NYC migrant crisis: Legal battle over right-to-shelter law continues

A Manhattan judge announced on Tuesday that the city will be moving forward with its decision to lift the right-to-shelter mandate in some capacity.

The right-to-shelter mandate requires the city to provide shelter to anyone who needs it, but recently city officials have been asking that the court re-examine this 40-year decree, so it applies only to homeless New Yorkers, not migrants.

The city sent its first letter in May, kicking off these proceedings, asking permission from the court to suspend the right to shelter whenever the city "lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites."

But those like the Legal Aid Society say that this could be seen to apply to homeless New Yorkers as well as the tens of thousands of migrants living in the city.


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The city later amended its request to say that this right to shelter should only apply to New Yorkers, not migrants.

Now the city is asking to amend this request for a third time, but hasn’t said yet what this will mean. Legal Aid representatives told reporters after court that the city will be still moving forward to lift the right to shelter, but the city hasn’t said what this reason will be.

"What they have said is that the facts are changing and so their requests are changing in response to the situation," Joshua Goldfein, with the Legal Aid Society said.

The city now has a week, until October 3, to send in this request explaining exactly why they want to see right to shelter lifted. But no formal motion has been submitted yet, which is needed if the court is to officially roll back right to shelter.


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Meanwhile, the city is already moving forward to curtail this right to shelter by limiting the number of days migrants can stay at city shelters from 60 days to 30 days.

Legal Aid attorneys say they are disappointed by this move from the city to limit right to shelter, saying they feel the federal government and the state have started to step up more in providing resources and shelter spaces for migrants.

They say while more work needs to be done, this mandate has helped keep families from living on the streets.


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"The right to shelter protects people, their lives, their livelihoods, their well being, protects people from being harmed by the elements," Goldfein said. "It protects people from dying on the streets of New York. No New Yorker wants to see people on the streets. No one wants to see people hurt. We all want for the three levels of government to work together to solve this problem."

More than 116,100 migrants have come through the city’s intake system since Spring 2022, with more than 61,000 migrants currently in the city’s care. The city has said for months it is out of space and resources.

Additionally, the judge overseeing this right to shelter case, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards, announced she will be recusing herself from the case saying she wanted to avoid any questions about her impartiality.

She did not go into further detail.