New York — A complex of giant tents built on an island is set to hit the international stage on Wednesday as New York City’s latest temporary shelter, The Humanitarian Relief Center on Randall’s Island is intended to be a temporary vestment for single, adult males – many from Venezuelans – who are arriving several times per week on chartered buses, mainly from Texas.
Spartan and utilitarian, the tents include cots for up to 500 people, laundry facilities, a dining hall, and phones for residents to make international calls.
Officials said the city plans to bring single men into the facility after they arrive at the main Manhattan bus terminal and keep them there for a few days while determining next steps. Families with children are being accommodated in a hotel.
“We needed a different type of operation that gave us the time and space to welcome people, give them a hot meal, bathe, a place to sleep, understand their medical needs, really work with them. To find out what their next step is going to be,” Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iskol said.
CBS New York political reporter Marcia CremeMore said Tuesday that the giant tent complex was built to withstand hurricane-strength winds of 90 mph from heat to cold.
“I want to tell immigrants that New York City is doing the best it can to make sure we’re welcoming. We’re doing it in a way that’s loving and caring,” said the city’s deputy mayor, Anne Williams-Isom told CBS New York.
Williams-Isom said that her own family came to the United States as immigrants, and felt it was important to afford the settlers in the dignity of their city.
“It means a lot to me. My mom is turning 92 on Thursday, and I think she’s very proud of what she’s been able to do, to reach the American dream,” she told CBS New York. told. “I think I respect him in the work we’re doing.”
New York City’s homeless shelter system is now bursting with more than 63,300 residents. While there are fewer families in shelters now than in the years before the pandemic, the number of single males has increased since the spring, largely due to an influx of migrants. There were more than 20,000 single adults in the shelter system on Monday, 23% more than the nighttime average in July.
Mayor Eric AdamsEarlier this month, the increased demand is being called “not sustainable” in the city.
The white, plastic-walled tents include a space where migrants can meet with case workers to determine their next steps, as well as a recreational room with TVs, video games, and board games. In the sleeping area, rows of lush planks are spread out row by row, each containing a pillow, a few sheets and a blanket, and a few towels. The city said it would be able to double the sleeping capacity of the tents if needed.
In recent months, New York City has seen an unexpected increase in migrants seeking asylum in the United States, which, The influx has put pressure on the city’s shelter system, forcing officials to look for other places for people to stay and temporary tent facilities were proposed.
The tents were initially planned for a far corner of the Bronx, but were moved to a remote location following concerns about an influx and criticism from immigrant advocates. Iskol said the location at Randall’s Island is protected from flooding.
Advocates remain concerned about the new location, questioning under what circumstances the migrants will be held and whether the support they will receive will be sufficient.
Randall’s Island is located in the waters between the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. Five bridges connect it to the three boroughs, and the city’s metro system is a bus ride or walk away.
The island had already been put to a variety of uses – there are several athletic fields, as well as Icahn Stadium, a track and field facility. There is also a psychiatric hospital and a fire academy for the New York Fire Department.