Struggling to support thousands of migrants in local shelters, CM Crystal Hudson says district has received ‘no material support’ from City Hall

crystal hudson
In an open letter to Mayor Eric Adams, Council Member Crystal Hudson said City Hall hasn’t done enough to support migrants in her district.
Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Thousands of migrants are living in shelters in Council Member Crystal Hudson’s district, and they – and the neighborhoods they’re located in – need more help from the city government, Hudson said in a May 6 open letter to Mayor Eric Adams.

Hudson said her community has received “no material support” from City Hall. Her office and a host of local community organizations have stepped up to raise money, gather supplies, and provide resources for the roughly 4,000 migrants living in two Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers in District 35, she wrote, but it’s not enough.

“Despite our shared efforts, the reality is that an influx in the population requires an increase in the resources our communities need,” Hudson wrote. “More people means more trash, greater use of public facilities like parks, and more neighborly disputes around issues like noise or loitering. My office and my neighbors have been asking for your assistance for the better part of a year to no avail.”

migrant shelter in clinton hill
The Hall Street shelter in Clinton Hill houses roughly 3,000 people. Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Less than a year after it opened, a massive shelter operated by NYC Health + Hospitals on Hall Street in Hudson’s district now houses roughly 3,000 people, according to news outlet THE CITY, with space for thousands more. A new 387-room migrant shelter on Ryerson Street opened last month. The shelter is slated to house hundreds of single adults before transitioning to a family shelter, according to a notice provided to Community Board 2.

The shelters have drawn criticism from some neighbors, who are frustrated with the uptick in trash and people in the neighborhood, and has left local organizations scrambling to provide resources. 

On May 7, a day after she sent the letter, an X user posted a photo of a mock “MISSING” flier featuring Hudson. The flier, which the poster said was hung in District 35, said Hudson had been “MIA” on the migrant shelter issue.

“This situation is unsafe and unsustainable,” the flier reads. “Shelter and neighborhood residents need your help.” 

However, Hudson maintained that she has not been the one missing in action.

The pol told Brooklyn Paper she has been trying to organize a Town Hall meeting with the mayor’s office and relevant city agencies — like NYC Health + Hospitals, who run the HERCC sites, and the Sanitation and Parks Departments — to address resident concerns regarding the shelters.

But she has been unsuccessful, she said, despite having called and texted the mayor and his advisors — and filled out the contentious online engagement sheet. Hudson has allocated nearly $200,000 of her $2 million discretionary budget toward sanitation services and migrant support, she said, and plans to do the same in Fiscal Year 2025. 

“My team and I have been working on this for the better part of a year, we’ve poured all the resources and energy that we have that we can pour into it,” Hudson said. “But he’s got more resources, and more staff, and also more answers than I do, frankly.”

eric adams
Hudson said the mayor has more resources and staff than her district office. Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Of particular concern for the migrants themselves are mental health and language-inclusive services, Hudson said. Many of the nearly 200,000 migrants who have arrived in New York City since 2022 are from Western Africa, and speak languages like Wolof, Fula, and Bambara. 

Without language-inclusive services, they struggle to access assistance. At an April 16 City Council hearing about Black migrants in New York City, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said many didn’t even know they could seek medical help at public hospitals — which he said may have been due to language barriers. 

A few months ago, Hudson said, her office partnered up with One Love Community Fridge, who have a host of African volunteers who were able to provide translation and services to migrants in Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights. 

One of those organizations, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, has been working to support migrants for just over a year, spox Nekessa Opoti told Brooklyn Paper in an email. BAJI has provided clothing, personal care items, and various trainings to residents of the Hall Street Shelter and the Stockton Street Respite Center in Bed-Stuy.

“We have been concerned that the city is not only ill-prepared but is also reluctant to support this vulnerable population,” Opoti said.

The Hall Street Shelter, like many other shelters is “currently unequipped” to support Black asylum-seekers, she said, especially those who have fled war, conflict, or political violence. 

Without proper support, like health and mental health care, migrants often suffer increased racial targeting and discriminatory practices — and may be more likely to be arrested or incarcerated, Opoti said, which could end their ability to legally seek asylum.

“Community organizations like BAJI  have stepped in where both the city and state government have failed,” Opoti said. “Police, private security, and surveillance in these shelters cannot and do not provide culturally competent, trauma-informed care, such as health and mental health services, case management and community navigation for which direct-service organizations and mutual aid groups have stepped up to take on as the Adams’ administration and city government agencies continue to fail to welcome and support all people with systems of care regardless of immigration status.”

In the letter, Hudson encouraged Adams to use leftover money in the city budget to fund city services like libraries and senior centers as well as programs for newly-arrived migrants and the communities they’re living in. 

migrants outside city hall
Hundreds of migrants from Africa rallied for services at City Hall last month. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit

Earlier this year, Adams announced he would walk back planned budget cuts for city agencies, and would instead slash the budget for migrant services.

“As we manage hundreds of people who continue to arrive in our city every day, we are doing so more efficiently and in a more cost-effective manner by looking toward long-term planning and management to stabilize and protect our shelter system,” said City Hall spokesperson Amaris Cockfield, in a statement. “This ensures New York City can continue to support those most in need, and deliver important services for all New Yorkers.”

Cockfield added that employees are working hard in the HERCCs 24/7, and said City Hall appreciates Hudson’s “partnership in this very important work to house and care for over 65,000 migrants still in our system.”

hudson at migrant rally
Hudson joined the rally for migrant services outside City Hall on April 16. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit

The rep did not confirm whether City Hall had been in touch with Hudson, or comment on the council member’s request for a Town Hall.

In the letter, Hudson criticized Adams for “punting” responsibility for the migrant crisis to state and federal officials. While the city does need more funding from the state and the feds, and the U.S. immigration policy needs to be reformed, she said the city has more than enough resources to help out in and around HERRCs. 

“This isn’t about politics, and it’s not about me, it’s about the community,” Hudson said. “Folks want answers, they want resources, they need help. I’m limited in what I’m able to provide, so we need to hear from the mayor.”

Asked about the Hall Street shelter and Hudson’s concerns at a press conference on Tuesday, Adams said the city’s leadership regarding the migrant crisis has been “amazing,” and that local politicians must urge the federal government to “do its job.”

“I encourage the councilwoman in that area, who seemed to have taken a shift in her belief on this area, because now it’s local, I encourage her to go to the Port Authority, hop on a bus, go to D.C., like I did [ten times,] and say [to] the federal government to do their job,” Adams said. 

Responding to Adams’ remarks on X, Hudson said she has not shifted her beliefs. 

“Our city and the migrants seeking to build a life here are being let down by our state and federal counterparts,” she said. “My letter to you makes that clear.”