Following New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement last week that the city will bus some migrants to hotels in nearby counties temporarily, officials in Orange County and Rockland counties filed lawsuits attempting to stop the plan – even as some migrants have already arrived.
The counties have also issued executive orders barring the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers.
Filed in state court in Orange County, one of the lawsuits obtained by CNN alleges that the city’s plan exceeds its authority, violates a county executive order and bypasses shelter licensing requirements. It asks the court to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the city’s plan while the proceeding is pending.
Orange County officials “oppose the City Respondents’ illegal and misguided attempts to manage their burdens and assumed responsibilities within their borders by offloading them onto the County, which is already overburdened with responsibilities to its own citizens, with no planning whatsoever,” according to the lawsuit.
Adams had said the new program intends to provide up to four months of temporary shelter for adult men seeking asylum who are already in the city’s care while they try to secure work permits.
Days after Adams announced plans for Orange and Rockland counties, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus issued an executive order stating the migrants would not be permitted to stay in hotels there.
Rockland County filed its own lawsuit on Tuesday night. The suit, filed in Rockland County Supreme Court, alleges Mayor Adams’ plan to bus migrants to a hotel in the exceeds the city’s legal authority.
On Friday, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Adams’ plan, blocking the city from transporting migrants to a hotel in Rockland County. The city has said it plans to appeal the restraining order. A court hearing is scheduled for May 30 to determine if the order will be extended.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday against Orange and Rockland counties for blocking the arrival of asylum seekers from New York City, according to court documents.
In issuing orders “expressly seek[ing] to ‘bar migrants’ and ‘asylum seekers’ from coming to the counties from New York City and that further seek to bar local hotels from making their rooms available to migrants for any period of time,” the counties violated due process and equal protection clauses under the US Constitution, the lawsuit says.
When reached by CNN for comment Thursday, Neuhaus said, “We have not been served with any lawsuit.” CNN on Saturday reached out to Rockland and Orange county officials for further comment on the NYCLU’s lawsuit.
Rockland County officials said in a statement that while they don’t typically comment on pending litigation, they “feel strongly that what [they] are doing is right and legal as witnessed by the court’s Temporary Restraining Order granted Thursday.”
The Orange County complaint details multiple examples of the city’s alleged “subterfuge.”
Orange County authorities believed the city planned to move 60 people to one hotel in the county, according to the lawsuit, but then later learned the city planned to send more than 600 individuals to two hotels. The county claims this would more than double its homeless population, which was about 437 last month, according to the lawsuit.
After the county issued its executive order, officials were “expressly assured” by the city that buses would not be sent for the time being, according to the lawsuit.
“Nonetheless, and despite these assurances, busses showed up at the hotel on May 11, 2023, with no notice, and unloaded homeless men pursuant to the City’s illegal Proposed Transfer plan,” the lawsuit says.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Mayor Adams’ office said that the city was “discussing legal and safety concerns with our state partners,” adding that while the city temporarily paused busing migrants to locations outside of New York City, their “plans have not changed.” A spokesperson for Mayor Adams’ office said Thursday that Neuhaus’ statement about alleged assurances that no asylum seekers from the city would arrive in Orange County is inaccurate.
“New York City has cared for more than 65,000 migrants – sheltering, feeding, and caring for them, and we have done so largely without incident,” spokesperson Fabien Levy said in a statement on Friday.
“We need the federal government to step up, but until they do, we need other elected officials around the state and country to do their part. Right now, we’re asking Orange County to manage less than ¼ of 1% of the asylum seekers who have come to New York City, with New York paying for shelter, food, and services. We are reviewing our legal options.”
Orange County also filed a separate complaint Friday against the two hotels within the county planning to house migrants from New York City. The complaint seeks to block the hotels from accepting asylum seekers and “converting” into homeless shelters, alleging it violates the county’s executive order.
The town of Newburgh, which is located in Orange County, also filed a complaint against one of the hotels. The lawsuit claims that housing the migrants is not permitted under the building’s certificate of occupancy and would violate the town’s municipal and building construction codes.
“The Mayor’s program did not consider or address the local zoning, building, or fire codes governing the proposed or ‘selected’ housing sites,” the complaint says.
After Orange County issued its executive order, Newburgh inspectors visited the hotel and noticed “the alterations of beds, insertion of additional bedding, and the alteration of room accommodations,” the lawsuit says. The next day, the hotel received two busloads of people from the city, according to the complaint.