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In filing, Gov. Hochul’s administration backs pause of NYC right to shelter

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, seated next to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, during a press conference and release of the New York City Gun Violence Prevention Task Force “A Blueprint for Community Safety,” outlining a forward-thinking roadmap with upstream solutions to address gun violence throughout the five boroughs, at the City Hall Rotunda Monday July, 31, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/TNS)

 Gov. Hochul’s administration said in a court filing Wednesday that it supports Mayor Eric Adams’ efforts to suspend New York City’s right-to-shelter rule, describing a pause as “imperative to address” the migrant crisis.

The state’s filing, which did not depart from the governor’s consistent position on the issue, came as advocates rallied Wednesday outside Hochul’s Manhattan office, urging her to support a statewide right to shelter.

Hochul, a moderate Buffalo Democrat, has made clear she does not support expanding the right to shelter to the rest of the state — a step progressive lawyers say the state Constitution requires.

In 1981, the city and state signed a landmark consent decree requiring the city to provide shelter to homeless men who ask for it. The protections were later expanded to homeless women and children.

But the agreement, signed after a Manhattan Supreme Court justice found a right to shelter in the state Constitution, has never applied to the whole state. And the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, has never settled the question of whether a statewide right to shelter exists.

The city, struggling to shelter tens of thousands of migrants in its care, returned to court in May and asked for a pause of its right to shelter, reviving the case, called Callahan v. Carey. The city expanded on the request in a filing last week, asking for the mandate to be suspended for single adults.

New York City is the only major metropolis in the country that offers shelter to anybody who asks for it, and officials have suggested the rule is pushing some of the migrants to head to the five boroughs. Homeless advocates say a lift of the mandate would spill homeless people onto the city’s streets.

The arrival of more than 120,000 migrants since spring 2022 has doubled the population of the city shelter system. The city, which has opened more than 200 emergency shelters in response to the surge, has projected the costs of caring for migrants could cost some $12 billion in three years.

A lawyer for Hochul’s administration said in the Wednesday filing that the city’s right to shelter has placed “unforeseen operational constraints on the City as it works to manage this challenge.”

About 63,000 asylum seekers are in the city’s care, according to the Adams administration. Many of the migrants came to the city after fleeing political and economic turmoil in Central and South America.

“Despite unprecedented resources deployed by the City and the State to assist the newly arrived migrants, the current situation is not sustainable,” Faith Gay, the state’s lawyer, said in the Wednesday filing.

The state has committed at least $1.5 billion to support the migrants, according to Hochul’s office, but has refused to force upstate communities to welcome some of the arrivals, frustrating Adams.

Outside Hochul’s office on Wednesday, a crowd chanted and held signs declaring “Save The Right to Shelter!”

“We have the ability to shelter everyone,” Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, a Brooklyn Democrat, said into a bullhorn. “At a time where we need political courage, we need to remind folks where they stand. And history will judge them.”


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