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Mayor Adams said Tuesday that his administration is not trying to “mislead” or “harm” migrants in New York City by offering them free tickets out of the city.
The mayor’s pushback follows the Daily News and other outlets reporting that some migrants have been directed to the administration’s “reticketing office” despite saying they wish to stay in a city shelter. The office, which was recently opened in Manhattan’s East Village, is focused on getting migrants to leave New York by offering free transportation to other parts of the U.S. and beyond.
Speaking to reporters at City Hall on Tuesday, Adams said the purpose of the reticketing program is to alleviate pressure on the city’s overcrowded shelter systems, which continue to house more than 64,000 migrants and nearly as many unhoused New Yorkers.
Adams also touted the fiscal benefits of providing migrants with free transportation to other cities since that gets city taxpayers off the hook of bankrolling shelter beds for them.
But the mayor dismissed the notion that the initiative is part of a broader push to deter migrants from coming to New York in the first place.
“Our goal is not to deter,” he said.
He continued: “It is not trying to be misleading, it’s not trying to be harmful, it’s allowing people for the first time to sit down and say, ‘Do you want to go somewhere else?’ and giving them the option of assisting them to do so.”
The reticketing office on E. 7th St. was opened around the same time migrants started being removed from city shelters because their 30- and 60-day notices were coming due.
The notices, which first started being handed out in July, limit the time single adult migrants can stay in the same city shelter bed to 30 consecutive days. Under the same policy, some migrant families with children can only stay for 60 consecutive days in the same placement.
If they can’t find their own “alternative housing” before their time is up, migrants are supposed to be able to reapply for new shelter beds by going to the city’s Roosevelt Hotel asylum seeker intake center.
But several migrants ousted from shelters due to their notices coming due told The News on Monday they were directed to the reticketing office even though they wanted to reapply to stay in the city’s care. Other migrants removed from shelters have been sent to “waiting room” sites, which lack beds, and told to wait there until more appropriate accommodations become available, according to the news outlet The City.
Camille Varlack, Adams’ chief of staff who joined him for the Tuesday briefing, acknowledged there have been instances of “a few folks that have been a little confused about where to go” after being removed from shelters.
“But we have been working on making sure that we streamline communications so that there’s no more confusion,” she said.
Adams’ office has declined to provide data on how many migrants have been sent to other U.S. cities or countries as part of the reticketing program.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, the Adams administration’s point-person on migrant crisis response, said reticketing is becoming one of the city’s top priorities, though.
“How do we see this ending?” she said of the crisis. “We see less people coming to New York City, and then we would resettle the people who are here.”
Newly-arrived migrants in the city can’t work legally due to a complicated and lengthy federal application process for employment authorization. That has put an especially intense strain on the city social safety net in recent months.
But as removing people from shelters is becoming a primary objective for the administration, Adams suggested he’s also concerned about employment-eligible people who are staying in the city’s care.
“Currently, even if you are working, you can stay in our shelter system on taxpayers’ dime … there are many New Yorkers that join me that say this is not fair to taxpayers, and not fair to migrants and asylum seekers,” Adams said.
Later Tuesday, Adams spokesman Charles Lutvak told The News that the mayor, in saying it’s “not fair to taxpayers,” was referring to the need for developing “exit ramps” for both migrants and homeless New Yorkers to leave the shelter system.
But Legal Aid Society attorney Josh Goldfein, whose group is fighting the administration in court over its attempt to suspend parts of the city’s right-to-shelter mandate, said Adams’ remark “doesn’t make any sense” because working New Yorkers are in unusually dire need of shelter access as many “are one paycheck away from losing their housing” due to skyrocketing rents and other economic factors.
Goldfein also argued that, in addition to migrants, homeless people who are employed and disabled would be hurt by the mayor’s efforts to suspend right-to-shelter provisions enshrined into law under a decades-old court consent decree.
“They’ve asked the court to impose a standard where you can only get shelter if you’re on public assistance. It would exclude not just new arrivals, but people who most people would consider everyday New Yorkers,” he said. “That includes people who are working, people who are disabled.”