Some migrants uprooted from NYC shelter had long waits for new beds

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By Dan Sears

No migrant families with children slept on the street and everyone who reapplied for shelter received a placement.

That was the accounting by New York City officials on Wednesday, a day after the first group of migrants to face time limits on their stays in city shelters were forced to leave — with an option to reapply for housing if they couldn’t find new accommodations on their own.

Adams administration officials said they had no immediate breakdown on how many families were reassigned shelter or where they were placed after vacating The Row Hotel, a temporary shelter near Times Square and the first to see the restrictions kick in.

But they said none of the 40 families forced out was left to sleep out in the cold.

“It may have appeared to be a scene outside [The Row Hotel] but operationally things moved very smoothly,” Adams spokesperson Kayla Mamelak said.

Whether the new time limits accomplish one of Mayor Eric Adams’ stated goals — to free up more space in the shelter system for newly arriving migrants — will be further tested in the days and weeks to come as more families are forced to move out.

Mamelak said another 20 families were due to reach their deadline to leave on Wednesday. By month’s end, 1,600 families across the city will have received word that they have to leave the system or reapply at The Roosevelt Hotel, the city’s main intake center in Midtown.

Eventually, some 4,800 families are expected to receive word they hit their time limit. Some 66,000 migrants are staying in city shelters.

Mamelak said staff at The Roosevelt Hotel continue to receive new arrivals every day.

‘I know that the situation is difficult…’

It wasn’t clear where all of the families in the first wave of removals ended up. Some told Gothamist they were bunking with friends, recently relocated relatives or moved on to other cities.

Other migrant families, with no other housing alternative, waited hours to reapply for a shelter bed — in the same system they just left. Some complained of confusion and worries about what’s ahead for them.

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“For so many families, school is the primary source of support for them, which is helping them move into permanent housing in the future. We want to be protecting that as much as possible, not disrupting that,” said Jennifer Pringle, project director of Advocates for Children.

Mamelak said the goal is to keep kids as close to their schools and children are guaranteed busing if they are moved further away and want to remain at their school.

Joana Rivas, 29, from Venezuela, said at first she was relocated to a hotel in Brownsville, more than an hour away from her 9-year-old daughter’s elementary school in Manhattan. When she complained about the distance, Rivas said workers at the Roosevelt told her that the Brooklyn hotel was the only option available.

“I know that the situation is difficult, but why move families with kids who are already adapting to a school and possible normality?” she said in Spanish through a WhatsApp message. “The kids are the ones who suffer.”

Rivas wondered how she’d find work with her daughter’s school so far away. She said her daughter suffers from anxiety, and they both cried upon arriving to the new hotel in Brooklyn. She was later able to secure a shelter in Manhattan.

On Tuesday, Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president at the city’s public hospital system, which operates migrant shelters and the Roosevelt intake center, told reporters the highest priority was keeping young children close to their schools.

“We made tentative plans in the background to make sure that we had availability in the districts where kids were in school. And then today we confirmed those plans,” Long said.

Maria Quero, 26, said she waited at The Roosevelt nearly nine hours until staff assigned her to a shelter in Brooklyn. Quero is nearly nine months pregnant with her first child, and missed her afternoon prenatal appointment while she waited. She now lives about an hour from her hospital.

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“They knew how many people they were working with. They knew what their circumstances were. They knew that they were going to need a shelter placement, and they knew where their children go to school. So there was no reason for these people to go to the Roosevelt at all,” said Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society.

“To have all this information in hand, and then still require people to come to a city office and go through the motions of assigning them to a new place is just a waste of city resources and people’s time that would be better spent finding ways to move out of shelter,” he added.

Check out by 11 a.m.

The Adams administration began restricting shelter stays for some migrant families with children last fall, notifying them they then had 60 days to relocate. Families had to find other housing or reapply for shelter.

At The Row Hotel, families had to check out by 11 a.m. Tuesday but a handful left earlier, having found apartments or other accommodations.

Amid the press frenzy and dozens of school buses picking up children to go to school, it was clear some families were moving out—lugging trash bags, large suitcases and strollers stacked high with bundles of their belongings.

But The Row allowed some families to store their suitcases for a few days, so some left with a backpack or simply with their kids in tow.

By next Monday, about 250 families will have moved out, Goldfein said, and the city hopes to ramp up to about 100 move-outs a day.

It’s not entirely clear how the city plans to measure the effectiveness of its 60-day policy, though Adams has hinted that success will be measured by how many families ultimately exit the city’s care. The city estimates 60% of migrants in shelter have left.

Similarly, the city shares monthly numbers on how many adult migrants who are already limited to 30 days in shelter leave their care every week. An average of 2,300 leave a week and officials have touted that as a sign the policy is working.

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But the 30-day notices have also prompted long lines outside a reticketing center in the East Village where adult migrants must wait days for a new shelter bed outside in the cold.

“One day is not going to give us that answer. It’s going to take time and we’re going to have to pivot and shift based on what we learn,” Mamelak said.

Leydys Camilo, 32, from the Dominican Republic, said she, her husband, and her two kids waited eight hours before being assigned a new place to stay. They landed at another hotel in Midtown, roughly the same distance to her 12-year-old’s middle school and she says even more tranquil than their old home at The Row Hotel.

Camilo said they received another letter, this one requiring them to leave their new shelter in another 60 days. She said it’s impossible for her family to find an apartment to rent because they lack the necessary legal documents and don’t have enough money for a rental deposit.

“To tell you the truth, I can’t complain about the 60 days,” Camilo said in Spanish.

Her family has been living in city shelters for more than a year.

“I feel grateful for the time they have given me to at least live under a roof.”

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