Adams Wants to Suspend Right-to-Shelter Law Due to Asylum Seekers

Photo: Theodore Parisienne/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images/TNS

As Mayor Eric Adams continues to contend with the significant increase in asylum seekers in the city, he is now looking toward the courts for assistance.

His administration is asking a judge to relieve the city of its legal requirement to provide temporary shelter to all who need it by suspending its decades-old right-to-shelter law. City Hall wrote a letter to Judge Deborah Kaplan, deputy chief administrative judge of the city’s courts, saying its shelters are facing “unprecedented demand.” As of May 15, more than 65,000 asylum seekers have traveled here and more than 44,000 of them have their housing facilitated by the city, the letter says.

Under the new proposed provision, the city would suspend the right to shelter when it and the Department of Homeless Services “lacks the resources and capacity to establish and maintain sufficient shelter sites, staffing, and security to provide safe and appropriate shelter.”

The city’s right-to-shelter law was officially established as a result of Callahan v. Carey, a 1979 case in the State Supreme Court in which a judge ruled that the city had a duty to provide shelter to unhoused men who needed it. That ruling was later expanded to include women, and the case was settled with a consent decree in 1981 that made the requirement official. This action from City Hall seeks to revise a portion of the final judgement issued in 1984.

In a statement, Adams said he is not looking to end the right to shelter but that his administration is seeking “clarity” from the courts.

“Given that we’re unable to provide care for an unlimited number of people and are already overextended, it is in the best interest of everyone, including those seeking to come to the United States, to be upfront that New York City cannot single-handedly provide care to everyone crossing our border,” Adams said. “Being dishonest about this will only result in our system collapsing, and we need our government partners to know the truth and do their share.”

The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless issued a joint statement slamming the move by the Adams administration, saying that suspending the longtime law is “not who we are as a city.”

“New Yorkers do not want to see anyone, including asylum seekers, relegated to the streets. We will vigorously oppose any motion from this Administration that seeks to undo these fundamental protections that have long defined our city,” the organizations wrote.

This is only the latest of Adams’s moves to attempt to control the influx of migrants to the city. On Tuesday, he joined Governor Kathy Hochul in asking the federal government to expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers — an action the leaders believe will alleviate some of the pressure on the state. The mayor has also looked for alternative locations for housing, including suburban counties, which has received pushback from local politicians.

Adams Wants to Suspend Right to Shelter Due to Migrants