Only a month after opening, the migrant shelter on Randall’s Island will close, Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday. The 84,400-square-foot facility, which was designed for adult men and held 500 beds and a recreation center, will be replaced by a new center in Midtown Manhattan, as first reported by City Limits. The Randall’s Island facility is set to be shuttered next week, and current occupants of the facility will be provided with transportation to the Watson Hotel on West 57th Street, where 600 rooms will be used to house asylum seekers.
Members of the New York City Council and human rights activists have taken issue with the Randall’s Island facility since it opened on October 19. Critics cited the island’s seclusion from the rest of the city and claims that it might be “inhumane” to keep asylum seekers there during the winter, according to the New York Times.
Joshua Goldfein, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, said that the facility didn’t comply with city rules regarding “congregate settings” because of too many beds being situated in one room and placed too close together.
“It’s like they developed a model that didn’t take into account all of the experience that the city has for decades for how to provide services to people,” Goldfein said to the New York Times. “They wanted to reinvent the wheel and people were not comfortable with that, and also they were cold.”
The news comes as New York City continues to feel the pressure of its looming migrant crisis, which has pushed the city’s shelter system to its limits and is projected to cost around $1 billion to address.
The wave of migrants coming to the city was in part a result of Gov. Greg Abbott transporting asylum seekers from Texas to New York. Abbott used the move to pressure the federal government into restricting immigration, according to the New York Times.
However, the influx of migrants has begun to decrease due to a shift in immigration policy initiated by the Biden administration last month. The policy change has resulted in the deportation of many new arrivals back to their home countries, leaving the Randalls Island facility only half full.
The Watson Hotel is not the first to be transformed into a migrant center. Last month, Times Square hotel Row NYC was designated as an emergency shelter, offering housing, food, medical care, and social services to upwards of 200 immigrants.
According to the mayor, the city is currently providing for 17,500 asylum seekers.
“We continue to welcome asylum seekers arriving in New York City with compassion and care. This Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center will provide asylum seekers with a place to stay, access support, and get to their final destination,” Adams said in a statement, referring to the new migrant center.
“The city is currently caring for over 17,500 asylum seekers, a number that continues to grow steadily. We will continue to pivot and shift as necessary to deal with this humanitarian crisis, but it’s clear that we still need financial assistance from our state and federal partners.”
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