By Alberto Gilman
Both the Town of Newburgh and the County of Orange have filed lawsuits in an attempt to prevent the lodging of asylum seekers.
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus on Friday filed two lawsuits on behalf of the County to stop the City of New York from sending its homeless migrants and/or asylum seekers to the County.
The first lawsuit is against both the Crossroads Hotel and Ramada by Wyndham, both located in the Town of Newburgh. This lawsuit is to stop these hotels from accepting New York City’s homeless migrants and/or asylum seekers in violation of the Order and Declaration of Emergency issued by Neuhaus earlier this week.
The second lawsuit against New York City and Mayor Eric Adams is to stop the City from establishing unlicensed and unregulated homeless shelters in Orange County for these migrants and/or asylum seekers. Under State Law, the city is prohibited from setting up homeless shelters outside of the five boroughs in the manner it did this week.
Earlier in the week, both the State and City assured the Town of Newburgh and Orange County that no buses with asylum seekers would be here until further notice, according to Neuhaus. However, a day later, asylum seekers arrived at the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh.
“Unlike Rockland County, which had a hotel that wasn’t in compliance with existing permitting requirements, the hotels in Orange County had valid permits to exist as short-term rentals. Accordingly, the time to sue could not effectively start until the individuals Mayor Eric Adams sent here arrived, and these permitted short-term rental units were converted into long-term homeless housing shelters, which is not legal,” explained Orange County Attorney Rick Golden.
The Town of Newburgh, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit on May 12 in Orange County Supreme Court against the owner of the Crossroads Hotel, which is currently housing approximately 50 asylum seekers who arrived on Friday.
On Monday, May 15, the Town of Newburgh Board called a special meeting to formally authorize the seeking an injunction against the hotels for violating the code of the town. According to town zoning codes, the usage of hotels is only for 30 days. Councilman Scott Manley and Councilwoman Betty Greene were not present at the time of the vote, but the remaining councilmen and Town Supervisor Gil Piaquadio voted in favor of seeking an injunction.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the conversion of the hotel to long-term occupancy at the request of New York City, with on-site food, counseling, security, and other services to be provided by the City of New York.
According to the town lawsuit, the Crossroads Hotel has not obtained the necessary variances, approvals and permits from the Town of Newburgh for the publicized conversion to a use that does not comply with the Town’s Zoning Code.
The first of two buses filed with asylum seekers rolled into the parking lot of the Crossroad Hotel Thursdays in the Town of Newburgh. Busloads were also anticipated at the Ramada Inn.
The arrival of approximately 60 adult males, mostly from Venezuela and Bolivia, came two days after both the Town of Newburgh and the County of Orange had declared a state of emergency in an attempt to thwart their arrival from New York City.
The arrival also came just hours after Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus offered assurances that they would not be coming.
“Last night, both the State and City (of New York) assured the Town of Newburgh and Orange County that no buses with asylum seekers would be here until further notice,” Neuhaus wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon.
“However, as many of you know, a bus carrying asylum seekers arrived at the Crossroads Hotel in Newburgh this morning. The blame for this lies with the Mayor of New York, who originally opened the door for as many undocumented immigrants as possible to his self-proclaimed sanctuary city, and the Governor. She has sat back and done nothing as this crisis has negatively impacted New York State. The New York State Police, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Supervisor of the Town of Newburgh and his police department were not notified that these buses would be arriving today.”
New York City is paying for their stay in the Town of Newburgh and elsewhere, with Mayor Eric Adams claiming that his city has no more room for all of the asylum seekers headed his way after crossing the U.S. - Mexican Border.
Piaquadio, who Monday declared a state of emergency, posed several questions that he said were unanswered.
“I told Mayor Adams that the safety of Town of Newburgh residents is of utmost importance,” Piaquadio said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. He questioned if background checks had been performed on the men seeking asylum.
The town supervisor also questioned what would happen to them after their stay at the Crossroads Hotel has ended and how they can access services in an area that is largely residential, with little services within walking distance. The hotel is located on Lakeside Road, near the Ice Times sports complex.
The decision to send asylum seekers upstate came after Adams declared there was no more room for any more in New York City. He announced his intention on May 5 adding that since the Spring of 2022, more than 60,800 asylum seekers have come through the city and over 37,500 asylum seekers are currently in the city’s direct care.
“Despite calling on the federal government for a national decompression strategy since last year, and for a decompression strategy across the state, New York City has been left without the necessary support to manage this crisis. With a vacuum of leadership, we are now being forced to undertake our own decompression strategy,” said Adams in a prepared statement. “This new, voluntary program will provide asylum seekers with temporary housing, access to services and connections to local communities as they build a stable life in New York State.”
The arrival of the asylum seekers drew both protesters and supporters among the local residents. Members of grassroots organization For the Many and local elected officials greeted two buses. They were joined by the Workers Justice Center of New York, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Orange County Legislator Genesis Ramos and City of Newburgh Council member Giselle Martinez.
“I am completely against the rhetoric, messaging, and tone set by the County Executive through his order and supposed state of emergency,” said Ramos, who represents portions of the City and Town of Newburgh. “As a proud daughter of Honduran immigrants, I proudly stand by and support asylum seekers of all backgrounds and completely reject any form of xenophobia, racism, prejudice or violence toward these individuals. We must do better at every level of government to ensure the safety, compassion and support of these folks.”
Martinez echod those comments.
“Shame on our County Executive and media outlets that are using hateful and inflammatory rhetoric to paint asylum seekers as ‘invaders,’” said Martinez. “No human being is illegal. Now is the time to have compassion and welcome folks who have had a difficult journey seeking safety. For a country built by immigrants, we shouldn’t tolerate hate toward new immigrants. We welcome them with open arms.”
Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson said he expressed his outrage in a zoom call with the New York City Mayor.
Throughout this process, Mayor Adams has given us little advance notice and made virtually no effort to coordinate with local officials. The Mayor’s office said they expected to receive significant support from local volunteer groups. This is not a plan, it is a hope and a prayer. They also failed to provide an answer when I asked who would be responsible if some of the migrants left the Newburgh area. I am deeply sympathetic with all these men have suffered on their long journey to this country, and I appreciate that New York City services are reaching capacity, but Mayor Adams is simply not providing sufficient supports.”
State Senator Robert Rolison (R-39) appealed to Gov. Kathy Hochul for help.
“If New York City has indeed, as you write, ‘exceeded capacity in its shelter system,’ why wasn’t additional aid made available to upstate governments to manage the migrant overflow? “ Rolison asked in a letter to the Governor. “What is the short and long-term plan to shelter the approximately 20 homeless US veterans who were displaced from their housing to accommodate the migrants? When will our counties be provided with an actionable timeline of services and resources flowing to the affected upstate communities?”