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Goldman, Bowman urge city universities to audit their space for housing migrants

May. 22, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller

Congress Members Dan Goldman (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) and Jamaal Bowman (D-Bronx/Westchester) on Monday sent a letter to several leaders of New York City’s public and private universities, urging them to conduct an audit of their available space for possibly housing migrants.

In the missive, the pair implored SUNY Chancellor John King, Jr.,CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez, New York University President Andrew Hamilton and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities to review available space that can shelter a portion of the tens of thousands of migrants who’ve come here over the past year. Considering many schools empty their dorms during the summers, the lawmakers said, they should be able to use the empty rooms to temporarily house migrants.

Goldman and Bowman also implored the city’s higher education institutions to help provide free legal services and food assistance to the new arrivals.

“During the summer, many of your institutions have empty dorm rooms, student apartments, and other potentially appropriate places for shelter that can serve as much-needed temporary housing for migrants,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We also ask for your help as we work with local leaders to provide food assistance and other necessities as well as pro bono legal assistance to migrant families arriving in New York.” 

“As more families continue to arrive in New York, it is critical that all sectors of our society, including the private sector and institutions of higher education, also support the City’s commitment to providing these basic necessities to migrant families,” they added.

Additionally, the pair requested schools develop programs that would allow their students to assist migrants on a voluntary basis.

“Many of your institutions also have prestigious law schools, medical facilities, and admit students who are committed to public service,” they wrote in the letter. “We encourage you to develop programs that incentivize and support faculty and students to volunteer their time and talent to serve asylum seekers and their children.”

Governor Kathy Hochul already directed the SUNY system to start evaluating all of its campuses to see if they could accommodate migrants over the summer, according to a report on Friday. But during a Monday press conference, where Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams called on the White House to fasttrack work authorizations for migrants, she said colleges and universities will only be able to provide housing through August — when the new school year starts.

“We’ve been doing that assessment,” Hochul said. “Actually, the timing is very good because a lot of the students have left now for the summer. So, there are temporary dorms through August, but we are looking at the long-range situation. What happens in August? That’s the strategy that we’re trying to develop now.”

However, not everyone is on board with the idea of sheltering migrants in state university dorms. State Republican Party Chair Ed Cox, in a Monday statement, said Hochul’s plan would “disrupt and displace” college students in the state — even though she plans to do it during the summer.

“The SUNY system is one of New York’s most celebrated institutions – Kathy Hochul’s priorities are backwards,” Cox said. “Kathy Hochul would rather New York drown in a flood of illegal immigrants than demand Joe Biden fulfill one of the most basic responsibilities of his office – keeping our border secure. She is putting party politics over the needs of the people of New York.”

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