New York City will open a shelter for migrants on Randall’s Island — some nine months after officials closed a similar center that housed asylum seekers in the East River park, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday.
Adams said the new space will house roughly 2,000 adult asylum seekers, but did not specify exactly when it will open. He said two other relief centers for migrants are scheduled to open in the city in the coming weeks.
“As the number of asylum seekers in our care continues to grow by hundreds every day, stretching our system to its breaking point and beyond, it has become more and more of a Herculean effort to find enough beds every night,” Adams said.
City officials said there are now more than 57,200 migrants under the city’s care. The crisis drew national attention in recent weeks as hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep outside of the city’s intake center for asylum seekers at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown. The mayor has also considered housing migrants in tents set up in other major green spaces like Central Park, Gothamist reported last week.
Adams said he reached a deal with Gov. Kathy Hochul for the state to reimburse the city for the costs to build, maintain and staff the Randall’s Island site. The agreement comes after a New York state Supreme Court judge on Friday ordered state officials to do more to help the surge of migrants arriving in the city.
The city opened a temporary shelter on the island last October with beds for roughly 1,000 new arrivals. The new center will have double the capacity.
The original Randall’s Island relief center opened after city officials halted plans to temporarily house asylum seekers in tents set up in a parking lot at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, which flooded last October when a storm hit the city. Advocates last year criticized the opening of the Randall’s Island location because it was also prone to flooding. The center operated for a month before it closed.
“It’s going to be much bigger and in a different location,” said Josh Goldfein, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society who’s fighting Adams’ legal effort to suspend the city’s right-to-shelter rules. “I think the Adams administration learned a lot about what they need to do.”
The new shelter will be constructed on the park’s East River Fields, which are already used by the students and sports leagues, the Randall’s Island Park Alliance wrote in July 31 letter to Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi that was obtained by Gothamist. In the letter, the group estimates that 10,700 hours of permit and field use will have to be canceled as the city opens the relief center.
“We urge you to select a site that does not mean destroying green fields, turning away young athletes, and flying in the face of the many supporters who have worked for three decades to build this resource – New Yorkers working on behalf of New Yorkers, year after year,” the letter reads.
Councilmember Gale Brewer said many soccer coaches have contacted her with concerns about the lost recreation hours. She said Manhattan public high schools have very little field space, especially compared to other large schools in other boroughs.
Brewer said it would cost $2.3 million to renovate the fields after the tents are removed.
“When tents leave, the fields will be a mess,” Brewer said. “It will have to be renovated.”
Arya Sundaram contributed reporting.