Officials show off new migrant relief center on Randall’s Island

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NEW YORK – With some 20,000 migrants now here, New York City is getting ready to open a massive tent city on Randall’s Island

CBS2’s political reporter Marcia Kramer took a tour of the facility, and reports it is massive. 

It’s really a series of tents built to withstand all kinds of weather conditions: Heat, cold, and even – since we’re in hurricane season – 90 mile an hour winds. 

“I want to tell the migrants that New York City is doing the best that we can to make sure that we are welcoming them. We’re doing it in a way that is loving and caring,” said Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom. 

Williams-Isom is talking about the new Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center on Randall’s Island that will help New York City cope with the huge influx of asylum seekers that have flooded the city. Officials say that so far 20,500 migrants have arrived at the Port Authority Bus Terminal after fleeing their home countries in South America. 

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CBS2


Williams-Isom says it’s important to her that the city gets it right because her family came to the United States as immigrants as well. 

“It means a lot to me. My mom is turning 92 on Thursday, and I think she’s very proud of what she’s been able to do, to have access to the American dream. And I feel like I’m honoring her in this work we’re doing,” she said. 

The deputy mayor, along with Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro and Dr. Ted Long, of New York City Health + Hospitals, led a tour of the tent city, erected at a cost of $325,000. That’s in addition to the $325,000 it cost to erect and take down the first center the city tried to build at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Those plans were scrapped after the area flooded during a rain storm.

Watch Marcia Kramer’s report


A look inside NYC’s migrant relief center on Randall’s Island

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As CBS2’s Tim McNicholas reports, immigration advocates like the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless argue there are also concerns at Randall’s Island, but city leaders say the new location is less prone to flooding and closer to public transportation.

The Randall’s Island facility will house single men. 

“The first thing we’re going to do is have one of our staff members go outside to greet you. We’re going to offer you food, snack, water. You’ve come a long way. Your clothes are probably dirty. You probably haven’t showered in some time. That’s not the right mental state to be in to determine where you want to be for the next several years of your life,” Long said. 

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CBS2


The new relief center has everything – every service: Reception rooms to get advice, a cafeteria that will serve three meals a day with a rotating menu of South American dishes, recreation rooms with televisions, Wi-Fi, phones to call relatives back home, even game tables. There are also laundry rooms, bathrooms and showers, and a dormitory tent. 

“You can also see that these structures are pretty robust. These structures themselves can withstand 90 mile-per-hour winds,” Iscol said. 

Officials tell Kramer that in addition to the relief center, the city has opened 55 emergency shelters and is currently housing 15,500 people. 

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine has been collecting donations for asylum seekers. In a phone call with CBS2 on Tuesday, he praised the facility but also called for ferry services and increased bus services for migrants.

The Randall’s Island facility will open Wednesday and will initially house up to 500 men. There is a second dormitory tent that can double the number.

Organizers have said they intend to only keep migrants there for a few days at a time before they move on to other housing, but it’s not clear how or if they will enforce a time limit.



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