NEW YORK (AP) — Migrant families were moved out of a midtown Manhattan hotel on Tuesday as part of Mayor Eric Adams' plan to ease the pressure on New York City's strained shelter system by imposing a 60-day limit on shelter stays.
The roughly 40 families that left Row NYC, in the heart of the city's Theater District, are the first of scores of families that are expected to leave city shelters in the coming weeks. Some of those leaving on Tuesday immediately reapplied for beds, while others said they had managed to find more permanent accommodations outside of the system.
Adams, a Democrat, imposed the limit in October for homeless migrant families, saying the move was necessary to relieve a shelter system overwhelmed by asylum-seekers crossing the southern U.S. border.
Maria Quero, a 26-year-old from Venezuela who is nearly nine months pregnant, was among those standing outside the Row hotel Tuesday morning with her luggage and other personal effects in tow.
She said her plan was to head across town to the Roosevelt Hotel, another midtown accommodation that's been repurposed as an intake center for arriving migrants. There, city officials say, migrant families could reapply for another 60-day stay in the shelter system.
"We have no idea what is going to happen there," Quero said in Spanish as her husband, David Dominguez, gathered their belongings for the roughly 20-minute walk. "It's very stressful. It gives me a lot of anxiety."
The two, who arrived in the country six months ago and had been at the Row for five months, said they don't have friends or family they can stay with if they can't secure another city bed.
"Let's hope we have a suitable place. We know people who have been to the tents while they are pregnant," added Dominguez, referring to the temporary shelters the city has erected in Brooklyn to house the newest arrivals. "A woman cannot be in a tent when she's pregnant."
The Adams administration has warned for weeks that no one seeking a new placement is guaranteed another bed.
But Adams and other city officials said Monday that they would prioritize families and try to place them near their children's schools in order to minimize any disruption to their education.
"This is not going to be a city where we're going to place children and families on the street and have them sleep on the street," Adams said ahead of Tuesday's move-outs. "That is not going to happen."
Immigrant advocates have held rallies in recent days saying the new policy could lead to families waiting in long lines in the bitter cold to secure a new shelter placement — the situation single migrant adults have faced since the fall, when they were limited to 30 days in city shelters.
The time limits could also disrupt the schooling of migrant children who might have to change schools if their families are moved elsewhere, advocates say.
City Comptroller Brad Lander said Tuesday that he's launching an investigation into the Adams' administration's implementation of the 60-day policy, including whether it was properly explained to families and its ultimate costs.
"What information is actually being provided to people? Are there protocols for the 60-day evictions?" he said outside the Row hotel as families checked out.
Some 4,800 eviction notices have been sent to migrant families in shelters.
Mayra Martinez, a 40-year-old mother from Colombia, said her three children have mixed feelings about leaving the Row.
The family had been living at the hotel for more than a year and have saved up enough to rent a three-bedroom apartment in nearby Newark, New Jersey.
"They like it here, but you can't cook in the hotel and they miss home-cooked food," Martinez said in Spanish as she and her husband loaded their belongings into a waiting rideshare. "They're also a little sad because of their school. They'll have to change and get used to a new school."
The hotel evictions occurred as city officials also temporarily evacuated nearly 2,000 migrants housed at Floyd Bennett Field, the former airport in Brooklyn, ahead of a potentially damaging storm. Adams' administration had erected the temporary shelter at the airfield in response to the waves of new immigrants arriving in the city.
"To be clear, this relocation is a proactive measure being taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals working and living at the center," Kayla Mamelak, an Adams spokesperson, said in a statement. "The relocation will continue until any weather conditions that may arise have stabilized and the facility is once again fit for living."
The residents, many of them families with children, were sent to nearby James Madison High School, also in Brooklyn.
By PHILIP MARCELO Associated Press
Associated Press reporter Jennifer Peltz contributed to this story.