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Adams slams some council members for not having migrant shelters in their districts on private call

May. 18, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller

Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday morning admonished several unnamed City Council members for not having any migrant emergency shelters or humanitarian relief centers in their districts, according to partial audio of a private call shared with amNewYork Metro.

During the call, reportedly one of many the administration has held with city and state lawmakers and staffers to brief them on the city’s response to the migrant crisis, Adams told council members without emergency shelters or Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs) in their districts to step up and take some. He cited western Queens Council Member Julie Won (D) and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who represents southeast Queens, as examples of members who have taken on a disproportionate number of migrant shelters already. 

“There are many of you who have little or no shelters or HERRCs in your district,” Adams can be heard telling council members on the call. “This is all of our issue. It’s not the issue of just Councilwoman Won, who has a substantial number of HERRCs and hotels in her district. Or Adrianne Adams, your speaker, who has a substantial number. All of us need to do an analysis where can we house migrant asylum seekers in our districts to take this burden.”

The audio conference came as the Adams administration struggles to find shelter for tens of thousands of asylum seekers who have come here over the past year and is anticipating those numbers to quickly balloon since the expiration of Title 42, which barred many immigrants from entering the U.S., last week. The Big Apple has already seen an uptick in newcomers since that rule lapsed, according to administration officials, with the number of daily arrivals increasing from between 200 and 300 to between 600 and 700.

Since that time, the administration has resorted to sheltering some migrants on cots in school gyms, and bussing a small number to hotels in two Hudson Valley towns — both initiatives that have been met with intense backlash. That’s in addition to the city’s homeless shelter system, 150 emergency shelters — the majority of which are in hotels, and eight HERRCs, where migrants were already being housed.

A government source who shared the recording with amNewYork Metro, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Adams opened the call by telling the lawmakers present that there wouldn’t be any “disrespect” during the briefing. He then told Tiffany Raspberry, his Director of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, she has permission to end the call if anyone is disrespectful.

That confirmed a report from the New York Daily News that the mayor told council members they’ve treated his team with “total disrespect” on previous calls.

“There’s been a series of these calls where the tone has been disrespectful. There’s been a level of just total disrespect for the people who have been spending 12 and 13 hours a day on this,” the News quoted Adams telling council members on the call. “That is not going to happen to my team. My team would never be disrespectful to any of you. You are not going to be disrespectful to any of them.”

Fabien Levy, the mayor’s press secretary, said in a statement that the mayor and other administration officials have stressed responding to the crisis takes an “all-hands on deck” approach and took time to thank those who have helped them on the call. 

“Sadly, as predicted, the person who leaked this call is spinning a narrative that leaves out the most important part of the conversation — that every elected official who spoke and asked questions on the call today also provided their thanks and offered to continue to help in any way they can,” Levy said. “We are in the middle of the crisis and we need leaders to step up and tell the truth, not whine and refuse to do anything to help those in need, like the person who leaked this call.”

A council source told amNewYork Metro that while shelters may not be spread equally across council districts, it’s not the fault of certain council members because City Hall controls the siting of shelters.

“I think it’s also kind of absurd to say that that’s the fault of members, the mayor has the power to open shelters,” they said. “It’s not like they call us and ask us for permission. We hear about this after the fact. So, they’re the ones who were making the decision about where they’re placing the shelters … Blaming us for things that they’re doing is kind of absurd. None of our members are getting [a] heads up about shelters.”

The source said the mayor’s comments serve as a “false villain he’s creating to distract.”

The mayor has been at odds with the speaker and many progressive council members for months over how to approach the migrant crisis. Where the administration has focused on finding siting more emergency shelters for new arrivals, the council has pushed for moving more people out of the city’s homeless shelters and into permanent housing to free-up space.

Manhattan Council Member Erik Bottcher (D) can be heard on the call asking how members can be more helpful to the administration with handling the influx, suggesting they use the phone briefings as a “working group” where they can regularly tackle the thorny issues that come with the crisis together.

“How can we be more helpful?” Bottcher can be heard saying. “A lot of us have been working with you since last summer. A bunch of us have a lot of asylum seekers in our districts. I think we’ve got thousands of hotel rooms in our district … But we want to do more and still feel like we’re watching from the sidelines, and want to help more.”

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