Pictured Above: New York City Mayor Eric Adams. |. NYC Mayor’s Office photo

New York City has asked a Manhattan State Supreme Court Judge to void emergency orders in 30 counties, including Suffolk County, and in the Town of Riverhead, which restrict asylum seekers from seeking housing, stating the orders violate the 14th amendment rights of equal protection and the right to travel.

Mayor Eric Adams has been at odds with counties surrounding the city in recent weeks as he has worked to find housing for more than 72,000 migrants and asylum seekers who have come to New York City in the past year — more than 42,000 of whom are still 160 locations within the city’s homeless shelter system.

The mayor says neighboring government bodies exhibited “xenophobic bigotry” by trying to “block New York City from arranging for even a small number of asylum-seekers to stay in private hotels within their jurisdictions – at the city’s expense – amidst a major humanitarian crisis.”

“Since this crisis began, New York City has — virtually on its own — stepped up to provide shelter, food, clothing, and other services to asylum seekers arriving in our city. We are doing our part and will continue to do our part, but we need every locality across the state to do their part as well,” said Mayor Adams in a statement Wednesday accompanying the lawsuit. “We have repeatedly sounded the alarm that our shelter system is at capacity and that we are out of space. While many communities have been overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic about welcoming these new arrivals to their cities and towns, some elected officials have attempted to build metaphorical walls around their localities with unlawful executive orders. This lawsuit aims to put an end to this xenophobic bigotry and ensure our state acts as one as we work together to manage this humanitarian crisis fairly and humanely, as we have done from the beginning and as we will continue to do.”

A federal judge struck down emergency orders preventing migrants from being housed in Rockland and Orange counties on Tuesday, as Democratic leaders in Congress announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide $104.6 million to help the city house the migrants. New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency May 9, using the emergency status to mobilize the National Guard to deliver supplies and food to migrants in New York City.

Riverhead was the first local municipality to issue an emergency order May 16 banning “all hotels, motels, bed and breakfast facilities, inns, cottages, campgrounds or any other transient lodging units and/or any facilities allowing short-term rentals” from housing migrants within the town boundaries.

The order is still in effect, and Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar has since come under fire for not providing evidence that migrants were bound for Riverhead. The Riverhead Town Board met in executive session Thursday, June 8 to discuss how to handle the litigation.

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a State of Emergency May 26, in an order that “formalizes the creation of a county intergovernmental team, made up of leadership from the County Executive’s Office, the Department of Social Services, and the Police Department, that will continue to coordinate directly with New York State regarding this ongoing crisis,” said Mr. Bellone. “The team will communicate and coordinate with local not-for-profits regarding resources that are available to assist in meeting the challenges faced by those impacted by this ongoing situation.”

The Republican-controlled Suffolk County Legislature voted later that week to hire special council to attempt to block asylum seekers from being sheltered here.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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