Work begins on migrant center in the Bronx

More than 14,000 asylum seekers have flooded into New York City since the spring. So far, the city has been forced to open 39 emergency shelters. 

Work is underway in the Bronx to create temporary housing for migrants entering New York City. A relief center will soon be opening in the Orchard Beach parking lot and will offer shelter, food, legal aid, vaccines, and more to single adult migrants.

Crews were on the scene setting up the structures. They set up three structures by Tuesday evening and are expected to work on up two more. The city is calling these units Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.

The city says that its existing shelters are at capacity, with more waves of asylum seekers expected.

Mayor Eric Adams plans to house up to 1,000 migrants in the temporary tent-like shelters. 

But these tent shelters, might not fully comply with the city's right to shelter law.

The city is dealing with a humanitarian crisis, Adams said at an unrelated press conference.

"The migrant crisis is outside of the housing initiative that we're doing, in seeing the right to shelter. These are two different entities," Adams said. 

The city's right to shelter law requires that beds be spaced out at a certain distance, that there be laundry services and more. 

Asylum seekers who cannot find immediate housing will stay in these tents for around 24 to 96 hours, although the mayor admitted that could change. 

Many details about the plan are still unclear, which is why Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, wants more clarity, especially when it comes to families with young children.

"The current plan is for families with children to go to the Department of Health's Homeless Services shelter system," Goldfein said. "If they want to try an alternative to that, it should not include congregate living situations."

The Legal Aid Society's Kathryn Kliff said that as long as it is voluntary for people to live in these tents, emphasizing that they must have the ability to return to the shelter system, and there are no kids staying there, then they don't see any legal complications just yet. 

"It's not meant to be a long-term place, but we do have many concerns about our clients safety, ways to store their valuables and how exactly are they going to get the things they need if they're at such a location that is so far from the rest of the city," Kliff said.

Kliff pointed out that many questions surrounding what resources will be provided remain unanswered.

Another concern, this area in Orchard Beach is in a flood zone. 

"People live in a flood zone," Adams said. "If people live in a flood zone and there is a flood we evacuate them. There's nothing new here."

The plan has drawn skepticism from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.

"While this is not the ideal location and we have raised reasonable concerns, my team and I are working with the Adams administration to ensure that any site designated for our borough has wraparound services," Gibson said in a statement. "These services must be provided in a dignified, humane, quality and safe space that does not do further harm nor add burden to clients and families."

Residents in the Orchard Beach area held a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the impact of these tent shelters in their neighborhood and to ask questions of the city. 

A second temporary site will also be opening, although there is no word yet on where that one will be.