“I was not aware of it until I saw the report yesterday,” Iscol responded.
“Will this revelation end our relationship with this company?” Hanif followed up.
“It will not,” Iscol responded.
Iscol defended the city’s decision to use SLSCO. He said the company had been contracted to do emergency services for the city throughout the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021, and that their work included running vaccination sites and building several field hospitals.
“We have done tremendous work with them in the past, and it’s one of the reasons we are comfortable working with that company in this emergency, as well, where we have to circumvent some of the procurement policies and procedures that are in place for contacts,” said Iscol.
The emergency services commissioner added that he’s not happy with SLSCO’s previous work on border wall construction, but “that’s the nature of dealing with an emergency.”
All hands-on deck
New York City is presently engulfed in what Mayor Eric Adams has called “ a humanitarian crisis ,” as more than 14,800 asylum seekers and migrants from beyond the southern border have arrived this year, many via buses from Texas and Arizona.
Immigration Services Commissioner Manuel Castro testified on Friday that four-to-nine buses full of migrants arrive each day at the Port Authority in Manhattan; Molly Park, first deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, said 300-to-500 asylum seekers enter the city’s homeless system every day.
With its homeless shelter system surging beyond capacity to more than 59,000 this month, the Adams administration has needed to take unprecedented measures to provide services to asylum seekers.
On Friday members of Health + Hospitals and the Department of Homeless Services testified to the variety of services the city is providing the new arrivals. They include:
• Hot food and water from a H+H “comfort team” at the Port Authority bus terminal.
• Medical and wellness checks, including mental health monitoring.
• Free and confidential case management for individuals and families at the Asylum Seeker Resource Navigation Center on West 49th Street, run in coordination with Catholic Charities.
• Transportation services coordinated with Team TLC, an immigration services nonprofit.
• Interpreters and language service providers.
But even Adams administration officials noted there’s only so much they can do. Neither Iscol or Castro could give a full account of the total cost of these new services. Park could only say the services will result in “a very significant increase” in the DHS budget.
Castro said the asylum seekers are arriving in New York City “with little more than the clothes on their back,” and that unlike previous groups of asylum seekers, the ones arriving at the Port Authority are less likely to have a friend, family member or sponsor to provide them shelter and relief because they are being bussed from southern states.
Castro said “it is critical and paramount” that the city receives money and support from the federal and state government.
“We just can’t do this alone,” Castro added. “I don’t know when this humanitarian emergency will end, but I do know New York City will continue to be a welcoming city, a city of immigrants.”