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Mayor Eric Adams petitions judge to suspend NYC's right-to-shelter policy for asylum seekers

Adams administration defends right-to-shelter suspension
Adams administration defends right-to-shelter suspension 02:52

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams and key members of his administration have mounted an all-hands-on-deck defense of his decision to ask a judge to suspend a decades-old requirement that the city provide shelter to anyone who needs it.

The mayor says he's trying to prevent a buckling shelter system from crumbling. In 1981, when the right-to-shelter decision was enacted, the city had to house 2,500 people, but times have changed.

Now, it's over 94,000, including asylum seekers and the city's homeless.

CBS2's Marcia Kramer asked the mayor on Wednesday if his move means people will end up on the street.

"Are you afraid people will end up sleeping on the street?" Kramer asked.

"We will get clarity from the court and we're going to make sure that we continue to do everything we have to do to take care of New Yorkers who are here and those who are arriving," Adams said.

READ MORE: Gov. Kathy Hochul urges suburban county executives to reject "bigoted policies," welcome asylum seekers

Kramer caught up with Adams after a press conference in which the mayor was asked about his decision to ask a judge to suspend or modify the city's right-to-shelter law in light of the arrival of more than 70,000 asylum seekers on top of the tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers.

"New York has done its share. Our shelter system is buckling. We are trying to prevent it from collapsing," Adams said.

READ MORE: Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, business leaders call on federal government to expedite work permits for asylum seekers

Seeking a change to the right-to-shelter law is controversial. The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless say they will fight the the move because, "The administration's request to suspend the long-established state constitutional right that protects our clients from the elements is not who we are as a city."

NYC officials discuss the asylum seeker crisis 35:30

The opposition did nothing to deter the city. Deputy Mayor for Health and Services Ann Williams-Isom and other city officials argued that the city has no choice because it is running out of space and fiscal resources. Budget director Jacques Jiha said he now estimates the $4.3 billion price tag could balloon.

"We're looking at a billion dollar gap," Jiha said.

The city has opened up more than 150 hotels and emergency centers.

"At this point, we do not have the physical infrastructure to continue to provide the same level of support to an indefinite number of people," said Manuel Castro, the city's immigration commissioner.

READ MOREDutchess County granted temporary restraining order over New York City's plan to bus asylum seekers there

The mayor's chief counsel, Brendan McGuire, also tried to explain, as the mayor did earlier, that the city wants the court to give it flexibility in where it houses both the homeless population and the asylum seekers.

"The intention here is not to get a court order so that we can shut the door and have thousands of people living on the street," McGuire said.

Mayor Adams' housing chief announces her resignation 02:07

Meanwhile, Jessica Katz, the city's housing commissioner and architect of the mayor's housing plan, announced her decision to step down this summer. It came a day after Adams said he would oppose efforts to reduce homelessness by increasing the number of housing vouchers.

Sources say one factor in Katz's decision is the mayor's opposition to the City Council bills. A spokesman for the mayor told CBS2 he is not opposed to a stand-alone voucher bill, but he says the range of reforms sought by the council will cost $17 billion over five years.

"Put simply," the spokesman said, "these bills would remove our ability to target our limited resources for those most in need."

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