Construction started Monday in a far-flung parking lot in the northern Bronx where New York City officials are planning to erect hangar-sized tents as temporary shelter for thousands of international migrants who have been bused into the city as part of a campaign by Republican governors to disrupt federal border policies.
The tents are among an array of options — from using cruise ships to summer camps — the city is considering as it struggles to find housing for an estimated 13,000 migrants who have wound up in New York after being bused north from border towns in Texas and Arizona.
“This is not an everyday homelessness crisis, but a humanitarian crisis that requires a different approach,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement last week.
New York City’s huge system of homeless shelters has been straining to accommodate the unexpected new flow of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.
In Arizona and Texas, officials have loading people on buses for free trips to Washington and New York City. More recently, Florida, which has a Republican governor running for reelection, flew migrants — at public cost — to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Adams said the city had opened 23 emergency shelters — and was considering 38 more — to handle the people bused into the city since May. The city also recently opened a new, multimillion dollar intake center to help the newcomers quickly get settled.
The first tent has been proposed for a remote corner of the Bronx, a parking lot at a popular city beach on Long Island Sound where public transportation is limited. Officials are looking into other areas.
Immigration advocates said the plan was not well thought out.
“We don’t want what is supposed to be temporary to become permanent. So we don’t want this temporary respite center to end up becoming a de facto shelter for folks where there is a thousand beds, right? Where people are going to be sleeping and literally just being there in Orchard Beach, which is incredibly far from true mass transit,” said Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
The planned site is difficult to access by the city’s subway or bus network, and could require a nearly two-hour journey to get to midtown Manhattan.
“We couldn’t be in a more sort of remote area of the Bronx,” said Gigi Gilliard, a Bronx resident.
Gigi Gilliard arrived at the parking lot with a carload of donated clothes for the migrants, hoping someone would already be there to accept them.
She says while she is ready to welcome the migrants to the city, other Bronx residents may be concerned about an influx of migrants.
“I do think that there’s a concern that there might be, you know, a temptation towards bad behavior or temptations towards just being able to survive, right? And I don’t know what that would look like, but I do think that there might be some residents in the area who might be slightly concerned about that,” she said.
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AP Video shot by Robert Bumsted
Production: Robert Bumsted