New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday defended fellow Democrat New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ controversial program to bus migrants elsewhere in the state as lawsuits mount.
At a press conference meant to discuss the Environmental Bond Act, a $4.2 billion initiative to address climate change in western New York, Hochul ended up taking questions on the influx of nearly 70,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in New York City.
“We’ve been encouraging them to give as much notice as possible to county executives. Given the scale of people affected, it’s not always going to be perfect,” Hochul said of Adams’ plans to bus migrants upstate – and potentially Long Island – and house them in hotels there for several months, if not longer.
Around the expiration of Title 42, the city saw 5,800 people arrive in one week, and about 4,000 the week before. More than 48,000 migrants are currently housed in New York City shelters.
“It’s all about just preparing. And a lot of people say just the sky is falling before anything has even happened. The vast majority of these people who are simply seeking legal humanitarian relief. They’re here legally. They’re absolutely here legally. They have a right to seek asylum in this country based on what they’ve had to endure in their home countries,” Hochul said.
The governor thanked Eerie County Executive Mike Poloncarz, a Democrat, for being receptive to accepting migrants from New York City, but said there was no plan to send them there just yet. Hochul did say the state capital of Albany, “with notice to the mayor there” received migrants from New York City, and the transfer “is going well from what we hear.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, another Democrat, has said a second and third group of about 40 migrants were to arrive in the state capital Sunday and Monday respectively, raising the total received so far in Albany to 105 migrants, the Albany Times Union reported.
Meanwhile, the town of Colonie, located in Albany County, was granted a temporary court order to prevent more asylum seekers from being sent there from New York City.
About two dozen migrants arrived at a SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western in Colonie Saturday night, the New York Daily News reported. The town government sued New York City In Albany Supreme Court, alleging the Adams administration “made no attempt to communicate” with the town on its transfer plans.
Colonie Town Supervisor Peter Crummey, elected last June as the town’s first Republican supervisor in 14 years, issued a statement describing the hotel as a “hotbed of police activity,” and accusing Adams of paying “no heed for the welfare of the persons subject to his forced bussing catastrophe.”
“New York City’s shelter system is overflowing,” Hochul said Tuesday, noting Friday’s announcement that a re-purposed prison in New York City will accommodate more than 500 people. State and city officials were also looking at a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport, awaiting federal approval.
“We’ve been very focused on serving all the state assets and that would include SUNY dorms, shuttered psychiatric centers, and anywhere we can find space to help take some of the burden off of New York City and their shelter requirements,” Hochul said, adding that “[t]here’s no announcement that individuals are coming to western New York at this time.”
When asked directly whether SUNY campuses in Eerie County were being considered to house asylum seekers from New York City, Hochul said, “every state asset is on the list to be looked at.”
Rockland County Executive Ed Day, a Republican, said that a judge on Tuesday extended a restraining order for another two weeks to further delay the transfer of asylum seekers from New York City. A lawsuit filed by the county earlier this month alleged that Adams’ plan to transfer 340 single, adult men from New York City to the Armoni Inn & Suites in the town of Orangeburg would effectively “quadruple” the homeless population in Rockland County.
Orange County also sued New York City over its planned migrant transfers to the town of Newburgh, and a hearing is set for June 21.
In support of what Adams has dubbed a “decompression strategy,” Hochul said she would continue efforts to appeal to the federal government to approve migrant work authorization.
“I have so many employers and farmers who are desperately in need of good workers. These people came here for work,” she said. “Western New York’s population, Buffalo’s population would not have grown if it wasn’t for the refugees who came here from places like Burma, Somalia and Thailand. They are now part of the economy here.”