NYC Council holds oversight hearing on response to asylum seeker crisis, Orchard Beach tent city

NEW YORK (WABC)– The treatment of migrants busted into New York City was the focus of a City Council hearing on Friday.

The Council’s Committee on Immigration asked the Mayor’s Office for more information about the resources and services provided.

This includes HERRC’s new Humanitarian Emergency and Relief Center being built on Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

The huge tent city is set to provide temporary shelter and social services after 15,000 migrants overwhelmed the city’s shelter system.

“The Orchard Beach site is in a flood zone in the middle of hurricane season, it’s outside when cold weather approaches, it’s in a transit desert, it’s being built by a contractor who built Trump’s xenophobic border wall,” Councilman Shahana said Hanif.

City Council spokeswoman Adrienne Adams said there are still many unanswered questions about the plan.

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Also contentious is that council members say laws on the right to protection should apply to asylum seekers.

Administration officials say HERRCs are voluntary and migrants can be accommodated in shelters if they so choose.

“These HERRCs were established not to replace the protection system, but to give us the time and space to properly conduct this operation,” said Zach Iscol, Commissioner of NYC Emergency Management. “To make sure we find out what people’s needs are. To welcome them with a shower and a hot meal, attend to their immediate medical needs and then figure out what the next steps are for them.”

Administration officials say they are working with the state to create transit facilities to Train 6, and they have a plan to move migrants to coastal storm shelters ahead of flooding.

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They say they are working on separate facilities for families with children, although the location has yet to be determined.

“Orchard Beach is just the first of probably many other HERRCs that we’ll likely need to set up,” Iscol said. “It’s also the fastest thing we’ve been able to build. And the intention isn’t to keep the HERRC at Orchard Beach going for very long.”

Last week, Mayor Eric Adams compared the refugee crisis to the coronavirus pandemic.

“For those who say it’s human to use tents, what are people talking about,” Adams said. “During COVID there were tents in Central Park, we had a boat, a hospital boat that was being used. That is the humane way.”

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Meanwhile, Legal Aid and the Coalition for the Homeless remain opposed to accommodating asylum seekers on cruise ships.

They raise concerns about how they may be isolated from access to jobs, health care, schools, legal aid and other services.

ALSO READ | Follow the steps of asylum seekers as they settle in New York City

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