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Largest migrant relief center in NYC opens on Randall's Island

New York City’s largest relief center for migrants opened Sunday on Randall’s Island, where officials said there will be enough space for up to 3,000 new arrivals.

The sprawling tent facility is designed to house adult asylum seekers — and its opening comes as city officials report more than 100,000 migrants have passed through the five boroughs since last year, about 58,000 of whom remain in the city’s care.

City officials have deployed MTA buses to help transport people staying in the tents between the island and Manhattan or Queens — and said security guards will be stationed at the space around the clock.

The city temporarily opened another smaller relief center on Randall’s Island last year. Manuel Castro, the city’s commissioner of immigration affairs, said during a news conference that the new tent facilities provide better housing for migrants than many other shelters across the five boroughs.

“These facilities are well constructed,” said Castro. “They have quite a lot of ample space for migrants, for asylum seekers to congregate and spread out to. And in fact, when we spoke with asylum seekers who stayed here in October, they actually really enjoyed these spaces.”

The new center includes three sleeping tents with cots laid from end-to-end, a cafeteria tent filled with large picnic tables and dozens of other tents and trailers filled with toilets, showers and medical clinics. Crews on Sunday were still constructing another tent where migrants will be able to sleep.

The new migrant relief center at Randall’s Island is made up of dozens of tents.

Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky

The facility straddles three sports fields in an idyllic location on the southern tip of Randall’s Island near a popular park where families go to relax.

Nabou Ba, who was barbecuing with her family near the tents, said housing the new arrivals is more important than her own day in the park.

“They are human beings and need a place to stay,” Ba said. “If we have to give up the whole park for this, I think we should. As a human being, I think this is great.”

Officials welcomed the first group of young men at the center as they arrived on an MTA bus Sunday afternoon. They wore masks and dragged shopping bags and suitcases filled with belongings.

The first of the migrants who arrived at the new relief center on Randall’s Island on Sunday.

Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky

Last month, crowds of migrants sleeping on the streets outside the city’s main intake center at the Roosevelt Hotel received national attention. Officials said they continue to find enough space to house the new arrivals.

“We’ve exhausted all other options that we have for existing places in New York City that would be suitable to house people,” said Ted Long, a senior vice president at NYC Health+Hospitals who’s helping to oversee the migrant relief centers. “We’ve converted office buildings. We’ve gone to a variety of locations for our respite centers. At this point, because we’ve exhausted existing sites we are building or constructing new sites in parks and parking lots.”

City officials said the new emergency shelter will be paid for with state funds, but did not immediately know the final price tag for its construction and operation. Officials estimated they’ll spend more than $4 billion on housing and services for new migrants by the end of next year.

Castro called for more support from the federal government to help manage the surge of new arrivals.

“While NYC may be a city of immigrants, it’s not a city of infinite resources,” Castro said.

Mayor Eric Adams has in recent months repeatedly called on the White House to grant work authorization to the new arrivals so they can provide for themselves.


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