ORANGEBURG – Officials in Rockland County are opposing a plan by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to place up to 340 single male asylum seekers in an Orangetown hotel by framing the endeavor as an attempt to establish a non-permitted homeless shelter.
In the last two days, legal actions have included:
- Rockland County asking a state Supreme Court judge to ban New York City and the Armani Inn & Suites in Orangeburg from housing immigrant men from the city, saying they have no legal authority to create a temporary shelter. “By the Respondents-Defendants’ own admission, they are mirroring the operation of a homeless shelter by hiring a shelter operator and staff.” According to the court filing, the plan lacks key state approvals needed to operate a homeless shelter.
- Orangetown filed a request Tuesday with state Supreme Court that yielded a temporary restraining order against the hotel. The town maintains that the hotel’s land-use permits and certificate of occupancy do not permit it to house up to 300 single men for up to four months, the plan put forth by Adams. The hotel cannot continue any conversion or take in “non-transient” guests, Judge Christine D’Alessio wrote, “unless or until such use is approved by the Town of Orangetown and any other required governmental authority.” The owners of the hotel and the town are due back before D’Alessio on May 15.
- Also on Tuesday, Rockland County’s Department of Health ordered Armoni closed, saying its temporary residence permit expired April 30. While the county received a renewal application from the hotel this month, County Executive Ed Day said Tuesday that a new permit has not been issued. According to a health department notice hand-delivered to the hotel Tuesday, the county “must review and determine whether a Temporary Residence permit would be appropriate or if a different permit for the announced shelter activity you are preparing to engage in is necessary.”
“The legal status of these individuals is irrelevant,” Orangetown Supervisor Teresa Kenny said Wednesday during a press conference at Orangetown Town Hall, less than a mile from the Armani on Route 303.
Orangetown, in its court filing, provided pictures taken by inspectors that it cited as evidence that the hotel would be used as a shelter for non-transient residents: rooms with twin beds, instead of hotel-style queen beds; boxes of PPE; and boxes of T-shirts labeled “supervisor” and “supervisor social worker.”
Day said Wednesday that the county would continue to fight the relocation plan by Adams, “not because we’re anti-immigrant … our services are already at a breaking point.”
Day and Kenny said it appeared New York City had been planning to place asylum seekers in nearby counties for weeks, if not months.
Despite the legal questions and concerns shared with Adams, Day said Adams pushed ahead. Day called the approach: “Rockland be damned, we are gonna do what we want to do.”
Even after New York City was put on notice by the county, Day said, he had been told a hotel in Nyack had been approached about housing asylum seekers from the city.
NYC taps Rockland, Orange hotels
Rockland and Orange County officials said they were informed by Adams’ office on May 5 that the city was placing up to 340 single male new immigrants in hotels in their municipalities. The Adams administration has said the relocation is part of a plan to make room for a swell of immigrants expected to come to the city after Title 42, a COVID-era immigration ruling that limited access at the U.S. border, expires Thursday.
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Rockland officials have said that the county doesn’t have the kind of support needed to handle a wave of immigrants, citing the struggles nonprofits, government agencies and the East Ramapo school district have already faced with an increase in immigrant families coming to the county.
At Wednesday’s press conference, county Department of Social Services Commissioner Joan Silvestri explained that the county of about 340,000 residents doesn’t have a homeless shelter for single men. They provide families help with shelter and have a warming center, operated by a nonprofit on county-owned property in colder months.
To illustrate the impact of immigrants already coming to Rockland and the stress on services, Day pointed to a multi-family house fire in March that killed five members of an extended family who had immigrated from Guatemala, including a 4-year-old who was a U.S. citizen. The fire was in Spring Valley, where the state tapped the county to take over building code inspections in the wake of a 2021 deadly fire.
New York City, meanwhile, has reported that at least 60,000 new immigrants have come there since last year, including those sent by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He has bused asylum seekers to New York City and other places with Democrats in power, saying that his state shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of what he’s called President Joe Biden’s inaction on immigration policy.
Kathy Hochul declares state of disaster emergency
Day said Wednesday that a call Tuesday with Gov. Kathy Hochul demonstrated that she, too, was left in the dark about the city’s plan.
Day, U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler, R-Pearl River, and others had earlier slammed Hochul for a lack of engagement as Rockland leaders fought the NYC plan.
Hochul late Tuesday issued an executive order declaring a state of disaster emergency in anticipation of Thursday’s expected expiration of the federal Title 42 order and an anticipated wave of New York-bound asylum seekers. This followed state of emergency orders from Rockland and Orange Counties.
The order states that 12,279 have arrived in NYC since January; 1,578 more arrived in the last week. “Several thousands” more are expected to seek shelter each week.
The influx, Hochul’s order states, “is expected to exacerbate an already large-scale humanitarian crisis and create a disaster emergency to which local governments are unable to adequately respond.”
The declaration, in effect through June 8, permits Hochul flexibility to skirt state laws to provide relief and support, which will take several forms.
It allows Hochul to boost by 500 the National Guard members deployed for logistics, bringing the total to 1,500. It also opens state coffers to buy supplies, food and equipment to handle the wave.
“With Title 42 set to expire, the circumstances on the ground are expected to change significantly and this executive order will be an important part of our coordinated response,” Hochul said in a statement. “I have spoken to Mayor Adams and County Executives throughout New York as we work to address this situation.”
Day said Rockland County Sheriff’s deputies staged at the hotel would inform any buses that arrive of the town’s temporary restraining order and the county’s ongoing state of emergency. Attempts to access the hotel could garner fines and misdemeanor charges.
Rockland County Sheriff Lou Falco did not return a call for comment.