Red Hook

NYC to build Emergency Relief Center in Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

Gov’t says center will provide housing, services to migrants currently in Midtown

January 24, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal has been chosen as the site for a temporary coronavirus field hospital by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Shown: The Queen Mary 2 docked at the Cruise Terminal. File photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle
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RED HOOK – The city government announced Saturday that the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook will be converted into a Emergency Humanitarian Response and Relief Center throughout the coming weeks. City officials wrote a letter to the Biden administration on Jan. 20 requesting immediate aid to help with the influx of migrants arriving from Southern states, especially Texas and Florida.

The shelter at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will remain open until spring, when cruise season begins, and the center will house approximately 1,000 single male asylum seekers. The single men currently housed at the Watson Hotel humanitarian relief center in Midtown will be transferred to the center at Red Hook.

The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless have raised concern over whether the Red Hook facility will meet the city’s Right to Shelter requirements, and criticized local, state and national governments for utilizing migrants as ‘chess pieces’ in a larger game of hot potato.

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“Not only do we have concerns with the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers’ ability to comply with the City’s Right to Shelter obligations, but the forthcoming HERRC at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal announced today is also in a high-risk flood zone, according to the City’s own maps, and will needlessly expose future residents to the elements during some of the coldest months of the year,” said the Legal Aid Society in a statement on Jan. 21.

“Hotels have always been the better short-term option, in contrast to erecting tents in inaccessible parts of New York City that are prone to flooding.

“Instead of wasting more taxpayer dollars on HERRCs and jeopardizing the safety of migrants in need of relief, the city must utilize existing voucher programs, such as CityFHEPS, to help homeless New Yorkers move into permanent housing, thereby allowing shelters to accommodate new entrants.

“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, and it’s especially frustrating that Mayor Adams continues to disregard the alternatives we have recommended since this crisis broke last year.”

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (NY-22) represents the district in which the shelter is located, and released a statement on Twitter Sunday, declaring that the Red Hook Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal would not ‘be without its challenges.’

“This location will temporarily house up to 1,000 individuals while they transition to their ultimate destination or to more permanent housing, the placement of the HERRC in the small community of Red Hook will not be without its challenges,” wrote Gounardes.

“My office and I will do everything we can to ensure that the impact on the community is minimized to every extent possible, as well as working with the community to welcome our new neighbors with dignity and respect.”

Shelter populations in the city have increased 40% compared to 2022, according to the open letter from officials – the city comptroller, public advocate, and borough presidents of Brooklyn, The Bronx and Manhattan as well as 28 council members – to the Biden administration. New arrivals constitute one-third of the city’s shelter population.

“With the Statue of Liberty in our harbor, New York City has long been a destination for immigrants fleeing war and violence, seeking safety and opportunity,” the officials said to the Biden administration Friday, seeking emergency funding and services from federal agencies.

“Unlike previous waves of immigration, the people arriving today enter the United States at a moment where our broken immigration system provides few pathways for legal migration or work authorization. New York City has made historic investments in providing free legal services to immigrants, spending $67 million in 2022 alone. While this legal aid has been critical to assisting eligible immigrants and asylum seekers to obtain the legal authorization they need to remain in [the] country, bureaucratic delays within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement have caused an immense backlog in New York City immigration courts with over 124,000 cases pending as of December 2022. As a result, the legal process may take years.

“Because those arriving here today are not legally able to work, they are denied the ability to provide for themselves and their families, increasing their need for shelter and services. So many of the individuals who are currently in our shelter system are eager to work, and there are many employment opportunities in our city. We strongly encourage your Administration to expand its Temporary Protected Status program and increase the number of work permits for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Senegal and Venezuela as we have rightly done for those from Afghanistan and Ukraine.”

“With more than 41,000 asylum seekers arriving in New York City since last spring and nearly 28,000 asylum seekers currently in our care, our city is at its breaking point,” said Mayor Eric Adams on Jan. 21.

“We continue to surpass both our moral and legal obligations and meet the needs of people arriving in New York, but as the number of asylum seekers continues to grow, we are in serious need of support from both our state and federal governments. This fifth Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center will provide approximately 1,000 asylum seekers with a place to stay, access support, and get to their final destination.”

Since the humanitarian crisis began, the city has taken urgent action managing the arrival of a rapidly increasing number of buses arriving in NYC with virtually no coordination from the states that are sending them.

The city has 77 hotels as emergency shelters and four other humanitarian relief centers already. The city is operating navigation centers to connect asylum seekers with critical resources and continues to enroll children in public schools through Project Open Arms.

“We know this task before us,” Adams said.

“We are going to fulfill our moral, legal obligation,” Adams said at a press event on Sunday.

“We were there when the Ukrainian war took place to allocate resources for those who seek refuge here. We were there during the Haitian crisis to be there and even during the hurricane, going to Haiti to be there with the people. We are constantly there. That’s who we are as New Yorkers.”

“And when we go to our national government and say, ‘We need help,’ that is not turning away our brothers and sister human beings that is saying that we must stand up to who we say we are as a country. There is a reason that the Statue of Liberty sits in our harbor because we say, ‘Welcome those who come here,’ but we deserve their support from our national government in the process.”

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