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Mayor Adams Announces Agreement With The Legal Aid Society In Callahan ‘Right To Shelter’ Mediation, Granting City Additional Flexibility During Migrant Humanitarian Crisis

March 15, 2024

WATCH: Mayor Adams Discusses How Agreement Provides Flexibility to Address National Humanitarian Crisis Where Approximately 183,000 Migrants Have Arrived in NYC in Less Than Two Years

City Has Argued Callahan Decree Was Never Intended to Apply to Extraordinary Circumstances City Currently Faces

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced that the City of New York has come to an agreement with The Legal Aid Society, providing the city additional flexibility under the 1981 consent decree in Callahan v. Carey, related to the city’s “Right to Shelter” during the current migration crisis. After months of negotiations — during which the city has continued to respond to the national humanitarian crisis without meaningful help from the federal government — the parties have come to an agreement that gives the city more tools to manage entries and exits of single adult migrants from the shelter system and ensure the city has the flexibility it needs to continue supporting vulnerable New Yorkers.

As the city has consistently argued, the Right to Shelter — put into place over 40 years ago when the city’s shelter system had fewer than 2,500 people in its care — compared to the 120,000 people, approximately 65,000 of which are migrants, currently in the city’s care — was never meant to apply to a national humanitarian crisis like the one New York City faces today.

“New York City has led the nation in responding to a national humanitarian crisis, providing shelter and care to approximately183,000 new arrivals since the spring of 2022, but we have been clear, from day one, that the ‘Right to Shelter’ was never intended to apply to a population larger than most U.S. cities descending on the five boroughs in less than two years,” said Mayor Adams. “Today’s stipulation acknowledges that reality and grants us additional flexibility during times of crisis, like the national humanitarian crisis we are currently experiencing. Thank you to the court and The Legal Aid Society, for recognizing that the status quo cannot continue and for giving New York City additional tools to address this crisis while ensuring that the most vulnerable can continue to receive the support they need. Like impacted cities across the country, we cannot bear the brunt of this crisis alone and continue to seek significant support from our federal partners, including expedited work authorizations, more funding, and a national resettlement strategy.”

“This agreement represents the tireless, good-faith efforts of the parties and the court to help address one of the biggest crises ever faced by the city,” said New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix. “The reasonable plan outlined in this settlement significantly enhances the city’s ability to manage the extraordinary influx of people that have come into our care and will help stabilize our shelter system for those who need it.”

“We’ve approached this humanitarian crisis with humanity and the understanding that New York City is the greatest city in the world thanks to our immigrant communities,” said Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack. “We’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done to provide shelter and care to approximately 183,000 migrants over the course of the past two years. The agreement we’re entering into today reflects the unprecedented nature of this crisis and ensures that we can manage our shelter population while continuing to provide a safe landing spot for our newest arrivals to get on their feet and get on with their pursuit of the American Dream.”

“The stipulation gives our administration the flexibility it needs to manage this unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom. “It also reminds us that without comprehensive and meaningful reform by Congress and the federal government, municipalities are left mostly alone to deal with this crisis. This is a national issue and will require a national response that engages federal, state, and local actors to find and implement solutions. One example of this is our legal clinics — done with federal and state support, these are examples of innovative models working best when every level of government has a role and a stake in the process.”

“When the original Callahan settlement was reached, no one could have foreseen the migrant crisis New York City has faced for the past two years,” said City Hall Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. “This new agreement reflects the reality we’re currently in and allows New York City to appropriately manage this crisis.”

Today’s stipulation relieves New York City of certain obligations under the Callahan decree during this declared State of Emergency. It allows the city to manage the influx of new arrivals, and provide adult migrants 30 days of shelter without the ability to re-apply for shelter unless the individual has demonstrated they have some sort of extenuating circumstance necessitating a short additional amount of time in shelter, or have received a reasonable accommodation due to a disability. To better support younger adult new arrivals, individuals under 23 years of age will be provided 60 days of shelter. Finally, the city will continue to provide reticketing services to help more people move out of shelter and continue their journeys towards self-sufficiency. The settlement applies only to adults seeking shelter and does not impact families with children.   

Since this national humanitarian crisis began, New York City has taken fast and urgent action — opening up over 200 emergency sites. The city has also stood up navigation centers with support from community-based organizations to connect asylum seekers with critical resources; enrolled tens of thousands of children in public schools through Project Open Arms; and stood up, with funding from New York state, a first-of-its-kind Asylum Application Help Center through which the city has helped individuals submit approximately 40,000 asylum, Temporary Protected Status, and work authorization applications over the past eight months. The Adams administration continues to prioritize helping migrants live independently, without significant or timely state or federal assistance. As a result of the administration’s responsible policies — including providing 30 to 60 days of intensified case management — more than 60 percent of the asylum seekers who have come through the city’s intake center have left the city’s care and are taking the next steps in their journeys towards self-sufficiency.