NYC migrants, advocates stage ‘sleep-in’ protest outside Gracie Mansion

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By Dan Sears

About 60 migrants and their advocates held a “sleep-in” protest Wednesday outside Gracie Mansion, the official residence of Mayor Eric Adams, in the latest public rebuke of the administration’s 30- and 60-day limits on shelter stays for migrants in the city’s care.

Protesters laid atop sleeping bags, erected tents and strung a tarp in nearby Carl Schurz Park — a symbolic warning of a predicted rise in street homelessness they say the limits will bring.

The participants also condemned the mayor’s efforts in the courts to chip away at long-standing right-to-shelter rules requiring the city to provide lodging to homeless people, subject to certain minimum standards and restrictions. Advocates for the homeless have long claimed that any diminution in the rules will result in more street homelessness.

Amaha Kassa, director of African Communities Together, one of the groups behind the protest, pointed to Gracie Mansion and noted that Adams has multiple homes.

“The mayor has several houses, so he doesn’t need to sleep here,” Kassa said.

“If we don’t get leadership from Mayor Adams on the migrant crisis and on housing and protecting the right to shelter, we are going to see sleeping bags and tents all over New York City,” he later added.

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Adams announced the shelter limits in July, after images of hundreds of people sleeping outside the city’s main arrival center for migrants in Midtown made worldwide news. The move is necessary, Adams and his representatives have repeatedly said, to make space in the strained shelter system for still more new arrivals.

The city is currently sheltering some 65,600 migrants, part of an influx that began in spring 2022.

According to City Hall figures, as of the end of October, about 8,480 migrants had received notices that their shelter stays would end. Migrants unable to find alternative housing can reapply for shelter.

“We have used every possible corner of New York City and are, quite simply, out of good options to shelter migrants,” City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said in a statement.

The shelter limit policy was initially restricted to single adults staying in emergency sites outside the traditional and more tightly regulated Department of Homeless Services shelter system. But the Adams administration recently expanded the limits to single adults and families with children at shelters outside the DHS system. Single adults receive notices giving them 30 days to find new shelter while migrant families are given 60 days.

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Speakers at Thursday’s protest called on the city to move more shelter residents into long-term housing, including by expanding eligibility for the city’s housing voucher program — known as CityFHEPS — to migrants, and converting vacant office spaces and unoccupied apartments into affordable housing.

But Mamelak said expanding CityFHEPS eligibility requires state legislation and that thousands of voucher holders are still waiting for housing. She said the city is working to convert other properties into housing but it won’t happen quickly.

“Unless those now criticizing New York City’s response have realistic alternatives to suggest, we ask that they instead join us in calling for meaningful help and a decompression strategy from our state and federal partners,” Mamelak said.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the administration’s legal posture and policies on migrants “go against our city’s legacy of helping those in need and welcoming immigrants from all walks of life.”

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