New York City is considering bringing back the controversial tent complex that had temporarily housed asylum seekers.
Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said Monday during a City Council hearing that tent facilities could be reinstated if there’s an influx of new arrivals, as anticipated.
“Everything is on the table right now,” Iscol told Council members. “This is an unprecedented emergency.”
Iscol’s remarks come as a controversial federal rule — used by both the Trump and Biden administrations — to prevent asylum seekers from coming into the U.S. during a public health emergency is set to expire Dec. 21. The end of so-called Title 42 would result in as many as 1,000 migrants coming to New York each week, Mayor Eric Adams estimated Sunday.
City officials say more than 30,000 migrants have arrived in New York City in recent months, mostly by bus. The city opened about 60 emergency shelters and four Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, or HERCs, inside hotels to meet the temporary housing needs.
Iscol said the plan to house up to 1,000 men at a tent structure on Randall’s Island was abandoned in November — less than a month after it opened — because the pace of migrants arriving to New York City slowed.
“It was remarkable, that operation. There was not a need for it at that time because the buses stopped coming,” Iscol said during an exchange with Councilmember Shahana Hanif, leaving open the possibility that the Randall’s Island tent city could be reopened.
Hanif pressed Iscol for a definitive answer.
“Yes, we’re considering it,” Iscol replied.
The plan to house people in tent structures was widely criticized by Council members and immigrant and housing advocates for being remotely located and for lacking compassion as winter approached.
Roughly 525 men stayed at the HERC on Randall’s Island. After closing, the city began utilizing the Watson Hotel in Midtown to house single men.