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New York City's Right to Shelter battle heads to court

New York City, state facing off in court over right to shelter
New York City, state facing off in court over right to shelter 02:58

NEW YORK - The city and state faced off in court Wednesday in a high stakes battle over the right to shelter.

More than 104,000 asylum seekers have come through New York City since the spring of 2022, and more than 3,000 arrived last week alone.

With the new shelters filling up rapidly, there is more pressure on the White House and Gov. Kathy Hochul to help the city, but White House reluctance means the court battle will put Hochul in the hot seat.

From Israel, Mayor Eric Adams warned again that all New Yorkers face dire consequences if the governor doesn't step up.

"No one should be surprised at what we're facing because if we don't stop the flow and if we don't allow people to work, this is going to have a major impact on every delivery of service for the city of New York," Adams said.

City officials are pushing, pushing, pushing for more help in coping with the ever-increasing flow of asylum seekers coming here.

"We need placements outside of New York City. I think that's very important for us to see our way through this," Deputy Mayor Anne WIlliams-Isom said.

Williams-Isom made the same argument city attorneys made in court -- that the governor needs to sign an executive order to force localities to welcome asylum seekers into their communities.

Legal Aid attorneys joined the city.

"We would all be better off if, you know, the governor would take control of the situation, would ensure that people could go where they need to go," said Joshua Goldfein, with the Legal Aid Society.

Hearing today on NYC's Right to Shelter for asylum seekers 04:42

With a new surge of asylum seekers filling up shelters almost as fast as the city opens them, city attorneys are arguing for several things: 

  • Some relief from the consent degree signed decades ago ensuring that everyone who needs a bed gets one
  • More help from Washington
  • And for Hochul to take a bigger role in helping the city

Goldfein extolled the benefits of moving the asylum seekers to other areas of New York. 

"You know, we have communities of the state that are in need of labor. They have need of seasonal labor and also long term work. They have declining school enrollments/ We've seen communities around the state revitalized by resettlements in the past, and there's no reason that couldn't continue," Goldfein said. 

The governor was nearly 250 miles away, eating a hot dog and extolling the virtues of the New York STate Fair.

City officials say allowing asylum seekers to get work permits would help dispel some of the reluctance of other localities to put out the welcome mat.

"Having work authorization will make it much easier for us to help resettle migrants to other jurisdictions, many who right now are hesitant because they don't want to have a group of people that are in their towns or in their communities that can't work," Williams-Isom said.

"There's a lot of misperception around who migrates during forced migrations. A lot of times, people think it's the poorest of the poor. It's usually not. It's usually people who are professionals, people that were in the middle class, people with real trades and skills," Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said.

Hochul, a Buffalo native, has repeatedly resisted that, mainly because of local resistance. She apparently doesn't want the Right to Shelter law to be applied statewide, which is ironic because at the state fair she talked about the many problems faced by local famers. 

"Finding workers - another enormous challenge, something I'm working hard on every single day," Hochul said. 

CBS New York's Marcia Kramer recently asked Hochul about sending asylum seekers upstate to help with the harvest. She said she couldn't without federal work authorization from the White House. 

After Wednesday's court hearing, Legal Aid attorneys said there was more cooperation between the city and the state, but there is a "long way to go" before an agreement can be reached. The negotiations continue.

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