Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration held off opening of NYC migrant shelter in lead-up to Roosevelt encampment, court filing says

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NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration dragged its feet for months on green-lighting a large-scale migrant housing facility in Queens, delaying its opening at a time dozens of asylum seekers resorted to sleeping on a Manhattan sidewalk because of a lack of city shelter space, according to a new court filing from Mayor Adams’ office.

The filing, submitted in Manhattan Supreme Court by Adams lawyer Daniel Perez on Tuesday, said City Hall officials first approached the Hochul administration on May 4 about erecting a tent-style migrant shelter in the parking lot of Queens’ state-owned Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. The Adams administration’s hope was at the time to get the Creedmoor site up and running “within the following week,” according to Perez.

But Hochul’s administration “did not agree, despite repeated requests, to provide funding for certain goods and services relating to the administration of the Creedmoor site until July 14,” Perez wrote in the papers, which were obtained by the Daily News after not being filed publicly on the court docket.

The Creedmoor facility, which has capacity to house at least 1,000 migrants, did not end up opening until Aug. 15 following the delay in clearance from Hochul’s team.

Amid the slow pace of getting Creedmoor open, nearly 200 migrants slept on the sidewalk outside the Adams administration’s Roosevelt Hotel asylum seeker intake center in Manhattan between July 29 and Aug. 3. Adams’ office has said it had no choice but to let the group sleep on the curb because there was no more room in the city’s shelters, which continue to house more than 101,000 people, about half of them migrants.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the Creedmoor delay can in part be blamed on city and state lawyers struggling to come to an agreement on the details of a so-called memorandum of understanding establishing the right to use the Queens site as a migrant shelter.

Josh Goldfein, a staff lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, said the dilemma outside the Roosevelt could’ve been avoided if Hochul’s administration acted faster on the Creedmoor matter.

“It’s very frustrating that people were sleeping on a sidewalk when a shelter was not open because lawyers were arguing over a lease or bureaucratic details,” Goldfein told The News.

A spokesman for Hochul’s office declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.

Perez’s filing, addressed to lawyers for Hochul’s administration, was submitted as part of the decades-old Manhattan Supreme Court case that established the city’s right-to-shelter mandate. The case, which the state is a party to, was revived by Adams earlier this summer when his administration asked a judge to allow it to suspend the mandate amid the city’s deepening migrant crisis.

The Perez letter is not available on the court docket because presiding Judge Erika Edwards has ordered that all deliberations and filings be kept under wraps.

Filings in the case have exposed a rift between Adams and Hochul over how to manage the city’s migrant crisis.

Earlier this month, lawyers for Hochul filed a scathing letter blasting the Adams administration’s overall handling of the crisis, saying that City Hall has been inconsistent in its communication with the state and sloppy in its handling of state-provided funding. Also in the letter, Hochul’s lawyers charged that the Adams administration had no one but itself to blame for its “decision” to let migrants sleep on the street outside the Roosevelt, given that there were hundreds of vacant beds in the shelter system on all five nights in question, as first reported by The News.

Adams’ administration, meantime, has stressed it needs more help from the state, and reiterated that in its Tuesday filing. Among other requests, the filing asked that the state more than double its funding for a city program that helps migrants apply for U.S. work permits — from $20 million to at least $57 million.

The latest hearing in the Manhattan Supreme Court case took place Wednesday afternoon. As previous hearings, most of it happened behind closed doors in Edwards’ chambers.

In short remarks from the bench after the private deliberations, Edwards characterized the discussions as productive and set another hearing for Sept. 18.

She made a point of saying the proceedings are taking place out of the public light because she hopes that will make it easier for a settlement to be reached “in due time” between the city, the state and the Coalition for the Homeless, whose 1979 lawsuit established the right to shelter. At its core, the mandate requires the city to provide shelter to anyone who needs it.

Goldfein, who represents the coalition in the case, told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing that he’s sympathetic toward the fact that “there is some tension” between the city and the state over the migrant crisis.

“You have three different levels of government here that each has some responsibility, and inevitably, they want the other level of government to do more,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to work all of this out, but the good news is we are having productive conversations.”

Instead of seeking to suspend the city’s right to shelter amid the migrant crisis, homeless advocates and progressive Democrats have urged the Adams’ administration to ask the court to expand it to cover the entire state.

Asked Wednesday if the administration favors that idea, Anne Williams-Isom, Adams’ deputy mayor for health and human services, was noncommittal.

“That is all going to play out in court,” she said at City Hall. “I think it’s no secret that we have said that we think that (the right-to-shelter) needs to be looked at.”


(New York Daily News reporter Tim Balk contributed to this article.)