NEW YORK - Mayor Eric Adams says the city is out of indoor spaces that can be turned into migrant shelters, so now they are looking outdoors.
City officials are considering handing out tents to newly arriving migrants, so they can create encampments in parks and other outdoor spaces.
"We're going to have to find large spaces," Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference on Tuesday. "What we're dealing with right now is the depletion of resources that is going to threaten our ability to provide the basic services to New Yorkers. And I can't allow that to happen."
Adams says they are discussing with leaders in other countries about how to manage these tent encampments – looking at how they could still provide restrooms and showers.
"When we reach that point, we need to manage it so that it is not a city-wide visual state of chaos," Adams said, emphasizing when not if.
But in a recent court filing, Legal Aid pushed back on this idea from the Adams administration, submitting photos of people’s frostbitten toes after they were forced to live on the street during the winter.
"People can get frostbite in above-freezing temperatures and so there are people that die from being outside in the elements even now with the right to shelter (mandate)," Kathryn Kliff from the Legal Aid Society explained.
The city has been looking to modify the right-to-shelter mandate, which requires that the city provide a bed to anyone who needs it, and say there is no way they can continue to provide shelter as more than 130,000 have passed through New York City since last spring.
The city filed this request for modification to the right to shelter mandate with a judge and the state has since filed in support. However, Legal Aid has been fighting back saying they are willing to work with the city and state during this humanitarian crisis but don’t want to see the mandate loosened.
In the meantime, the city is also now directing migrants to a new re-ticketing office in the East Village instead of the Roosevelt Hotel, once their 30-day shelter stay limit is up.
There, the city is offering to buy migrants a one-way ticket to any state or country of their choosing.
If migrants do not want to leave, they are given a ticket and told to wait for a bed to open up. But Kliff says this center is only open during business hours and not a place these migrants can sleep.
"They’re not being told anything or they're being directed to sites that are not in fact places they can sleep but simply holding facilities where people are lying on the floor and given a blanket overnight and we have clients who have been there for days," Kliff said.
We reached out to the governor’s office for a response to the mayor’s possible plan to house migrants in tent encampments outside. A spokesperson for the governor said they are "not going to comment on hypotheticals."