New York City Migrant Crisis Spills Out onto Streets of Midtown Manhattan

Hundreds of people are sleeping and waiting for help on the sidewalks outside the Roosevelt Hotel, as Mayor Eric Adams warns that the city’s shelter system is on the verge of collapse

A migrant holds a small paper ticket given to him by authorities to mark his place in the queue for the shelter in front of the Hotel Roosevelt on Tuesday.
By Guillermo Molero y Laura Nahmias
August 02, 2023 | 06:44 AM

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Bloomberg — The migrant crisis is spilling out onto the streets of New York, with hundreds of people sleeping and waiting for help on the sidewalks outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

A block away from JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s headquarters, dozens of people, mostly men, waited for a chance at shelter behind a row of metal fences, marking a new phase in the city’s scramble to house and care for the more than 93,000 people who’ve arrived in the past 18 months. In interviews on Tuesday, a handful said they’d been waiting for days.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been warning that the city’s shelter system was on the verge of collapse for months due to its legal requirement to provide housing for anyone who asks for it. He has been pleading for federal intervention and a “decompression strategy” to manage the influx of people.

A year after Texas began busing migrants from its border towns to New York, the inflection point has been reached, said Adams, and New Yorkers may see more people sleeping on the streets as a result. The crisis has become more visible to New Yorkers as employees increasingly return to offices, and those working in the area aren’t sure how to feel about being directly exposed to the hardships


“We need help,” Adams said Monday. “And it’s not going to get any better. From this moment on it’s downhill. There is no more room.”

Some of the migrants, like Giancarlo Vazquez, expressed frustration with what they perceived as inaction by city officials. Vazquez said he and other migrants came to New York City hoping to find work and shelter, unlike other parts of the country where they feared being rejected.

The 42-year-old Venezuelan was among many who were given paper tickets to mark their place in line for a room at the hotel. But others said the system was not enforced and that they had been turned away at other shelters.


“I think they just gave us the tickets to calm us down, to give us the illusion that something is happening” Vazquez said. “We’re supposed to hear an update today, but I don’t know if anything will come of it.”

Some of the office workers at the Metlife Building at 200 Park Avenue — home to its namesake life insurer, law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and others — have appeared reluctant to spend too much time outside the office, according to a security guard working there, who declined to give his name because he’s not authorized to speak for his company. Commuters have expressed concern for their safety amid the growing crowd, the guard said.

Law enforcement didn’t immediately answer a request for information about whether they’ve responded to any complaints at the address.

Adams and members of New York City’s congressional delegation met last week with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in Washington, D.C., to discuss the migrant crisis, and Mayorkas promised he would appoint a liaison to work with the administration on the issue of migrants.

The city has struggled to find enough space to house the migrants, contracting with hotels, converting office buildings and even transforming hotel ballrooms into emergency shelters.

Last week, the city announced plans to convert a long-abandoned psychiatric care facility in Queens into a humanitarian relief center for migrants. The administration has also been sending some migrants out of the city on buses to other parts of the state, sparking lawsuits and emergency orders from other counties.

As the city’s shelter system buckles under the strain of the incoming migrants, Adams has sought to roll back the city’s right-to-shelter law, which was established by a court ruling. He has also announced a new 60-day limit on shelter stays and a campaign to discourage migrants from coming to New York, including handing out fliers at the border.


--With assistance from María Paula Mijares Torres.