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Don’t blame Eric Adams for New York’s migrant crisis

New York mayor Eric Adams described himself as 'Gandhi-like' Credit: Getty

August 17, 2023 - 6:00pm

New York mayor Eric Adams has always been known for his quirky personality and tendency to say odd things. But even longtime Adams-watchers have taken a second look at some of his recent headscratchers. At a housing forum a few months ago, he told an octogenarian tenants’s advocate — who fled the Nazis with her family when she was a child — that she was talking to him as though he was “someone that’s on a plantation that you own”. 

More recently, at a flag-raising for Indian independence (Adams has attended dozens of ceremonial national flag-raisings at Bowling Green Park in Lower Manhattan) the mayor praised Mohandas K. Gandhi, comparing himself to the great-souled liberator of the Subcontinent. “I’m Gandhi-like,” the nightclub-hopping mayor explained. “I think like Gandhi. I act like Gandhi. I want to be like Gandhi.”  

Whether the mayor is in full meltdown-mode remains to be seen, but he has plenty of reasons — not all of them self-inflicted — to be stressed. Owing to a decades-old idealistic homelessness policy, and a sentimental view that New Yorkers hold of themselves as living in the ultimate “city of immigrants”, Eric Adams has inherited a set of circumstances that would drive the most equanimous of municipal leaders around the bend. 

Mass migration from the global South to the rich countries of Europe and North America has been going on for years, through a combination of “push” (geopolitical instability, poverty, etc.) and “pull” (worker shortages, open invitations a la Angela Merkel’s 2015 promise) factors. The election of Joe Biden in 2020, and his promise to end deportations and eliminate his predecessor’s tight border policies, were a pull factor of neodymium proportions. It is estimated around 5.5 million migrants have entered America in the last two and a half years. 

 New York City has found itself hosting approximately 60,000 migrants, which out of a population of close to 9 million shouldn’t be a big deal. 40% of New Yorkers were born abroad anyway, so adding even a few hundred thousand newcomers wouldn’t destabilise a polyglot, multicultural metropolis.  

The problem is that New York City offers an absolute “right to shelter” to anyone who asks for it, without question — the only such locality in America, and quite possibly the world. This guarantee is extended equally to someone who was born in New York and to anyone who has just stepped off a bus from the Mexican border. 

Until recently, the sheltered population of New York City was comprised mainly of single mothers and their children, who were mostly housed in apartment-style accommodations, and a smaller number of single adults in congregate shelters or motels in the outer boroughs. The recent influx of tens of thousands of migrants, who arrive in New York City apparently knowing their shelter rights, has strained the system to the utmost. The city has rented out thousands of hotel rooms in midtown Manhattan, and is desperately trying to figure out where to house masses of people, including at least hundreds if not thousands of single men from West Africa. 

The cost of this largesse is conservatively estimated to run into the billions annually, just for New York City, and it threatens to crater a state and local budget that is already showing signs of intense fiscal stress. The federal government, so far, has shown little enthusiasm to pick up the tab, perhaps knowing that buckets with holes in the bottom never get full. Meanwhile, local progressive politicians anxious not to be identified as Trumpian xenophobes wring their hands and plead for New Yorkers to “come together” over a blatant policy disaster. 

Critics of the “right to shelter” have long surmised that a last-chance safety net could easily become an attraction given the right set of global circumstances. Eric Adams is in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how to disentangle himself and his city from a safety net that has turned into a trap. 


Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind and author of The Last Days of New York.

SethBarronNYC

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Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
11 months ago

When sober, realistic people will no longer have anything to do with public office, the system gets taken over by loons with looney ideas. Demagogues and propagandists with impractical, unworkable, utopian plans. Self-aggrandizers at the expense of thecpublic.

After all, it’s not their money they are throwing away: it’s the money that hard-working people paying in exorbitant taxes. It’s easy to be charitable toward others using someone else’s money. Until, as Margaret Thatcher so aptly pointed out, you run out of other people’s money.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

“…perhaps knowing that buckets with holes in the bottom never get full.”
That has never stopped the printing press before.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerald Arcuri

“…perhaps knowing that buckets with holes in the bottom never get full.”
That has never stopped the printing press before.

Gerald Arcuri
Gerald Arcuri
11 months ago

When sober, realistic people will no longer have anything to do with public office, the system gets taken over by loons with looney ideas. Demagogues and propagandists with impractical, unworkable, utopian plans. Self-aggrandizers at the expense of thecpublic.

After all, it’s not their money they are throwing away: it’s the money that hard-working people paying in exorbitant taxes. It’s easy to be charitable toward others using someone else’s money. Until, as Margaret Thatcher so aptly pointed out, you run out of other people’s money.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
11 months ago

This is like when Trudeau made some typically vacuous syrupy statements about how Canada will never turn people away, etc. This triggered a spike in border crossings from the U.S. Of course he was (as usual) just virtue signalling and we always turn away refugees coming from the US. Trudeau then closed a technical legal loophole that allowed some of them to claim refugee status. This pretty much sums up the progressive mindset – it doesn’t matter what you do – it only matters what you say.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

We have a lot of immigration in Canada, but they bring money or skills. We don’t have endless streams of refugees and migrants crossing the border. We’re lucky to be isolated in that way. Surprised Trudeau has not completely screwed it up, although 500,000 people in one year is getting dangerously high.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

We have a lot of immigration in Canada, but they bring money or skills. We don’t have endless streams of refugees and migrants crossing the border. We’re lucky to be isolated in that way. Surprised Trudeau has not completely screwed it up, although 500,000 people in one year is getting dangerously high.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
11 months ago

This is like when Trudeau made some typically vacuous syrupy statements about how Canada will never turn people away, etc. This triggered a spike in border crossings from the U.S. Of course he was (as usual) just virtue signalling and we always turn away refugees coming from the US. Trudeau then closed a technical legal loophole that allowed some of them to claim refugee status. This pretty much sums up the progressive mindset – it doesn’t matter what you do – it only matters what you say.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

The solution isn’t that hard. End the right to shelter program. It’s not the responsibility of New Yorkers to provide housing for every human that shows up at the door. Or how about demanding that Biden build a wall? Ideology is the only barrier to solving the crisis.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

The solution isn’t that hard. End the right to shelter program. It’s not the responsibility of New Yorkers to provide housing for every human that shows up at the door. Or how about demanding that Biden build a wall? Ideology is the only barrier to solving the crisis.

Clara B
Clara B
11 months ago

I do wonder at the naivety of people who espouse right to shelter and similar policies; their understanding of human nature is decidedly adolescent, at the level of the 6th form debating society. Inevitably, people from parts of the world where opportunities are limited will seek to better their fortunes in wealthier countries (especially if they can access housing, education and healthcare) if they have the means to and are allowed to by receiving countries. In an era of cheap international travel, social media images of the good life and rampant population growth in most African countries (a quadrupling of numbers from the 60’s in most cases), this will happen more and more. If western societies are to survive, this needs to be curtailed or the numbers will quickly become overwhelming. This is so basic. It doesn’t require any great intelligence or insight to work this out. Yet, apparently intelligent people – many of whom are (dangerously) in power – seem incapable of it. Or maybe they just like to look good and say all the right things. In which case, not only are they naïve but they are cowards and should not be in power.

Clara B
Clara B
11 months ago

I do wonder at the naivety of people who espouse right to shelter and similar policies; their understanding of human nature is decidedly adolescent, at the level of the 6th form debating society. Inevitably, people from parts of the world where opportunities are limited will seek to better their fortunes in wealthier countries (especially if they can access housing, education and healthcare) if they have the means to and are allowed to by receiving countries. In an era of cheap international travel, social media images of the good life and rampant population growth in most African countries (a quadrupling of numbers from the 60’s in most cases), this will happen more and more. If western societies are to survive, this needs to be curtailed or the numbers will quickly become overwhelming. This is so basic. It doesn’t require any great intelligence or insight to work this out. Yet, apparently intelligent people – many of whom are (dangerously) in power – seem incapable of it. Or maybe they just like to look good and say all the right things. In which case, not only are they naïve but they are cowards and should not be in power.

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips
11 months ago

You just shake your head in disbelief that these ideas ever get taken seriously, let alone implemented. Ultimately, if you base your entire outlook on “being nice”, then this is where you end up.
Of course, I don’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to people, obviously you should. But there comes a time when you have to say “sorry, we can’t afford this”. Just shows how divorced from reality these progressive politicians are.
Coming to a city near you soon.

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips
11 months ago

You just shake your head in disbelief that these ideas ever get taken seriously, let alone implemented. Ultimately, if you base your entire outlook on “being nice”, then this is where you end up.
Of course, I don’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to people, obviously you should. But there comes a time when you have to say “sorry, we can’t afford this”. Just shows how divorced from reality these progressive politicians are.
Coming to a city near you soon.

polidori redux
polidori redux
11 months ago

“…could easily become an attraction given the right set of global circumstances.”
Let me correct that for you: “Would become, whatever the circumstances”

Last edited 11 months ago by polidori redux
polidori redux
polidori redux
11 months ago

“…could easily become an attraction given the right set of global circumstances.”
Let me correct that for you: “Would become, whatever the circumstances”

Last edited 11 months ago by polidori redux
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago

New York City had a chance to right itself after the DeBlasio debacle, but it chose suicide instead. Eric Adams couldn’t mow a lawn without cutting off his feet.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
10 months ago

What the essay neglects to mention is that 500,000 Americans have left New York City over the past 4 years taking about $60 BILLION tax dollars with them – and in turn causing NY state to lose a seat or two in Congress. So add to this loss, the cost of housing 100,000 illegal migrants, many of them single men. Being a sanctuary city is a disastrous policy for the city and will only contribute to higher taxes, less income (less hotel tourist tax income!) and instability. New York is a mess right now and it looks and feels it. It’s the way Democrats roll nowadays. Ain’t Progressivism grand?

Last edited 10 months ago by Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
10 months ago

What the essay neglects to mention is that 500,000 Americans have left New York City over the past 4 years taking about $60 BILLION tax dollars with them – and in turn causing NY state to lose a seat or two in Congress. So add to this loss, the cost of housing 100,000 illegal migrants, many of them single men. Being a sanctuary city is a disastrous policy for the city and will only contribute to higher taxes, less income (less hotel tourist tax income!) and instability. New York is a mess right now and it looks and feels it. It’s the way Democrats roll nowadays. Ain’t Progressivism grand?

Last edited 10 months ago by Cathy Carron
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
11 months ago

New York City had a chance to right itself after the DeBlasio debacle, but it chose suicide instead. Eric Adams couldn’t mow a lawn without cutting off his feet.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 months ago

The massive migrations of the 19th and early twentieth centuries from Europe to North America and Australasia were in a period of minimal state welfare, and far greater tolerance of slum housing conditions than today.
As the welfare state has grown enormously since WW2, especially since the 1960s, and the tolerance of crowded slum housing is near zero, so the cost of immigration has soared.
This is not the New York (or Melbourne, or London or even Toronto) of the 1800s, or even the 1940s and it’s pointless harking back to romantic visions of poor huddled masses yearning to be free.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago

Indeed. Poor huddled masses yearning to be American. Many of today’s migrants illegal aliens have no interest in becoming Americans.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
10 months ago

Indeed. Poor huddled masses yearning to be American. Many of today’s migrants illegal aliens have no interest in becoming Americans.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
11 months ago

The massive migrations of the 19th and early twentieth centuries from Europe to North America and Australasia were in a period of minimal state welfare, and far greater tolerance of slum housing conditions than today.
As the welfare state has grown enormously since WW2, especially since the 1960s, and the tolerance of crowded slum housing is near zero, so the cost of immigration has soared.
This is not the New York (or Melbourne, or London or even Toronto) of the 1800s, or even the 1940s and it’s pointless harking back to romantic visions of poor huddled masses yearning to be free.

Marko Bee
Marko Bee
10 months ago

“New York City has found itself hosting approximately 60,000 migrants…

60,000 out of the (low) estimate of 5.5 million people in the last two years equals 1.09%. 

This is a Democrat problem, in a Democrat city, in a Democrat state under the “leadership“ of a Democrat president. 

I fled New York in February of this year, after decades of living in an oppressive system. This problem is entirely of their own doing, and it should be entirely their responsibility for undoing it. 

Marko Bee
Marko Bee
10 months ago

“New York City has found itself hosting approximately 60,000 migrants…

60,000 out of the (low) estimate of 5.5 million people in the last two years equals 1.09%. 

This is a Democrat problem, in a Democrat city, in a Democrat state under the “leadership“ of a Democrat president. 

I fled New York in February of this year, after decades of living in an oppressive system. This problem is entirely of their own doing, and it should be entirely their responsibility for undoing it. 

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
11 months ago

See also: “safe passage”.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
11 months ago

See also: “safe passage”.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

Blue cities with black mayors will continue to get it good and hard. I denounce myself for racism.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 months ago

Blue cities with black mayors will continue to get it good and hard. I denounce myself for racism.