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Calls mount to shut NYC migrant shelter on Randall's Island. Here's why the city is feeling the heat.

Calls mount to shut NYC migrant shelter on Randall's Island
Calls mount to shut NYC migrant shelter on Randall's Island 02:59

NEW YORK -- The tents have got to go. That's the message from a community group pushing to get a migrant shelter off of Randall's Island.

That group is threatening legal action, but city officials said Tuesday they have no alternatives.

From the outset, community groups did not like the idea of usurping eight acres of ball fields and parkland on Randall's Island for a 3,000-bed migrant shelter. Now, after months of what one group calls violence, fights and reports of illegal activity, the Randall's Island Park Alliance says it's time for the city to fold its tents, remove the cots and hit the road.

"It is to the detriment of all -- those temporarily housed in the park, along with the thousands of New Yorkers being denied access to parkland," the group said in a letter to Mayor Eric Adams. "Moreover, it is illegal, and it is time for it to end."

The letter insists the city violated the law by setting up the shelter without the required environmental reviews and following the legal process for using parkland for a non-park use. And if the city doesn't vacate the shelter by Aug. 8, the alliance said it "would strongly object and are prepared to use all legal recourse."

Why New York City says it has no other options

The move leaves city officials in a quandary because asylum seekers continue to flow into the city -- 1,300 new arrivals last week alone.

"We don't have alternatives. And so this is a way that we're able to stretch our resources and house people and really continue to keep a pace with a flow of migrants that are coming to New York City without having them sleep on the street," Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi said bluntly.

Adams implied that the Randall's Island group was like all the other elected officials who want migrants taken care of, just not where they live. He's apparently planning to write about it.

"When you see some of the hypocrisy of people who say bring us your tired and weak, your huddled masses yearning to be free, but not on my block," Adams said.

Randall's Island Park Alliance seems extremely serious

Kramer reported the group is demanding that the city come up with a plan by June 14 to remove the shelter.

She said the group wants to get rid of the shelter because it wants the parkland back, adding before the shelter was built, kids from all over used to play baseball and soccer and local residents in the neighboring East Harlem community used to go there to picnic and enjoy the scenery. Now, they say there are illegal mopeds speeding across the footbridge and park pathways.

Kramer said a spokesman for the group refused to say what the exact timetable is for bringing a lawsuit, but the city is between a rock and a hard place because it has run out of space and places to open new facilities.

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