Out of public safety concerns, the Mayor Adams administration is likely to attract more cops to the Bronx, where it plans to start putting hundreds of Latin American migrants in tent camps soon, according to a local council member.
Councilwoman Marjorie Velazquez, whose neighborhood includes Orchard Beach parking lots where tents will be erected, told the Daily News that she asked the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety on Phil Banks’ team on Thursday’s phone call to increase the number of officers in nearby neighborhoods pending tents up.
Velazquez said she told officials that the 45th, 47th and 49th police stations in the area are already struggling with staffing problems. As a result, there should be a commensurate increase in police presence if hundreds of asylum seekers intend to move in, Velazquez told Banks’ advisers.
“They were very open to the idea,” said a member of the Democratic Council.
Adams spokeswoman Kate Smart declined to comment directly on Velazquez’s request, but said “safety is our top priority and we will take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of those temporarily in humanitarian centers.”
Adams’s office announced on Thursday a plan to house migrants in tents on Orchard Beach.
At a briefing revealing the initiative, Adams administration officials – who spoke only if they were not identified by name – said the tents would serve as reception facilities where migrants would spend more than 96 hours before being allocated shelter beds or other permanent accommodation . The tents are expected to start operating within two weeks and can accommodate around 1,000 people, officials said.
Officials said the city would facilitate food, medical care, legal assistance and other services on site, but made no mention of major police patrols.
Speaking with Adams officials, Velazquez said she also raised the issue of making sure the tents were solid and improved sanitation, noting that Orchard Beach’s public bathrooms have long needed urgent repair.
“My priority is and will always be to provide people with a decent, humane way of life. I don’t need people in tents that are not safely constructed, that are not warm, that are not insulated, “she said.
“These are matters that need to be addressed to me as I don’t mind using this site as it is a site that is not used in fall and winter anyway. But I have to be sure that the families that come are really welcome here. Let’s make sure people don’t freeze to d*ath in the winter months.
Smart said the city will “add additional sanitation services at these locations as well.”
Only single adults will live in downtown Orchard Beach, but City Hall said the administration plans to open at least one more tent site for immigrant families.
The Adams tent plan comes as the city’s shelter system comes close to tipping point due to the massive influx of South and Central American immigrants in recent months.
More than 13,600 migrants arrived in the city on Thursday – and at least 10,300 of them live in the shelter system, administration officials said.
Migrants hope to get asylum in the US after fleeing the economic devastation and violence in their home countries. Many of them landed in New York because Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott sent them to the city by bus as part of a political dispute with President Biden over border policy – a feat Adams called “non-American” and “inhuman.”
During the crisis, the Adams administration failed at least twice this summer to accommodate dozens of migrants and homeless people – in clear violation of the decades-old right to refuge, which requires the city to provide a bed for anyone who needs one.
Tent camps could be a way for the administration to ease the burden on the shelter system.
In a Friday morning radio interview, Adams said his administration could end up having to accommodate more than 50,000 migrants before all is said and done. He compared the tent plan to a city that is being forced to put COVID-19 patients on a military ship in the early days of the pandemic.
“We used everything we had to go through this,” he told Caribbean Power Jam Radio.
But homeless lawyers say the tent plan may also violate the right to shelter. They noted that the law requires the city to provide people with “safe and adequate” shelter, and that tent cities may not pass the collection.
The Family Homelessness Coalition, the umbrella organization of support groups including the Citizens’ Committee on Children of New York, said in a statement that the Adams tent plan was “alarming.”
“There is not only the issue of legality, but we are deeply concerned that these shelters will provide families with the housing, transportation and supplies they need,” the coalition said. “Asylum seekers have already experienced tremendous trauma and we urge Mayor Adams not to place thousands of children and their family members in a potentially unsafe environment.”
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