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Transcript: Deputy Mayor For Health And Human Services Williams-Isom, Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix, Chief Of Staff Joseph Varlack Hold Briefing Following Court Hearing On Callahan V. Carey

March 15, 2024

Deputy Mayor Anne Williams‑Isom: Good afternoon. My name is Anne Williams‑Isom, and I'm the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services to Mayor Adams, New York City Mayor Eric Adams. I'm joined here today by the corporation counsel, Sylvia Hinds‑Radix, and the chief of staff, Camille Joseph Varlack.

Today is indeed a historic day, a day when we were able to really bring something very important to New York City and to do good today for hundreds and thousands of people. As you all know, New York City has been managing a humanitarian crisis, something that the judge acknowledged today in court and said how impressed and how proud he was of the work that New York City has been able to do. Not a regular crisis, not an everyday crisis, an international humanitarian crisis that came out of nowhere.

But what we did was we didn't stop working. As of now, there have been over 180,000 migrants that have come to New York City. We have cared for them with compassion. We've made sure that they've had a place to stay. From day one, we said that we did not want people on the street.

We have been doing this since the spring of 2022. When we came and petitioned the court in May of 2023, we said what we knew New Yorkers knew that we needed some relief. We never asked to get rid of the right to shelter. We never said that we wanted, that the right to shelter wasn't important. What we said was that we needed some modification so that we could have some flexibility to be able to manage.

I feel a lot of things about this crisis. It's a sobering moment. I feel sad about what people have had to go through. I feel frustrated that New York City has been left to do it alone.

But today I also feel proud. I feel proud of the strong management and compassion that the team has done and how we have responded. But we knew we needed more. New Yorkers knew that we needed more. We needed more flexibility.

Today we entered into an agreement to enhance the city's ability to deal with and to manage this extraordinary influx of migrants. The stipulation relieved the city of certain obligations under the Callahan, during this emergency, which I hope you heard the Legal Aid Society say today that this is an emergency.

These are extraordinary circumstances. This is not business as usual. The status quo could not have worked in this situation. For adults in our care, we will be able to limit the 30‑day shelter ability and people will not be able to reapply unless there are extenuating circumstances. So, we are going to make individual determinations to see whether or not people need something more, and of course, we are going to deal with people's reasonable accommodations. Thus far, 60 percent of the migrants who have come to us have been able to move on and do other things, and we've been caring for those that stay.

We are also going to be better able to support the young adults that come to us, and so if you are under 23, you'll be able to stay for 60 days. We will, of course, intensify the case management that we've been doing, the over 30,000 applications for TPS and work authorization and asylum that we will be doing, and we will continue to get our newest arrivals and our fellow New Yorkers on the path to what they need.

As we have managed hundreds of people arriving every week, we have been also planning long term and thinking about what we need in order to manage this. I get so frustrated when people say that we're only looking at the emergency and we're not thinking long term.

Today, we are able to preserve the right to shelter, which we think is a good thing, and we are also able to get flexibility. While the ultimate solution for this immigration issue lies with the federal government — and we all know that — this agreement represents the tireless good-faith efforts of everyone here to address one of the biggest crises to ever face the city.

I am incredibly proud of the work that we are able to get done today, and let me for the record in case anybody wonders, I am also really proud of the work that we've been able to do with Legal Aid and our partners. Their ideas, their partnership and their advocacy is very important to the work that we are able to do.

They may not claim us today, but I'm going to claim them. One of the things that I love about New York City is our passionate advocacy community. They are passionate in what they do. It's what makes us different and one of the things that makes New York City a wonderful place to be. They don't necessarily love their clients more than we love our clients, we are all New Yorkers today and we want to make sure that people have what they need.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues and incredible public servants who have worked so hard to make this happen. The corporation counsel, Sylvia Hinds‑Radix, Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack, the chief counsel, Lisa Zornberg, and former chief counsel, Brendan McGuire, First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, Chief Advisor Ingrid Lewis‑Martin, and all the deputy mayors, our Office of Asylum Seeker Operations Interim Director Molly Schaefer, all of the 20‑plus agencies involved in this response including the Department of Social Services, HPD, H + H, the Mayor's Office of Immigration Affairs and Emergency Management. Let me shout out Molly, Molly, Ted, Manny and Zach. This city is so grateful to have each one of you.

And finally, I would like to thank the thousands of city frontline workers, CBOs, faith leaders and other organizations who have stepped up to do this. I think I may not have thanked the mayor. I want to thank the mayor because from day one, he said to us, I need you to do everything that you need to do. No children and families will be sleeping on the street. I need you to make sure people have what they need, and we also need some modifications so that we can manage this the best way we can.

Corporation Counsel, I'm going to let you, do you want to say something?

And of course the team from the Law Department, who we drove them crazy, they were with us from day one. Cheryl, Dan, Jordan, the incredible work. I know people sometimes look at us as bureaucrats. These are proud public servants.

While this is a sobering moment, this is not a moment for celebration and patting each other on the back and throwing shade on each other. This is a sobering moment. We are not through this crisis. What it does, though, it demonstrates what we can do when we come together to meet this pivotal crisis and this moment, what we can do. And we can continue to move New York City forward while we do it. Thank you very much.

Question: Tell us [inaudible] what are the extenuating circumstances, what exactly [inaudible] is it that they have to be, you know, either have a place to live is the standard, or is it, you know, I'm just wondering… 

Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Corporation Counsel, Law Department  An extenuating circumstance can be where you are supposed to leave; however, you’ve signed a lease and you need 10 days to go. That can be considered an extenuating circumstance.

Question: Can an extenuating circumstance be I've been looking for housing, or I'm trying to get a job but I have not been able to find it after my 30 or 60 days. There has been actual good faith efforts and that person no longer has a job… 

Hinds-Radix: We're going to do that assessment on an individual basis. We’ll have individuals who speak to them and find out the issues to make a determination as to whether they have followed the regulations.

Question: If you can't reapply unless you have housing sort of in the works or in the pipeline, then doesn't that mean that the people who need the shelter the most will be the most likely to end up on the street? If you can only reapply after 30 days, if you have housing or some other plan already in the works and doesn't that mean that people [inaudible] to stay are more likely… 

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So, as you know, 60 percent of the folks that we've been working with regarding intensive case management have already moved on, which means that they have found what they've needed and they've been able to take this time to really work to see what's on their next step.

What we want to do is we want to work with people intensely, but we know that an individual assessment needs to be made at the end of those 30 days to see if there's something more that the person needs and so then they can get an extension.

Question: Will there still be a time limit for adult families, for children, for shelter space?

Hinds-Radix: Not with children. This, today, this only has to do with…

Question: So no longer there will be a 60‑day limit for migrant families with children, because right now there's a 60‑day shelter limit.


Question: Oh, okay.

Hinds-Radix: This agreement today does not deal with families with children, so we haven't changed anything that is existing.

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