|New York City Mayor Eric Adams (left) and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson (right) |
(New York Daily News)
By Chris Sommerfeldt, NY Daily News, September 26, 2022
Mayor Adams’ plan to house hundreds of Latin American migrants in tents in a Bronx parking lot drew skepticism Monday from the Boogie Down’s borough president, who charged that the site is not suitable for several reasons.
Borough President Vanessa Gibson said she’s concerned that the parking lot at Orchard Beach is prone to flooding — a fact that could become especially problematic as hurricane season picks up. Gibson also said access to public transit is notoriously poor at the remote beach, with no nearby subway connections and scant bus service.
Still, Gibson affirmed she won’t stand in the way of the camp, which is expected to house upward of 1,000 migrants at a time.
“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,” she 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. Under these emergency circumstances, we will work together with the administration in a balanced and strategic manner to ensure the Bronx is not overburdened.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency considers the entire Orchard Beach parking lot a “special flood hazard area.” The city also lists the parking lot as a Zone 1 hurricane evacuation area, meaning it’s especially vulnerable to dangerous flooding during storms.
Adams administration officials have not addressed the weather-related vulnerabilities of the site. They have said the city plans to provide a shuttle bus service for migrants to be able to come and go from the tent facilities as they please.
An Adams spokeswoman would not comment directly on Gibson’s statement, but said 50 sites across all five boroughs were evaluated before the administration set its sights on Orchard Beach.
The Orchard Beach location is expected to house only single adults, and will be operational within a few weeks, according to City Hall. The administration has said it’s going to open at least one more tent facility for migrant families.
Gibson’s critique comes as the city’s homeless shelter system remains overburdened by a recent influx f South and Central American migrants.
As of Thursday, more than 13,000 migrants fleeing violence and economic turmoil in their home countries had arrived in the city after crossing the Mexican border, hoping to apply for asylum. Hundreds more are coming every week, according to data from Adams’ administration. On Thursday night, 58,152 people slept in city shelters — more than 10,000 of them migrants, the data show.
Many of the desperate travelers were sent to New York by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has turned the crisis on the southern border into a political cudgel against Democratic immigration policies.
The waves of migrants have brought city shelters to the brink of collapse, and the Orchard Beach encampment is an effort by Adams to alleviate pressure on the system.
The City Council’s Immigration Committee is set to hold an oversight hearing Friday on the administration’s response to the crisis. A Council source said the hearing is expected to feature testimony from Zach Iscol, Adams’ emergency management commissioner, who will have a leading role in building and maintaining the migrant tent centers.
According to Adams, the tents will serve as intake centers, meaning migrants should not have to stay there longer than 96 hours before being provided shelter beds or other permanent housing.
But advocates for the homeless have suggested the tent plan may run afoul of the local right-to-shelter law, which requires the city to provide anyone who needs it a “safe and adequate” place to stay.
In her statement, Gibson also made reference to the shelter law — which the Adams administration already likely violated on two separate occasions this summer.
“As our city has seen an increase in asylum seekers, it is important for us to share in this emergency crisis and ensure that we are all doing our part to assist,” she said. “The City of New York is a right-to-shelter city and is legally required to provide temporary housing to those who enter our shelter system.”