New York State and the city are building a new humanitarian...

New York State and the city are building a new humanitarian relief center in the parking lot adjacent to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village, as seen on Wednesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York City's cost to shelter, feed and otherwise care for tens of thousands of asylum-seeking migrants could balloon to more than $12 billion by 2025, Mayor Eric Adams warned Wednesday.

By 2025, Adams said, over 100,000 migrants could be living in homeless shelters in the city, which is under a decades-old, rare-in-the-nation judicial mandate to shelter anyone in need.

The forecast is based on the current arrival trends of thousands each week. The city's previous estimate put the total cost, by next summer, as $4.3 billion. 

Speaking from City Hall, Adams urged, as he has for months, the state and federal governments for subsidies and space outside the city to place migrants.

"We are past our breaking point," Adams said. "New Yorkers' compassion may be limitless, but our resources are not."

The biggest cost the city bears for the migrants is housing, Adams’ budget chief, Jacques Jiha, said at a news conference with Adams. (The city’s entire municipal budget is $107 billion.)

The federal government, which has dispatched a small team to visit the city's shelters, has so far promised the city $160 million to help, but Jiha said the city has yet to receive a “dollar” of that money. 

The mayor's lawyers have asked a judge to loosen the mandate requiring the city to provide free shelter, pursuant to a legal settlement dating to the 1980s.

“Right now, the way it currently states, you could come to New York from anywhere on the globe, you could come to New York City, and we are supposed to feed, clothe, house you as long as you want,” Adams said. “That is just not sustainable."

As of last week, 18,000 migrant children were in the city schools. Asked on Wednesday about those costs, Adams said, “it’s a moving number.”

The mayor warned there would be more budget cuts to other city services without federal and city help.

“We are out of room,” Adams said.

He added: “It’s not sustainable for the state, these numbers that are coming in. It’s only a time before we’re going to even fill up the state. So there needs to be a change in course.”

Adams says he’s looking to bring down costs spent on migrants — less on meals, less on laundry, even less on napkins.

Almost 100,000 migrants have been processed through the city’s system. Of those, over 57,000 live in city facilities. The rest are on their own, either in the city or elsewhere.

The city is hoping that kicking childless adult migrants out of shelters and requiring them to reapply every 60 days — a policy the Adams administration adopted earlier this summer — will, among other as-yet unannounced policy changes, yield a “20 percentage reduction in census growth” of the shelter population, a budget official said Wednesday on a background call with reporters. Asked where those migrants would go, the official did not answer.

Adams says the city spends $383 per household on the migrants — $9.8 million a day.

Adams has sought to place migrants elsewhere in the state, such as on Long Island, but most local leaders have chafed.

Earlier this year, dozens of municipalities around the state — including Suffolk and Riverhead — passed orders restricting the ability of the city to place migrants elsewhere. Although hundreds of migrants have moved to Long Island on their own, according to advocates, none are known to have been relocated to the Island as part of an official program by the city.

Adams said that scenes such as migrants camped out on the sidewalk outside Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel — which in the spring became an intake center — could become more common as the city scrambles to find dwindling space.

Since the first of the asylum-seekers began arriving in spring 2022 — mostly sent by U.S. border state governors in protest of the Biden administration's immigration policies — the city has opened almost 200 sites to house migrants.

They generally have a year from crossing the border to file for asylum; if they don’t, they forfeit the right. But “very few" have formally applied, Adams' deputy overseeing the crisis, Anne Williams-Isom, said in May. The city has helped 1,700 file so far, she said Wednesday.

In June, Newsday reported that most applicants were unlikely to be granted asylum — and an unknown number will stay in the U.S. anyway, illegally.
Migrants cannot apply to work legally until at least six months after formally applying for asylum.

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