May 16, 2023
Hazel Sanchez: And an outcry from concerned parents and City Council members over public schools being used as temporary housing shelters for asylum seekers.
Dan Mannarino: Last week, Mayor Eric Adams took the steps to suspend some of the Right to Shelter restrictions in order to manage the migrant crisis. Mr. Mayor Adams is joining us this morning to discuss what exactly is next. So good to see you, mayor. Thank you for being here.
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you, Dan. I think at the top of the mind of many New Yorkers is the plan around these schools.
Mayor Adams: Now we want to be clear on that plan. We have 20 standalone gymnasiums throughout the city. They stand alone, they're not a part of the school building. They are on the list of potential locations that we may have to use. We're not there yet, but we need a list to be prepared so if these influx continue that we could accommodate what we have to accommodate. And so that is what we're looking at. 4,200 came last week, potentially 15 buses over the weekend. We must be prepared to manage this crisis.
Mannarino: Yeah, preparation is certainly key. And standalone, you heard Justin Brannan, City Council member, saying, "Well, a standalone doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do." So let me ask you this, because these are temporary. What does temporary mean? So for the migrants and the asylum seekers who are currently at a building, how long will they remain there, how long will that site be a temporary shelter?
Mayor Adams: I'm going to answer that, Dan, but I want you to ask folks who are criticizing our plan, ask them, particularly the electeds, how many times have they been to Washington? How many times have they called the White House? How many times have they lobbied for money for this crisis that I've been talking about for several months in general, but specifically going [inaudible]?
No elected officials has the right to criticize the working men and women who have been managing this crisis if they have not stepped up. How many times have they stepped up for the people of this city like this team has done? So when we talk about temporary, once we get a large influx, like 4,200 in one week or 15 buses we potentially can get over the weekend, we have to bring them in and then find space. That may be upstate, that may be in an old police academy building, that may be inside a warehouse someplace temporarily so we can manage the influx. This is what's called managing a crises that we've managed before in this city.
Sanchez: The parents though, expressing a concern about safety. How are you keeping these locations safe?
Mayor Adams: That's my primary responsibility is to create a safe place for this city. We continue to do it around crime and other areas. What we are doing with the school buildings, we have coordinated with school safety agents, the school safety personnel, the New York City Police Department, our DSS staff, everyone is going to make sure there's no contact between the migrants and our school children if we have to go there.
Because we have to be clear, sometimes we miss the complete narrative. We are not there yet that we're going to have to use those 20 standalone buildings. If we do, we are going to notify the public and let them know. But we must realize we are dealing with the crises that I have been talking about for the last few months.
Mannarino: Yeah. And not to belabor the point here, so an end date for the current buildings, there is no end date, if I'm listening to correctly, right, because the crisis is ongoing?
Mayor Adams: Which current building are we talking about?
Mannarino: The current buildings in Brooklyn and the one on Staten Island, the schools.
Mayor Adams: The one in Brooklyn, we were able to find other locations for those migrant asylum seekers. So that timeframe we needed was a few hours. We needed a few hours. Now we are able to shift them to another location. But while we are waiting for that shifting, you need a place to put people. The building on Staten Island was a closed school that was about to be demolished. The school was closed.
Sanchez: Yeah, how are you choosing these sites and what are the facilities equipped with? Will they be providing showers for these migrants?
Mayor Adams: She's an unsung hero on the team, a woman named Molly who has been up all night long and just coordinating this effort, finding the spot, getting the right dollar amount, where can we place people, building it out. When you think about these everyday New Yorkers who have joined with our local NGOs, CBOs, volunteers, New Yorkers have stepped up as we've always done, but it's unmanageable and it's not sustainable to have people spending 13, 14 hours a day on the front line of these crises. And I take offense when I hear those who have been detached spectators in the bleachers attacking these city workers. All leaders should have been stepping up the way these city workers have been doing. And we have not witnessed that at all.
Mannarino: So I want to ask you about communication because you have been out there talking about this for quite some time. We've talked to you about this plenty of times right here on PIX11 about it. There are some upstate leaders, and while they may be critical, they're zeroing in on communication just saying the overall communication has been poor. They'd be happy to welcome migrants and asylum speakers, but that the communication itself was just not there. What was the communication with some of these leaders?
Mayor Adams: Let's be honest with ourselves, we've been talking about this for months, and not one person upstate raised their hands and said, "Hey, New York City, we know you're the economic engine of the state. We know what you contribute to this entire state. Let us help you with this." There were those who said we didn't even know it was a crisis. Are you kidding me? We've communicated with every municipality prior to bringing them up. Now, some wanted to say, "Well, give us another three weeks so we can figure this out." We don't have another three weeks. Are we kidding ourselves? And you are asking to, can you hit pause for a moment so we can deliberate? No, we can't deliberate. I am immune to those who don't get what I have been saying for months. There is no more room in New York City for this issue. We need help from the federal government and the state government. And Dan, think about this for a moment. We fought and Senator Schumer was able to get $800 million in FEMA money to come to the city. We got less than those who are on the bordering states and the bordering states are using the money, in many cases, that they got to do what? To send buses to New York.
Sanchez: Have you been able to have any conversation with the White House, with President Biden about this?
Mayor Adams: I've communicated with the president several times on this issue. We've communicated with the White House many times on this issue. We communicated with our delegations. And I thank Senator Schumer and Congressman Jeffries and all of our delegation. I spoke with a bipartisan group of congressmen yesterday. We realize where we are. We're the epicenter, as we have been for so many issues, and the city's going to manage it. I'm going to manage this problem and navigate us through this problem.
This is something I've done all my life as a law enforcement, as a state senator and a borough president. And this is the moment that we have to manage this. But we do need help. And it's not right for New York to carry the burden of this crisis.
Mannarino: Mr. Mayor, we're almost out of time, I want to get to some other topics that are pivotal right now to what the conversation's playing out in New York City. A lot of talk about mental health again after the death of Jordan Neely as New Yorkers are on the subway each and every day where numbers are back up to over four million riders. There's a lot of encounters though on the subway that people are dealing with when they come across folks with mental health issues. What do you recommend? Who do you recommend someone call if they see someone struggling on the subway? Is it 911? Is it 311? Is it both?
Mayor Adams: Dan, you recall when I rolled out my mental health plan and I talked about those who are in danger to themselves and can't take care of their basic needs? Remember when I talked about that?
Mayor Adams: That's where we are and that is why I need Albany to step in. But to everyday New Yorkers, if someone is doing something that is dangerous, you should call 911 all the time. The dispatchers will do a combination of having mental health professionals come and law enforcement if it's a crisis situation like we saw someone stab an individual with a knife. And so it's a combination.
If it's just a person that's sleeping on a platform, you call 311 and the proper personnel would come to make sure we give them the needed services. 4,000 people we engage with and we talk them into going into care. Some people stayed in care, some people didn't. But this is why I focus on the subway system, on my subway safety plan. And you know I've been talking about this issue over and over again. It's not a comfortable conversation, but it's a conversation as leaders we must have here.
Sanchez: And just quickly before we let you go, one more topic. Congestion pricing seemingly to be moving forward. Jersey officials are outraged. New Jersey campaign saying move your business to New Jersey. What do you make of that? Are we running out of options here?
Mayor Adams: Well, any business person would tell you that the congestion in the streets is really impacting their business operation. We've heard it over and over again, study after study, the congestion is taking time out of the actual businesses. This is a win. We must get it right. We cannot displace the environmental issues into the Bronx and other locations. So there's some environmental justice to this conversation and make sure it's done fair. And I'm excited and I thank the federal government for doing so, and I really encourage any New Jersey person that doesn't want to go back and forth, just come move to New York. We have businesses, they can be here. We love New York and we love them to come. This is one of the best places to live.
Mannarino: Okay. Touché.
Sanchez: There's one solution.
Mannarino: Mr. Mayor, there you go. Thank you very much.