A judge on Staten Island has temporarily halted New York City from using a former school as an emergency shelter for migrants. The decision could have significant implications for the city’s longstanding obligation to provide shelter to anyone who requests it. Mayor Eric Adams had issued an emergency order allowing the city to bypass the usual review process for opening homeless shelters, citing the “right to shelter.” However, Justice Wayne Ozzi of the State Supreme Court ruled that this right does not exist and ordered the Staten Island school to be emptied.
The city has struggled to provide housing for the more than 110,000 migrants who have entered its shelter system since last year due to the legal obligation to offer shelter to the homeless. In response to the ruling, a spokeswoman for the mayor stated that they would immediately appeal, believing the ruling to be incorrect and a threat to their efforts to manage the humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Joshua Goldfein, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, which filed the litigation that led to the “right to shelter,” argued that the decision in Staten Island is legally and factually wrong.
The ruling has the potential to complicate matters for the city, which has been arguing in court that the crisis necessitates housing migrants in various locations. The city has also sought relief from the “right to shelter” agreement in a separate case, in an attempt to avoid having to house every migrant. The judge in that case has directed the city to submit proposals for changes to the agreement. The ruling on Staten Island may effectively overturn the “right to shelter” entirely, according to Louis Gelormino, one of the lawyers representing the homeowners and politicians who brought the suit. The case has already gone through one round of legal battles, with the city winning an appeal last month that allowed the shelter to open.