(NewsNation) — A complex of giant tents built on an island, designed as New York City’s latest temporary shelter, opened Wednesday amid an influx of migrants who have been bused into the city from the southern border.
The humanitarian relief center on Randall’s Island is designed to be a temporary stop for single, adult men, who have been sent on chartered buses from the border states to New York City.
The busing began in spring when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to send busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., and New York City in response to President Joe Biden’s decision to lift a pandemic-era emergency health order that restricted migrant entry numbers.
More than 17,000 asylum seekers overall have arrived in the city since April, according to a news release released earlier this month. New York City Mayor Eric Adams earlier this month declared a state of emergency over the influx.
The city’s plan is to bring single men to the facility once they arrive at the main Manhattan bus terminal and to house them there for a period of days while determining next steps, officials said. Families with children are being housed in a hotel.
“We needed a different type of operation that gave us the time and space to welcome people, provide them a warm meal shower, a place to sleep, to understand their medical needs, to really then work with them to figure out what their next step is going to be,” said Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol.
The white, plastic-walled tents also include a space where migrants can meet with case workers to determine their next steps, as well as a recreational room with televisions, video games and board games. In the sleeping area, row upon row of green cots stretch out, each one with a pillow, some sheets and a blanket and some towels. The city said it will be able to double the sleeping capacity of the tents, if needed.
New York City’s homeless shelter system is now bursting with more than 63,300 residents. While there are fewer families in the shelters now than there were in the years before the pandemic, the number of single men has soared since the spring, largely because of the influx of migrants. There were more than 20,000 single adults in the shelter system Monday, up 23% from the nightly average in July.
During a 15-minute address streamed from City Hall two weeks ago, Adams said New York City’s budget is expected to take a $1 billion hit by the end of the fiscal year because of the influx.
“We need help, and we need it now,” said Adams during the address as he declared a state of emergency.
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 subway system is a bus ride or walk away.
It’s already put to a variety of uses — there are numerous athletic fields, as well as Icahn Stadium, a track and field facility. There’s also a psychiatric hospital and a fire academy for the Fire Department of New York.
NewsNation affiliate WPIX and the Associated Press contributed to this report.