Changing course, mayor relocates Bronx ‘tent city’ to Randall’s Island

Following days of rain and criticism over accessibility, Mayor Eric Adams on Monday night announced that the city wouldn’t be moving forward with its plan to temporarily house asylum seekers in tents at Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

Instead, the tent facilities will be relocated to Randall’s Island, the mayor said in a press release.

“This new location is less prone to flooding, is closer to public transportation, and will provide temporary respite to 500 asylum seekers,” Adams said in the release.

As effects of Hurricane Ian brought heavy wind and rain to New York City, the Orchard Beach parking lot where work has been underway for a couple of weeks to erect winterized tents capable of withstanding cold and rain was flooded with several inches of water over the weekend.

Since the mayor announced his plans to erect temporary “tent cities” to house the influx of migrants coming from the southern border late last month, the move has been met with stark criticism from elected officials, as well as housing and immigration advocates.

At the center of the criticism is whether the mayor’s so-called Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers serve as a runaround to the city’s decades long right to shelter mandate, that requires anyone in need of a shelter bed to receive one.

At a City Council hearing Friday, Adams administration officials said that the sprawling facilities would serve as a brief stop for asylum seekers to receive aid before being moved to more permanent housing and would not spend more than 96 hours at the facility.

City Hall officials at the hearing said the 1,000-bed Orchard Beach facility was slated to open this week. Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor, said that while they don’t yet have an exact date for opening the Randall’s Island facility, it will follow the same timeline as the Orchard Beach facility.

“We expect this site to open in approximately the same timeframe as the originally planned location, and we continue to build out our options and explore additional sites as we handle this humanitarian crisis created by human hands,” Adams said in his press release.

Chiefly among the complaints of the first of two relief centers is that the Orchard Park facility is inaccessible via public transportation, an issue likely to arise again at Randall’s Island, an area more commonly known for hosting music festivals.

Tucked between the Harlem River and East River, Randall’s Island can also prove to be just as inaccessible to many as Orchard Beach, requiring a subway ride and a bus to reach the location.

Similarly to Orchard Beach, Randall’s Island is also prone to flooding, according to the city’s official flood maps.

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