Migrants who have reached the 30-day limit in the city's...

Migrants who have reached the 30-day limit in the city's shelter system in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village must wait to reapply.  Credit: Sipa USA / Jimin Kim

Outside a former Catholic school in Manhattan’s East Village, hundreds of homeless migrants, mostly Latin American and African men, wait. And wait.

It can take as long as a week or more for their number to be called. At least once before, these migrants have been kicked out of a shelter after 30 days under the city’s time-limit policy that started last year. Told to figure out how to be self-sufficient, these migrants couldn’t do it.

In the Bronx and Queens, authorities have shut down illegal boarding shelters — including one in an overcrowded, firetrap basement — where migrants allegedly each paid roughly $300 a month for crammed-in quarters. Shelters won't accept the migrants, the operator told a police officer in the Bronx, according to a criminal complaint. 

“I help these people because they have nowhere to go,” said the operator, Ebou Sarr, who couldn't be reached for comment. 

Across New York City, the migrant crisis — in which more than 180,000 people from abroad have passed through the city’s intake apparatus since spring 2022 — has pushed the homeless shelter system to the brink.

Even as Mayor Eric Adams’ lawyers are before a judge to seek permission to curb the court-ordered agreements that the city must provide room and board to any homeless person who needs it, in practical terms, the right is less than it used to be.

“New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Adams said last year, as the administration has been progressively chipping away at the right to shelter, for migrants, at least.

Adams argues the right-to-shelter agreements struck during the 1980s couldn’t have contemplated an influx of destitute foreigners from around the world converging at once on the city. A 1981 New York Times article about the “immediate effect” of the decree was that it meant the city had to find beds for 125 men. 

Minimum standards for the accommodations, such as spacing of beds, lockable storage and specifications for showers, have been relaxed, according to the Legal Aid Society. There are time limits — 30 days for single adults, 60 days for families. Migrants who can’t find their own way after that can reapply for shelter via a new, cumbersome process.

“It’s pretty dismal in terms of what had been a point of pride for New York City,” Robert Hayes, a Valley Stream native who as a 26-year-old lawyer sued and got the city to agree to what would become the nation’s most generous right-to-shelter policy, told Newsday last week.

For Adams, the changes to the right to shelter come as the city is projected to spend nearly $10 billion by the next fiscal year, the majority of it on room and board. Adams has said it’s unfair for New York to shoulder the crisis’ costs almost entirely alone, with only a fraction being reimbursed by the federal government. 

The early waves of migrants had just started coming to New York City when one of the first allegations was made — around July 2022 — that the Adams administration was violating its obligations to provide shelter forthwith to homeless families.

The claim came from within the administration — from Julia Savel, at the time the top spokeswoman for the city’s social services agency.

One night in July, she said, she went to an intake facility in the Bronx for families with children seeking shelter and was dismayed.

“It was, like, the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen,” Savel said in an interview last week. “I saw a woman — her water, like, literally broke. There were children screaming, crying on the floor. There were liquids — I don’t know if it was urine or feces or what. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my entire life. It was just atrocious the way we were talking to these people.”

At the time, there was a decades-old legal rule requiring that a family seeking shelter before 10 p.m. be provided temporary shelter placement by 4 a.m. 

“We knew we had broken the right-to-shelter mandate,” Savel said.

Savel was later fired — she says in retaliation, while the Adams administration says it had already been in the works due to her unprofessional conduct — and is now a therapist.

A subsequent report by the city's Department of Investigation found violations of the so-called 10-to-4 rule, which was later suspended and remains suspended due to the crisis.

Kayla Mamelak, an Adams spokeswoman, declined to comment on Savel’s allegations about conditions at the Bronx shelter, but pointed to a part of the report in which investigators could not reach a conclusion about Savel’s claim that her firing was in retaliation over the episode. 

The migrant crisis spilled out into public view less than a year later, in 2023, when hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep on the street outside an intake center, the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Adams said the city had run out of room for migrants to wait to be placed.

Since then, the city has opened special overflow rooms for migrants to wait until they can be placed in shelters, particularly those who already have been evicted under the city’s time-limit policies.

But those waiting rooms can be a long way from the East Village location where migrants wait to be placed anew. And the waiting rooms typically lack beds, showers and other necessities.

Last year, the administration said only 20% who had reached the time limits returned to city shelters.

Of the 180,000 migrants who have been processed through the shelter system, about 64,000 remain in city shelters, according to testimony March 5 to the City Council by Molly Schaeffer, head of the city’s migrant operations office.

The current wait for a single male migrant for an additional shelter placement has been over a week, although it appears to be down to four days as of late last week, said Kathryn Kliff, a staff attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s homeless rights project. Her organization is in court with the city as Adams’ lawyers seek to limit the right to shelter.

For now, there are separate homeless systems in the city: one for the migrants and another for the traditional homeless population.

Asked last month to explain the legal basis for treating the two differently — when the 1980s agreements provide for no such distinctions — Adams’ chief counsel Lisa Zornberg did not answer directly.

“The negotiations continue, and there are a lot of … You're asking a legal question that actually has many permutations to it that require an analysis of local, state and federal law,” she said.

At a City Hall news conference last week, Adams said the city's migrant eviction policies weren't to blame for the illegal boarding shelters that have popped up. Illegally converted premises, he said, are a perpetual New York phenomenon. 

“You know, New York has always had people who lived in unsafe or unregulated environments,” Adams said. “You know, as a child, my family and I, we slept on many floors in basements until Mommy was able to find us a place to live.”

Outside a former Catholic school in Manhattan’s East Village, hundreds of homeless migrants, mostly Latin American and African men, wait. And wait.

It can take as long as a week or more for their number to be called. At least once before, these migrants have been kicked out of a shelter after 30 days under the city’s time-limit policy that started last year. Told to figure out how to be self-sufficient, these migrants couldn’t do it.

In the Bronx and Queens, authorities have shut down illegal boarding shelters — including one in an overcrowded, firetrap basement — where migrants allegedly each paid roughly $300 a month for crammed-in quarters. Shelters won't accept the migrants, the operator told a police officer in the Bronx, according to a criminal complaint. 

“I help these people because they have nowhere to go,” said the operator, Ebou Sarr, who couldn't be reached for comment. 

WHAT TO KNOW

New York City's homeless shelter system has been pushed to the brink by the foreign migrant influx. More than 180,000 have passed through the city’s intake apparatus since spring 2022.

The Adams administration has been chipping away at the right to shelter, at least for migrants. The rules date to the 1980s.

Some migrants have been forced to leave shelters after 30 days under the city’s time-limit policy that started last year.

Across New York City, the migrant crisis — in which more than 180,000 people from abroad have passed through the city’s intake apparatus since spring 2022 — has pushed the homeless shelter system to the brink.

Even as Mayor Eric Adams’ lawyers are before a judge to seek permission to curb the court-ordered agreements that the city must provide room and board to any homeless person who needs it, in practical terms, the right is less than it used to be.

“New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Adams said last year, as the administration has been progressively chipping away at the right to shelter, for migrants, at least.

Adams argues the right-to-shelter agreements struck during the 1980s couldn’t have contemplated an influx of destitute foreigners from around the world converging at once on the city. A 1981 New York Times article about the “immediate effect” of the decree was that it meant the city had to find beds for 125 men. 

Minimum standards for the accommodations, such as spacing of beds, lockable storage and specifications for showers, have been relaxed, according to the Legal Aid Society. There are time limits — 30 days for single adults, 60 days for families. Migrants who can’t find their own way after that can reapply for shelter via a new, cumbersome process.

“It’s pretty dismal in terms of what had been a point of pride for New York City,” Robert Hayes, a Valley Stream native who as a 26-year-old lawyer sued and got the city to agree to what would become the nation’s most generous right-to-shelter policy, told Newsday last week.

For Adams, the changes to the right to shelter come as the city is projected to spend nearly $10 billion by the next fiscal year, the majority of it on room and board. Adams has said it’s unfair for New York to shoulder the crisis’ costs almost entirely alone, with only a fraction being reimbursed by the federal government. 

Allegations city violated shelter rule

The early waves of migrants had just started coming to New York City when one of the first allegations was made — around July 2022 — that the Adams administration was violating its obligations to provide shelter forthwith to homeless families.

The claim came from within the administration — from Julia Savel, at the time the top spokeswoman for the city’s social services agency.

One night in July, she said, she went to an intake facility in the Bronx for families with children seeking shelter and was dismayed.

“It was, like, the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen,” Savel said in an interview last week. “I saw a woman — her water, like, literally broke. There were children screaming, crying on the floor. There were liquids — I don’t know if it was urine or feces or what. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my entire life. It was just atrocious the way we were talking to these people.”

At the time, there was a decades-old legal rule requiring that a family seeking shelter before 10 p.m. be provided temporary shelter placement by 4 a.m. 

“We knew we had broken the right-to-shelter mandate,” Savel said.

Savel was later fired — she says in retaliation, while the Adams administration says it had already been in the works due to her unprofessional conduct — and is now a therapist.

A subsequent report by the city's Department of Investigation found violations of the so-called 10-to-4 rule, which was later suspended and remains suspended due to the crisis.

Kayla Mamelak, an Adams spokeswoman, declined to comment on Savel’s allegations about conditions at the Bronx shelter, but pointed to a part of the report in which investigators could not reach a conclusion about Savel’s claim that her firing was in retaliation over the episode. 

The migrant crisis spilled out into public view less than a year later, in 2023, when hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep on the street outside an intake center, the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan. Adams said the city had run out of room for migrants to wait to be placed.

Since then, the city has opened special overflow rooms for migrants to wait until they can be placed in shelters, particularly those who already have been evicted under the city’s time-limit policies.

But those waiting rooms can be a long way from the East Village location where migrants wait to be placed anew. And the waiting rooms typically lack beds, showers and other necessities.

Last year, the administration said only 20% who had reached the time limits returned to city shelters.

Separate systems for homeless

Of the 180,000 migrants who have been processed through the shelter system, about 64,000 remain in city shelters, according to testimony March 5 to the City Council by Molly Schaeffer, head of the city’s migrant operations office.

The current wait for a single male migrant for an additional shelter placement has been over a week, although it appears to be down to four days as of late last week, said Kathryn Kliff, a staff attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s homeless rights project. Her organization is in court with the city as Adams’ lawyers seek to limit the right to shelter.

For now, there are separate homeless systems in the city: one for the migrants and another for the traditional homeless population.

Asked last month to explain the legal basis for treating the two differently — when the 1980s agreements provide for no such distinctions — Adams’ chief counsel Lisa Zornberg did not answer directly.

“The negotiations continue, and there are a lot of … You're asking a legal question that actually has many permutations to it that require an analysis of local, state and federal law,” she said.

At a City Hall news conference last week, Adams said the city's migrant eviction policies weren't to blame for the illegal boarding shelters that have popped up. Illegally converted premises, he said, are a perpetual New York phenomenon. 

“You know, New York has always had people who lived in unsafe or unregulated environments,” Adams said. “You know, as a child, my family and I, we slept on many floors in basements until Mommy was able to find us a place to live.”

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

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