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NYC migrants forced to sleep outdoors as shelters hit full capacity, local politicians hit panic button

At least 150 migrants were lined up around the iconic Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on cardboard boxes on the sidewalks

Migrants in New York City
Migrants in New York City | Shutterstock

August 1, 2023 9:00am

Updated: August 1, 2023 9:00am

A large number of migrants have taken to New York City’s streets after the city’s more than 200 emergency shelters ran out of room for more people over the weekend. 

At least 150 migrants were lined up around the iconic 1,000 room Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan, sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on cardboard boxes on the sidewalks, while waiting to be processed at the processing center nearby. 

The recent wave of migrants has resulted in city officials contracting more than 100 hotels to house more 10,000 rooms with asylum seekers at a rate of hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The city parked buses in front of the hotel in an attempt to get people off of the sidewalk. Yet, those also filled out quickly. 

“We don’t have blankets or pillows. They brought in vans for some people to sleep in, but there’s not enough space in the vans,” one of the migrants, Adberhim Mahamat Saled a 36-year-old married father of three from the Central African Republic in an interview with the New York Post.

Since April 2022, the Big Apple has received over 93,000 undocumented migrants that have made their way from the U.S.-Mexico border. The city is welcoming an average of 300 to 500 migrants a day. 

There are currently more than 56,200 migrants staying at the 192 city-run emergency shelters that were set up to handle the flow of asylum seekers.

The city has attempted to cope with the influx of migrants by housing new arrivals in tents, cruise ship terminals, old jail facilities, and school gyms, among others. The 1,000-room Roosevelt Hotel, which had been closed for almost three years, was transformed into an “asylum seeker arrival center” earlier this year. 

“Right now, it’s essential that we get on top of the inhumane & concerning conditions immediately as we figure out how to change intake,” said City Council majority leader Keith Powers

“We need help. It’s not going to get any better. From this moment on, it’s downhill,” Mayor Eric Adams said after a visit to the Roosevelt Hotel. 

City officials are urging the Biden administration to provide support in handling the migrant crisis, which is expected to cost the city more than $4 billion by next year. So far, the city has only received $104 million from the federal government. 

In addition to more funding, they are demanding expedited papers for migrants, a declaration of a state of emergency, and a national shelter decompression strategy. 

Last week, the Adams administration said it would start issuing migrants notices to leave the city within 60 days. The first eviction-like notices will be given to around 100 single adults who have been staying in the city’s shelters the longest. 

The New York Post published images of migrants lined up sleeping outside on Manhattan streets and interviewed migrants who expressed regret for having come to the city.

“We’re all sleeping on the street,” Saleh told The Post, explaining he had not been able to find a anywhere to stay since he arrived in the city several days ago. 

He said he had been sleeping outside the Roosevelt for two days after the hotel gave him a “general referral form” and made him wait in a queue along with dozens of other migrants.

“We don’t have blankets or pillows. They brought in vans for some people to sleep in, but there’s not enough space in the vans,” he said.

Saleh, who said he left behind his family to escape his country’s militia after they attacked him said he isn't sure he made the right decision coming to the U.S. Before coming to Manhattan, he was in Louisville, KY where he was also homeless and almost starved on two meals a week, he said.

“I came to New York City because I thought there would be help,” he told the New York tabloid newspaper. “I wish I didn’t come to New York.” 

Other migrants were seen sleeping inside white “dollar vans” outside the hotel after they were told the hotel was booked up. 

Democratic state Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar of Queens said at this stage of the crisis, federal intervention was needed at the highest levels. 

“That’s why we need this crisis to be managed by the president ... “Immigration is federally controlled. We need the president to implement common-sense fixes on our overwhelmed system,” she said during an early Monday afternoon rally held with other NYC politicians from City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.