Adams Begs State to Help Pay NYC’s $4.2 Billion in Migrant Costs

New York Mayor Eric Adams pleaded with state lawmakers to help the city pay the estimated $4.2 billion in costs associated with providing care and shelter to more than 40,000 asylum-seeking migrants.

(Bloomberg) — New York Mayor Eric Adams pleaded with state lawmakers to help the city pay the estimated $4.2 billion in costs associated with providing care and shelter to more than 40,000 asylum-seeking migrants.

The unexpected migrant surge over the past few months is imposing a cost pressure the city can’t manage alone, Adams told lawmakers in Albany Wednesday. Yet Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed $227 billion budget would pay just $1.1 billion of the costs for sheltering and caring for the migrants from Central and South America. 

“While the executive budget contains many shared priorities, the cuts and cost shifts significantly outweigh the assistance the state is providing to address the asylum-seeker crisis,” Adams said in his testimony. 

Caring for the migrants “has been an unbelievable strain on city services,” Adams said, telling lawmakers that the number of homeless people in the city had effectively doubled in less than a year because of the new and rapidly growing migrant population. The influx “has put us on the precipice of just being overwhelmed,” Adams said. 

The city’s budget director, Jacques Jiha, told lawmakers that Hochul’s budget makes the unrealistic assumption that a third of the cost to shelter migrants will be paid for by the federal government. 

“In the Republican-led House, it’s highly unlikely that we’re gonna get anything from the federal government,” Jiha said. 

Adams’s testimony Wednesday, though it included much praise for pieces of the governor’s policy agenda, marked a relatively rare moment of public disagreement between the two Democrats, who have taken pains since Adams took office in January 2022 to highlight their friendly working relationship. That’s a sharp contrast with the bitter acrimony that characterized the relationship between former Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Adams told reporters that despite his disagreements with Hochul over the financial aspects of the budget, “it does not take away our friendship and my respect for her.”

Adams had other concerns about Hochul’s spending plan, including a requirement that the city pay $125 million more for Medicaid costs in the coming fiscal year and $343 million the following year. The budget also requires the city to pay an additional $500 million for the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York City’s subways and buses. The agency is facing a $600 million operating deficit. 

And Adams raised questions about Hochul’s proposal to lift the cap on the number of privately operated charter schools allowed in the city, a policy decision that Adams stressed he neither approved nor disapproved of, but which could ultimately cost the city an additional $1 billion. The city is in a financially precarious position, Adams said, as it faces a possible recession, along with normal budget pressures like an outstanding number of unsettled city labor contracts.

Bail Reform

Last year, Adams, a former state senator and New York City police officer, found himself at odds with fellow Democrats in the legislature, many of them his former colleagues, as he sought major changes to the state’s bail-reform laws that would have made it easier to detain people accused of crimes. 

The legislature ultimately tweaked those bail reform laws in the state’s final budget, making more crimes eligible for bail and adding new factors judges could consider when deciding whether to release or remand people accused of crimes pre-trial. 

Adams’s interactions with lawmakers Wednesday were outwardly more collegial than they were a year ago. The mayor’s annual pilgrimage to Albany to testify on the state budget is more typically an occasion for legislators to grandstand on their own political issues or pick fights over policy differences. But this year lawmakers posed so few questions to the mayor that his testimony ended earlier than expected. 

Adams is asking the legislature to change the state’s criminal justice laws again, to remove a measure requiring judges to impose the “least restrictive” conditions on defendants pre-trial, a change Adams said would allow judges to address the small number of recidivists the city says are responsible for an outsize proportion of the city’s crime rate. 

A group of about 9,000 people represent about 8% of the total number of defendants arrested in 2022, the mayor’s chief counsel, Brendan McGuire, told Albany lawmakers. Those people were responsible for 56% of felony burglaries and 30% of assaults and robberies, McGuire said. 

The recidivists are “making a mockery of the reforms we fought for in the criminal justice system,” Adams told lawmakers. 

–With assistance from Keshia Clukey.

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