Adams admin says number of migrants entering NYC has ‘dipped’ in recent weeks

The number of migrants entering New York City’s shelter system has tapered off in recent weeks, contributing to an overall decrease in newcomers living in city shelters over the past month, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ Chief of Staff Camille Joseph-Varlack.

Joseph-Varlack said 1,600 came into the city’s shelter system over the past week, which is a significant drop from the nearly 4,000 new arrivals per week seeking accommodation as recently as late December.

“The number of folks coming into the city have dipped a bit, we only had I think about 1,600 come into the city last week,” Joseph-Varlack said, during a Friday press conference outside the Roosevelt Hotel migrant intake center. 

“I think maybe [in] the last four to five weeks, we’ve seen that decline,” she added.

The mayor’s chief of staff cautioned that even with the recent drop in new entries to the system, the administration is “constantly monitoring” the U.S. southern border with Mexico to see if another surge is on its way — like the one that happened last spring.

“While we haven’t had a lot of buses come into New York City anymore or over the past couple of weeks, that doesn’t mean that individuals aren’t coming into our care,” she said.

Mayor Eric Adams’ Chief of Staff Camille Joseph-Varlack briefs reporters on the migrant influx outside of the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

The number of migrants living in shelters has dropped from 69,000 at the start of last month to 65,600 as of last Sunday, Varlack said. The city attributes the decline, in part, to its policies of placing limits on the time new arrivals can stay at shelters. 

The administration has said many of the migrants who have been given notices of the caps, 30 days for single adults and 60 days for families, have found alternative housing and been able to leave the city’s care. Under the policies, Joseph-Varlack said, just over half of the 5,500 families whose 60-day notices have come due have moved out of shelter to alternative housing.

The policies were rolled out with “intensive” case management intended to help migrants secure another place to live before their notices come due.

“We do think that the 30 and 60 day notices, in addition to the case management, are helping people to really think about where do they want to go? What do they want to do?” Joseph-Varlack said.

Nonetheless, the policies have been widely criticized by local pols and advocates as being destabilizing to migrants’ lives, especially for families with children.

Two state lawmakers, state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, earlier this week introduced legislation that would bar the city from continuing to impose the shelter stay limits. They argue the policies have led to migrants being kicked out of their housing unnecessarily, making them wait in long lines in the cold for new shelter beds.

“Kicking people out to the streets during the coldest time of year won’t help solve our housing crisis and forcing asylum seekers out of shelters will do nothing to mitigate the migrant situation,” Hoylman-Sigal said in a statement Monday.

However, Adams on Tuesday defended the policies and blasted the state bill, arguing the administration is being “humane” in the way it has gone about trying to lower its shelter population.

“If we followed that theory, we would have had 177,000 migrants still in our care,” he said. “A bill that states that we should permanently keep people inside a [shelter] is just not a responsible way to address this issue.”

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