Tent shelters for migrants opening on Randall's Island

Asylum seekers will start moving into the tent shelters on Randall's Island on Wednesday.

The city had to move these tents from Orchard Beach to Randall's Island due to flooding concerns a few weeks ago. Local lawmakers tried to raise the alarm before the tents were set up but were ignored until a half-inch of rain swamped the camp before it even opened.  

The mayor's administration is now admitting it cost the city $325,000 to move the tent shelters from Orchard Beach and another $325,000 to set them up again on Randall's Island. 

The tent city is now complete, set up on 6.4 acres on Randall's Island. These shelters are expected to house at first 500 single adult men.

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Over 18,000 asylum seekers have arrived in the city since the spring, overflowing the city's shelter system and forcing the city to set up these Emergency Relief shelters. 

"If you're a single adult man, you're going to come here to this facility starting tomorrow," Dr. Ted Long, a senior vice president at NYC Health + Hospitals, said to kick off a tour of the shelters. 

When migrants first walk in after intake, they will see a recreational room set up with rows of couches, TVs, Xbox consoles, and board games. There will also be a phone bank so migrants can connect with family in order to find permanent housing. 

Staying in these tent shelters is supposed to be temporary. Mayor Eric Adams originally said asylum seekers would be staying there for a maximum of 96 hours. But that decision was reversed on Tuesday. 

"We can sometimes do that in 24 hours, maybe even less," Dr. Long said about helping migrants find permanent housing. "Many times, it's going to take longer than that. It could take days."

A cafeteria will provide migrants with three meals a day. Snacks, coffee, and tea will be available 24/7. 

"Those meals are all culturally appropriate," Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol said. "It is South American fare. The menu rotates on a regular basis."

In the next tent, asylum seekers will be staying in a refugee camp-style set-up. This tent has 449 beds, but there is a second tent next door also filled with the same number of cots if the city needs to expand. 

"Right next door and the other shelter form there is another 449," Iscol said. "We're only opening up this location right now for 500. If we need to expand, we can."

The site also has laundry services, showers, and lockers for migrants to store their belongings.

The tents are kept at 70 degrees and can withstand up to 90 mph winds, according to officials.

The curfew for migrants will be 10 p.m. and there will be 24/7 security. 

Buses are expected to run at least once an hour from this location. 

Every person entering this shelter system will also be tested for COVID. 

"Anybody that tests positive for COVID is going to immediately be taken to one of our isolation trailers," Iscol said. 

The mayor's administration is also again pleading with Gov. Kathy Hochul and the federal government to provide financial assistance.

Hochul did offer 100 National Guard members to help with the opening of the shelters but so far has not provided any financial assistance to the city to help with the migrant crisis and said she will not be calling an emergency legislative session.