NYC seeks ‘right to shelter’ trims as Mayor Adams surveys migrant crisis

City Hall’s top lawyer wants to change the way the city complies with the court-mandated guarantee of speedy access to a bed for the homeless as the recent wave of 11,000 migrant arrivals has pushed the social safety net to the breaking point.

The comments Thursday morning from Brendan McGuire, Mayor Eric Adams’ chief legal counsel, came hours after Hizzoner ignited a firestorm by saying “prior practices” must be “reassessed.”

The issue came to a head after the city left 60 migrants sleeping on benches and floors overnight in a Manhattan intake center in apparent violation of the law.

“What we’re talking about is the reality that this is completely unforeseen. This rate of influx of people into the system, and so it’s irresponsible not to reassess how the system works,” McGuire said.

“There is the timing challenge,” he added. “There is the timing challenge that the mayor talked about, for example, the 60 men, right, we ultimately got them shelter.”

He made the remarks after Adams and other city officials early Thursday visited a welcome center for migrants in Hell’s Kitchen. 

“Every asylum seeker that comes to New York will have shelter. By law, we’re required and we’re going to do that,” added Adams without giving details.

Brendan McGuire.
“It’s irresponsible not to reassess how the system works,” Brendan McGuire said.
Robert Miller

Adams spoke to volunteers from Catholic Charities and reps from nonprofits working in the building flanked by the Commissioner of NYC’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Manuel Castro, Department of Social Services Commissioner Gary Jenkins, Commissioner of New York City Emergency Management Zach Iscol and other top City Hall officials.

The facility is near the Port Authority, where many of the buses bringing them from the southern border have arrived.

The Post first reported last month the operation is being run out of a Red Cross complex and is concentrating on helping migrants with job placement, immigration placement and support for enrolling kids in schools. 

“We just learned yesterday about what has unfolded in Martha’s Vineyard. We have not received any communications thus far that individuals are landing at Kennedy Airport or LaGuardia Airport, and if that happens we will pivot and shift to that location,” said Adams, referring to reports that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis chartered a plane full of migrants to Massachusetts Island early Thursday.

“The Republican Party, they have created a blueprint that all of them are starting to follow. It’s inhumane,” he added, a nod to the steady stream of buses coming from Texas at the direction of GOP Gov. Greg Abbott.

He said so far the city has expanded its shelter system to include 23 “emergency” hotels to handle the crush.

“If it means open up more emergency shelters, if it means looking at different locations, we are going to use every tool in our toolbox to solve this issue,” said Adams.

Hizzoner and his city attorney both denied Thursday they were seeking to undo the landmark 1981 legal settlement between the Coalition for the Homeless and then-Mayor Ed Koch, which mandates that every New Yorker must be provided a bed in a habitable building.

Eric Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams denied seeking to undo the landmark legal settlement between the Coalition for the Homeless and then-Mayor Ed Koch.
Robert Miller

“Immigration status will not matter. The consent decree does not draw a distinction between New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers. That’s not what we’re talking about,” McGuire said.

However, McGuire then suggested that City Hall was seeking changes to “practices” that directly stem from the agreement, including that homeless New Yorkers must be quickly placed in shelter beds after arriving at an intake.

The Department of Homeless Services is required to find families a space in a shelter by 4 a.m. if they arrive at an intake before 10 p.m.

There is no such firm deadline for single men — who head to a different set of shelters.

But Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless sued city officials in 2009 when they began shipping homeless New Yorkers illegally sleeping in intakes to “overnight” beds in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood, where they got as little as five hours of sleep.

The groups charged the practice amounted to a violation of the 1981 “right to shelter” agreement. A judge ordered the city to stop the practice and the lawsuit was eventually settled in May 2010.

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