Sep. 6, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
As the city continues to contend with thousands of migrants arriving in the Big Apple each week, Mayor Eric Adams is standing up yet another mega-migrant shelter in a converted Queens office building, his administration announced on Wednesday.
The latest “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center” (HERRC) will be located at 47-11 Austell Place in the Long Island City section of Queens and will eventually house up to 1,000 single-adult male migrants, according to City Hall. However, the shelter will start out by sheltering 330 asylum seekers and will gradually up its capacity, with it expected to open by the end of week.
The site will be the city’s 16th HERRC, according to Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, and the latest of over 200 sites the city has brought online to house tens of thousands of new arrivals. It had previously served as one of the city’s “respite centers” — short term migrant shelters designed to be “waiting rooms,” while the administration finds more permanent placements for people.
Adams, in a statement, said opening the relief center is necessary as over 110,100 migrants have poured into Gotham over the past year, with nearly 60,000 currently in the city’s care. But the mayor addressed that more financial support and other resources from the state and federal governments are still sorely needed.
“The transition of this site into a new humanitarian relief center at Austell Place is an important next step in our efforts to do our part, but, as we’ve said month after month, only more support from our state and federal partners and real policy change in Washington will truly address this crisis,” he said.
The building housing the site was converted by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), which conducted work like installing a new boiler and building a new exterior landing, according to DDC Commissioner Thomas Foley. The facility will be managed by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
The housing agency’s commissioner, Adolfo Carrión Jr., said during a weekly migrant crisis briefing on Wednesday that the site will offer a wide range of services. Carrión said those services include medical staff, case management to assist with legal matters and reticketing to other locations throughout the state and country.
Williams-Isom during the briefing noted that, unlike other recently opened humanitarian relief centers in the parking lot of Queens’ Creedmoor Psychiatric Center or on Randall’s Island, the latest facility won’t be paid for by Albany. Governor Kathy Hochul has also pledged to fund another 2,000-bed facility that will likely be placed at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, pending the approval of a contract with the federal government.
The site, Williams-Isom said, shows the migrant influx is still very much a crisis slamming the city every day. She, however, bemoaned the fact that the city’s unique legal requirement to provide shelter to anyone seeking it has incentivized a seemingly endless flow of migrants here.
“Before it was like the kind of the right-to-shelter and what’s going on in New York, it was like our little secret,” she said. “Now the whole globe knows that if you go to New York City, we’re going to do what we always do, right? We have a big heart. We have compassion. We’re gonna take care of people.”
“And while we love that and we are so proud of that, I think in a way it’s being used against us and I am frustrated by that,” she added. “And I would like to kind of slow down what’s happening at the front door a little bit.”