NYC to use cruise ship terminal as asylum-seeker shelter

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NEW YORK — New York City is temporarily turning a cruise ship terminal into a shelter and services hub for asylum-seekers, Mayor Eric Adams said Saturday, announcing the latest in a series of facilities the city has set up — and sometimes shut down — as it strains to handle an ongoing influx.

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will have room, food, medical care and other services for 1,000 single men until it reverts to the cruise business in springtime, the mayor’s office said in a release. Its first occupants will move from another relief center at a hotel, which will switch to accommodating asylum-seeking families with children.

“Our city is at its breaking point,” said Adams, a Democrat who has repeatedly pleaded for state and federal assistance to address the flow of asylum-seekers — some of them bused by out-of-state governors — to the nation’s most populous city. Adams traveled this week to El Paso, Texas, to visit the southern U.S. border and press the point. He declared a state of emergency over the issue this fall.

Altogether, 41,000 asylum-seekers have come to the city since last spring, according to the mayor. With the terminal, the city will have five such “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief” centers for the nearly 28,000 asylum-seekers it is currently housing and those who may yet arrive. Some 77 hotels also have been tapped as emergency shelters.

The city’s previous moves to create shelters for the newcomers have gotten a mixed reception and usage. A plan to erect a hangar-sized tent in a beach parking lot was scrapped amid concerns about storm flooding. The city then built a complex of giant tents on an island that houses a park and sports facilities; the tent facility closed three weeks later after light usage as the number of arrivals slowed for a time.

Some advocates for people who need shelter criticized the cruise ship terminal plan, saying that the waterfront building could flood and is ill-suited to housing people. Hotels are a better short-term option, and the longer-term plan should be to free up space in the city’s existing homeless shelters by making more robust efforts to get their occupants permanent housing, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said.

“Continuing to move asylum seekers around the boroughs like chess pieces is callous and indicative of City Hall’s failure to competently manage this crisis,” the groups said in a statement.

Adams said city officials “continue to surpass both our moral and legal obligations and meet the needs of people arriving in New York.”