Manhattan Caucus: What is Happening with NYC’s Migrant Crisis?

By Kyla Guilfoil, Managing Editor

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has said the influx of migrants and lack of resources to provide for them will “destroy New York City.”  

So how did we get here and what is the city doing to address the issue? 

According to a statement from Adams on Sept. 9, New York City has opened more than 200 emergency shelters as more than 110,000 migrants have arrived since April 2022.

City officials estimate 10,000 asylum seekers will still be arriving each month, driving taxpayers costs to $12 billion over three fiscal years. Without federal and state intervention, this cost will only increase, city officials say. 

So why are so many migrants coming to New York? 

Political initiatives have drawn national attention to the issue since last summer. In August 2022, Texas governor Greg Abbott sent several buses filled with migrants from Texas to New York City. The move was a political stunt by the Republican governor in an effort to attack Democrats who are against stricter immigration laws. 

While buses have continued to be sent to New York since last summer, this is not the only reason the city has had such high rates of asylum seekers. 

New York has a unique “Right to Shelter” law, which actually makes some migrants seek out transportation to the city themselves. 

The law comes from a 1979 lawsuit, Callahan v. Carey, which was brought on by Robert Hayes, a lawyer who later co-founded the Coalition for the Homeless. Hayes sued New York City and state, arguing that there was a constitutional right to shelter in New York. 

Hayes won the lawsuit, which ensured the right to shelter for homeless men, women, children and families in New York City. New York is the only major American city to have such a law. Today, this law also ensures the right to asylum seekers in the city. 

In May, Adams made an executive order to weaken the Right to Shelter law. His move came as a pandemic-era order, Title 42, which was set to expire, ending a policy which allowed the government to eject thousands of migrants amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Adams’ order meant the city suspended rules that required families to be placed in private rooms with bathrooms and kitchens, rather than in group settings. The order also established a nightly deadline for newly arriving families to be placed in shelters.

However, the shifts did not slow the incoming migrants as the city has continued to see thousands arrive throughout the summer.  

Many New Yorkers have expressed concern as city officials have relocated migrants to community spaces such as parks, schools, hotels, an emergency tent shelter on Randall’s Island and office buildings. 

The latest tension comes from the city’s move to place migrants in St. John Villa Academy, a former school building that is currently out of operation, on Staten Island. 

The streets surrounding the school were flooded with protesters last week, including a blaring loud speaker and signs that read “Protect Our Children”, the New York Times reported. 

Rallies have also surged at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, a former airfield which is now used largely for neighborhood recreational activities. According to the New York Times, the park is supposed to become a shelter for 2,500 male asylum seekers. 

In a statement on Sept. 9, Adams announced that his administration is “actively working to reduce housing and other costs by transitioning migrants out of the humanitarian emergency response and relief centers to more cost-effective shelters… in addition to looking closely at other ways to reduce the costs of caring for the asylum seekers.” 

In the statement he also directed city agencies to implement a 5 percent reduction in city-funded spending for each year of the financial plan through a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG). This will be part of the upcoming November Plan, Preliminary Budget and Executive Budget, the statement said. 

However, the mayor’s office continues to plead for federal assistance. In April, Adams went so far as to call out the White House itself, an uncommon move for a Democratic mayor towards a Democratic president. 

“The president and the White House have failed this city,” Adams said at a press conference in April. 

However, federal officials are telling Adams to get a better handle on the situation, releasing new recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security for the city in August. 

The issue is far from sorted, and a growing cost to support the overwhelming number of migrants continues to drive stress on the city. 

For more news from the mayor’s office, visit