As the city faces growing pressure to expand its shelter system, it is turning to vacant hotels for those in need of a roof and a place to sleep.
NEW YORK — The historic Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Manhattan closed three years ago, but it’s soon to be busy again — reopening to accommodate an anticipated influx of asylum seekers just like the rest of the world. Other hotels in New York City are being converted into emergency shelters.
Mayor Eric Adams announced Saturday that the city will use Roosevelt to eventually provide up to 1,000 rooms for migrants expected to arrive in the coming weeks because Expiration of pandemic rulescollectively known as Title 42, which allowed federal officials refuse asylum seekers from the US border with Mexico.
Across the city, hotels like the Roosevelt that once catered to tourists a few years ago are being converted into emergency shelters, many in prime locations within a walking distance of Times Square and the China memorial. World Trade Center and Empire State Building within walking distance. A legal mandate requires the city to provide shelter to anyone who needs it.
Even so, Adams said the city is running out of space for migrants and has sought financial help from state and federal governments.
“New York City now cares for more than 65,000 asylum seekers – has opened more than 140 emergency shelters and eight large-scale humanitarian relief centers outside of this center to manage this national crisis. ,” the mayor said in an announcement statement about President Roosevelt. decision.
The multi-storey hotel near Grand Central Terminal was once the election headquarters of New York Governor Thomas Dewey, who in 1948 is said to have falsely informed Roosevelt that he had defeated Harry Truman to run for president.
Is city faces growing pressure to expand its shelter system, it is becoming vacant hotels for people who need a roof and a place to sleep as they get on with their lives. One of them is the Holiday Inn, located in Manhattan’s Financial District. A few months ago, signs in the lobby windows of a 50-story, 500-room hotel said it was closed.
Scott Markowitz of Tarter Krinsky & Drogin, an attorney for the hotel owner, said reopening as a city-sponsored shelter makes financial sense.
“They rent out every room at the hotel for a set price per night,” says Markowitz, adding that it is bringing in “significantly more revenue” than normal operations would bring. .
The city’s turn to hotels for homeless New Yorkers in the absence of shelter and other options is not new.
During the pandemic, group shelters made it difficult to comply with social distancing rules, prompting the city to rent out hundreds of hotel rooms as a quasi-COVID area. As the pandemic subsides, the city becomes less dependent on hotels.
That changed when thousands of migrants started arriving by bus last year.
The Watson Hotel on West 57th Street, which received rave reviews for its rooftop pool and proximity to Central Park, is now being used as a home for immigrant families.
“It is our moral and legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone who needs it,” the city’s Department of Social Services said in a statement. “As such, we have used and will continue to use every tool we have to meet the needs of every family and individual that comes to us for shelter.”
Prior to the surge in asylum seekers, the city was dealing with rising homelessness, overcrowded shelters, and a dearth of affordable housing. New York even announced a plan to send hundreds of migrants to hotels in suburban Orange and Rockland counties across the Hudson River, angering local leaders.
Vijay Dandapani, president and chief executive officer of the New York City Hotel Association, said the city needs to come up with long-term solutions.
“Hotels are not the solution to these situations,” he said, adding that optical systems pose problems for taxpayers, who may think migrants are living in luxury. at their expense.
But some homeless advocates say the private quarters that hotel rooms offer are a better choice than the barracks-style rooms the city typically offers.
Kassi Keith, 55, one of the city’s homeless residents, welcomed the hotel arrangement.
“Having your own room, what it gives you, it gives you peace of mind,” says Keith. “I can sleep with both eyes closed, you don’t have to open one.”
Earlier this year, dozens of migrants staged a protest after being kicked out of a hotel room and forced to barracks set up at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, where access to public transport is poor. They complained about the cold, lack of privacy and not having enough bathrooms.
The Roosevelt hotel will open for the first time this week as a welcome center for legal and medical information and resources, officials said. It will also open 175 rooms for families with children, then expand the number of rooms to 850. The city says another 150 rooms will be for other asylum seekers.
“When you give people something like a hotel room, you’re more likely to get a positive response,” said David Giffen, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless.
But Giffen said hotels won’t solve the bigger problem of the lack of affordable, permanent housing.
“Behind all of this (is) we have a housing system that has failed to the extent that lower income people end up using the shelter system as the de facto housing system,” he said. economic. “And then the shelter system didn’t have enough beds so we used hotels as a de facto shelter system.”