The migrant crisis in New York City may lead to the gutting of a four-decades-old precedent.
Mayor Eric Adams is now taking legal action to weaken the right-to-shelter rule that mandates the city to provide shelter to anyone who requests it. Adams is citing the influx of tens of thousands of migrants as a reason the city should no longer be required to comply. Adams has already issued an executive order suspending certain shelter rules applying to families.
“Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Adams said in a statement.
New York City is the only major city in the country to have right-to-shelter rules.
The New York City Law Department submitted an application on Tuesday night requesting that the regulation is modified. The Adams administration is proposing that the 1984 consent decree associated with the Callahan v. Carey ruling be rewritten to include a provision that allows the city to suspend right-to-shelter when the city “lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites.” As of this week, city officials said that over 70,000 migrants had arrived in the city over the last year and around 44,000 are currently in the city’s care.
Many were quick to attack the mayor’s idea. City Comptroller Brad Lander and an outspoken critic of the mayor’s handling of the migrant crisis said the mayor’s actions “undermines the foundation of the social safety net in this city.”
“Rather than seeking to circumvent the state constitutional requirement to provide safe and dignified shelter, the Mayor should have gone to court to clarify that it applies to all municipalities in New York State,” Lander added.
The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless issued a joint statement saying that “For more than 40 years, Callahan has served as a lifeline for countless New Yorkers seeking shelter and critical services,” they said. “New Yorkers do not want to see anyone, including asylum-seekers, relegated to the streets. We will vigorously oppose any motion from this Administration that seeks to undo these fundamental protections that have long defined our city.”
“Our city has done more to support asylum-seekers than any other city in the nation, but the unfortunate reality is that the city has extended itself further than its resources will allow,” he said.