Suburban officials are reluctant to accept asylum seekers from New York City, with one Rockland County town securing a court order to stop Mayor Adams’s plan.
For New York City officials, the math is frustratingly simple: The steady influx of migrants is soon expected to increase to as many as 5,000 a week, overwhelming the city’s already at-capacity shelter system.
The solutions, however, have not come easy.
City officials announced a plan last Friday to send about 300 asylum seekers to hotels in Rockland and Orange Counties, proposing to pay for their lodging and provide ancillary services for up to four months.
The counties quickly issued emergency declarations seeking to bar the city’s effort. By Tuesday evening, a temporary restraining order had been issued, appearing to forbid the Rockland County hotel from being used as a migrant shelter.
“Just crazy,” Steven Neuhaus, the Orange County executive, remarked earlier on Tuesday, taking a brief break from conversations with city and state officials.
With the influx of migrants now straining relations among local leaders — the Rockland County executive, Ed Day, even threatened to grab Mr. Adams “by the throat” — Gov. Kathy Hochul has found it necessary to intervene.
On Tuesday afternoon, the governor issued an executive order allowing her to mobilize another 500 National Guardsmen to help manage migrant intake, on top of the 1,000 the state has already mobilized.
The Hochul administration also held a conference call with county leaders, telling them that if the city moves migrants upstate, the city will be responsible for the cost of caring for them, according to Mark LaVigne, a spokesman for the New York State Association of Counties, which organized the call.
A key reason behind Ms. Hochul’s involvement and the city’s relocation plan is the expiration of a Trump-era immigration policy called Title 42.
The policy’s stated aim was to protect public health, but the federal government has used it to eject hundreds of thousands of migrants from the country, including many who might formerly have been granted asylum. The policy’s expiration is expected to fuel cross-border migration, ultimately affecting New York City.
The impending expiration has sparked bureaucratic chaos in New York and frenzied, last-minute planning.
More than 60,000 migrants have come to the city in the past year, according to City Hall officials. More than 37,500 are now in city care at more than 120 emergency shelters and eight larger-scale centers.
Earlier in May, asylum seekers arrived on a bus from El Paso, Texas, to NYC Port Authority, where they were taken to a family intake center.Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times
New York City prides itself as a haven for immigrants, and thousands more are expected to flock here — putting them in position to take advantage of the city’s unusual right-to-shelter law.
Mayor Eric Adams has cast a wide net in his search for migrant housing, even asking an owner of the Flatiron Building if the skyscraper had any room, and the mayor is eager to press his case that the federal and state government should share more of the city’s economic burden.
“It is a crisis situation,” Ms. Hochul acknowledged on Tuesday. “There’ll be literally thousands more individuals coming across the border and ultimately find their way up to the State of New York.”
Counties near the city are now bracing for overflow, some more willingly than others.
The executive of the Democratic stronghold of Westchester County, just to New York City’s north, is open to welcoming some undocumented migrants from the city’s overflowing shelter system.
“We’re prepared to be helpful,” the executive, George Latimer, said.
Others are less hospitable, including Bruce Blakeman, the executive of Nassau County on Long Island, who said state officials contacted the county for the first time over the weekend to ask if they would “volunteer” to house migrants.
“We are not a sanctuary county,” Mr. Blakeman said.
The executives of Orange and Rockland Counties are also bristling at the notion of hosting migrants at hotels in their jurisdictions — and at what they say is highhanded treatment by the mayor.
On Wednesday morning, a rotating cast of television and newspaper camera crews sat in their cars and trained their cameras at the front door of the Armoni Inn & Suites in Orangeburg, N.Y., a hotel where Mayor Adams intended to send migrants. Deputies with the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department sat a few yards away in cream-colored cruisers, ready to block the entrance of any approaching bus.
At the Classic Orangetown Diner, half a mile from the hotel on a county highway, some residents said the area was unprepared for any asylum seekers.
“If New York wants to promote itself as a sanctuary city, why aren’t they taking these people in?” said John Videc 47, of nearby Stony Point. “Rockland County didn’t ask for them.”
Mr. Neuhaus, of Orange County, said the mayor told him the migrants would be in his county for just 30 days, only for Mr. Neuhaus to discover a flyer promising “four-month temporary housing options” outside of New York City (the mayor’s office declined to comment on the flyer). Mr. Day said the mayor’s office did not give him a heads up, and that Mr. Adams was acting like a “king.”
Ms. Hochul has not attracted similar criticism, in part because she has mostly not publicly engaged on the migrant issue. Last year, as migrants strained the city’s shelter system, Ms. Hochul often seemed hesitant to plunge the state apparatus into a crisis that was also a political minefield.
As she ran for election, Ms. Hochul appeared to deflect questions on the campaign trail about plans to potentially house migrants upstate. In January, she omitted any mention of the migrant crisis from her State of the State address; she later unveiled a budget proposal that included $1 billion in state funds to address it. She, like Mr. Adams, repeatedly called on the federal government to step up, while her aides sought to quietly assist Mr. Adams behind the scenes.
At the same time, state officials have grown frustrated with elements of the mayor’s response — particularly his desire to move migrants into hostile counties and his reluctance to collect more comprehensive immigration information from asylum seekers, which they argue makes it harder to target services to them.
Several New York City shelter operators have declined to open new or additional asylum shelters because the funding is not enough to offer on-site social services, said Catherine Trapani, the executive director of Homeless Services United, a coalition of nonprofit agencies that serve homeless and at-risk adults.
Upstate service providers have similar concerns, according to Camille J. Mackler, founder and executive director of Immigrant ARC.
“They’re not going to be there for four months, they’re effectively moving upstate,” Ms. Mackler said.
Ed Day, the Rockland County executive, suggested that he might impose legal penalties on migrants who attempt to shelter in a local hotel, or those helping to shelter them — in violation, he says, of local zoning law and his emergency order.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
As the state seeks to mediate a growing dispute between county leaders, Mr. Day suggested that he might impose legal penalties on migrants who attempt to shelter in a Rockland County hotel, or those helping to shelter them — in violation, he says, of local zoning law and his emergency order.
“If a law enforcement member tells you you’re violating the law and you choose to violate it anyway, there’s a lot of possibilities that are pretty obvious, aren’t they?” he said.
Asked if those possibilities included issuing violations, summonses or even arrests, he responded, “All possibilities.”
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for Mayor Adams, accused Mr. Day of being inhumane and unreasonable for refusing to do even a small fraction of what New York City has done in the face of the migrant influx.
“Sadly, the Rockland County executive has already shown he is incapable of managing less than one-quarter of the one percent of the asylum seekers who have come to New York City, even with New York paying for shelter, food, and services,” Mr. Levy said.
He said that Mr. Day’s efforts to block migrants showed that “he is incapable of demonstrating a shred of the humane and compassionate care New York City has shown over the past year.” The imbroglio has served as a warning for officials in counties farther north who for months had watched the crisis unfolding in New York City with growing concern.
In Broome County, about a three-hour drive northwest from the city, local officials were scrambling on Tuesday to draft contingency plans in case buses of migrants arrived there unannounced, said Jason Garnar, the county executive.
Chris Moss, the Republican county executive of Chemung County, said local officials were holding “preparedness” meetings in case migrants unexpectedly arrived at the Southern Tier, and blamed New York City for its decision to move migrants elsewhere.
“If you’re going to open your arms to migrants, you have to be ready for it,” Mr. Moss said. “Shipping folks to the rural counties or upstate New York,it just creates a litany of issues that these rural counties aren’t set up for without federal or state funding.”
Chris Maag contributed reporting.