By: Jennifer Peltz
New York City is temporarily turning a cruise ship terminal into a shelter and services hub for asylum-seekers, Mayor Eric Adams said Saturday, announcing the latest in a series of facilities the city has set up — and sometimes shut down — as it strains to handle an ongoing influx.
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will have room, food, medical care and other services for 1,000 single men until it reverts to the cruise business in springtime, the mayor’s office said in a release. Its first occupants will move from another relief center at a hotel, which will switch to accommodating asylum-seeking families with children.
“Our city is at its breaking point,” said Adams, a Democrat who has repeatedly pleaded for state and federal assistance to address the flow of asylum-seekers — some of them bused by out-of-state governors — to the nation’s most populous city. Adams traveled this week to El Paso, Texas, to visit the southern U.S. border and press the point. He declared a state of emergency over the issue this fall.
Altogether, 41,000 asylum-seekers have come to the city since last spring, according to the mayor. With the terminal, the city will have five such “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief” centers for the nearly 28,000 asylum-seekers it is currently housing and those who may yet arrive. Some 77 hotels also have been tapped as emergency shelters.
The city’s previous moves to create shelters for the newcomers have gotten a mixed reception and usage. A plan to erect a hangar-sized tent in a beach parking lot was scrapped amid concerns about storm flooding. The city then built a complex of giant tents on an island that houses a park and sports facilities; the tent facility closed three weeks later after light usage as the number of arrivals slowed for a time.
Some advocates for people who need shelter criticized the cruise ship terminal plan, saying that the waterfront building could flood and is ill-suited to housing people. Hotels are a better short-term option, and the longer-term plan should be to free up space in the city’s existing homeless shelters by making more robust efforts to get their occupants permanent housing, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said.
“Continuing to move asylum seekers around the boroughs like chess pieces is callous and indicative of City Hall’s failure to competently manage this crisis,” the groups said in a statement.
Adams said city officials “continue to surpass both our moral and legal obligations and meet the needs of people arriving in New York.”
In other New York City news, the AP reported on Saturday that a Queens house fire that killed one person and injured 10 others was sparked by a lithium-ion battery, the fire department said Saturday. It adds to a series of battery blazes that have caused concern in the city.
The latest ripped through two floors of a home on 89th Street, a few blocks from LaGuardia Airport, around 11 p.m. Friday.
One occupant was pronounced dead at a hospital after being found on the home’s second floor, suffering from smoke inhalation, police said in a release. The fire department said 10 other people, including four firefighters, were taken to hospitals for treatment, at least seven of them with minor injuries.
Fire marshals later determined that a lithium-ion battery caused the blaze, the fire department tweeted Saturday.
Commercially available since the early 1990s, lithium-ion batteries are the familiar, rechargeable power source for many phones, laptop computers, vehicles and other devices. Fires can happen if the batteries are overcharged, overheated, defective or damaged.