to serve this population, and are eternally grateful for our partnership with faith-based organizations who are offering some asylum-seekers a place to rest their heads whenever possible,” Levy said.
City officials said some of those faith-based organizations were able to take in migrants outside of the Roosevelt Hotel on Wednesday night.
More than 56,200 asylum-seekers are staying in the city’s homeless shelters, representing more than half of the total shelter population, according to figures released by City Hall on Wednesday. That includes more than 2,300 new arrivals from last Monday, July 24 to Sunday, July 30.
The city has opened more than 200 emergency shelters to accommodate the influx of new arrivals — with increasingly worse conditions, according to advocates and officials.
Adams also said this week that migrants sleeping outside would become more common and widespread, as more newcomers arrived.
“It’s not going to get any better,” he said Monday. “From this moment on, it’s downhill. There is no more room.”
Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said in a briefing on Wednesday that she and the mayor had both been proud that the city had until recently managed to house new migrants in shelters and prevented them from sleeping on the street.
City officials have repeatedly asked for federal intervention to disperse newly arrived migrants elsewhere and alleviate the strain on city services.
Adams went to Washington D.C. last week with members of the city’s congressional delegation to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the rising number of migrants arriving in New York.
City officials even took matters into their own hands earlier this month by distributing flyers at the U.S.-Mexico border warning migrants there was limited housing in New York and that “there is no guarantee of shelter and services to new arrivals.”
“The question is not what New York City is not doing,” Isom said. “It’s why is no one else doing anything.”
She added: “I’ve been here for months and weeks after weeks saying we’re going to get to this point if we don’t get some help.”
Some advocates, like Malu, said the spectacle outside the hotel was a “political stunt” to pressure the Biden administration to help, or dissuade migrants from coming to the city — an accusation city officials, including Isom, have denied.
“They can contest it all they want, or say that it’s not true, that they don’t have space, but then how miraculously they were able to come up with some space,” Malu said.
Elizabeth Kim contributed reporting to this story.