New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration wants permission from the feds to house migrants in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, the infamous jail that closed down in 2021 following years of complaints over dangerous conditions.
Daniel Perez, a top lawyer for Adams, expressed City Hall’s interest in using the defunct downtown Manhattan lockup in a letter sent to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration last week that listed off various sites the city believes it could use for housing migrants amid severe overcrowding in city-run shelters.
Perez’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Daily News through a Freedom of Information Law request, specifically says the administration would like the federal government to give either the city or the state authority to place migrants in “closed correctional and transitional sites such as Metropolitan Correctional Center.”
The federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs the facility, said Thursday it could not provide any comment “concerning governmental correspondence” with the Adams administration about the downtown Manhattan jail.
A spokeswoman for Adams said she did not immediately have information on any contact with the feds about the matter.
Before shuttering, the jail, commonly known as the MCC, was for years marred by reports of deteriorating conditions, including sewage floods, vermin infestations, COVID-19 outbreaks and egregious security breaches.
Two years before its closure, the MCC saw one of its worst security breaches, when authorities say hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in his cell while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually trafficked children.
After Epstein’s death, two MCC correctional officers admitted to neglecting their duties the night of the convicted sex offender’s death, leaving him unattended for hours even though he had been placed on suicide watch.
Other high-profile inmates who have been held at the MCC include Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Mexican drug lord serving life in prison, and Bernie Madoff, the late financier who pulled off the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
Andrew Laufer, a civil rights attorney who has represented several former MCC inmates in litigation against the U.S. government over conditions at the jail, was aghast that the Adams administration would even entertain the possibility of housing migrants there.
“It is obscene. It’s offensive,” said Laufer, who has spent time inside the facility.
“Putting innocent immigrants in there,” he continued, “you’re treating them worse than prisoners are treated now because that place was shuttered because the conditions were too egregious for accused criminals.”
Recounting complaints listed by former clients, Laufer said, “You get sewage flooding into cells, you get vermin, all types of insects, you get rodents, you get inadequate heating, inadequate cooling, inadequate light.”
“How are they actually gonna oversee the proper supervision of these migrants?” he added. “Are they just gonna stuff them all in there and close the door?”
It’s unclear if the federal government will ever reopen the facility as a jail.
Upon announcing its closure in 2021, the feds said it would remain closed “at least temporarily” to make way for renovations.
Bureau of Prisons spokesman Donald Murphy said Thursday that “long-term plans” for the MCC “have not been finalized.”
Word of the Adams administration’s push for using the MCC as a shelter comes as the city’s scrambling to accommodate the tens of thousands of mostly Latin American migrants who have arrived since last spring.
According to the latest data from Adams’ office, there are more than 58,000 migrants in city shelters and emergency housing facilities.
The influx has led to severe overcrowding in the city’s traditional homeless shelters, prompting the Adams administration to open emergency migrant housing facilities in a variety of unconventional spaces.
The administration is already using the Lincoln Correctional Facility, a shuttered state prison in Harlem, to house migrants. This spring, the Daily News reported that the administration was also considering placing migrants in a closed down jail on Rikers Island.
At an unrelated news conference in Manhattan on Thursday morning, Adams reiterated that the reason his administration is opting to keep opening shelters in suboptimal places is because the city isn’t getting enough financial and logistical assistance from the state and federal governments.
“All I can say is I’m hoping people can imagine what it’s like to every week come up with housing from 25 to almost 3,000 people,” he said. “The flow is not sustainable.”
© 2023 New York Daily News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.