On June 7, City of New York’s Corporation Counsel, Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, announced that the City of New York was filing suit against more than 30 New York localities that issued what the city is characterizing as “unlawful emergency executive orders (EO) intended to prohibit New York City from arranging for even a small number of asylum seekers to stay in private hotels within their jurisdictions.”
Seeking judgment pursuant to Article 78 and a declaratory judgment under Article 30 of the Civil Practice Laws and Rules, the lawsuit is meant to challenge an action (or inaction) by agencies of New York State and local governments.
The resulting declaratory judgment of the Supreme Court will have the effect of a final judgment as to the rights and other legal relations of the parties to a justiciable controversy whether or not further relief is or could be claimed.
In the lawsuit, it is stated that both New York City and New York State “are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis,” with nearly 75,000 individuals and families seeking asylum in the United States and in need of temporary housing assistance.
The migrants, who largely entered at the U.S.’s Southern border, were sent to New York City “even though they have no friends or family in the area and no resources of their own,” said the lawsuit.
According to the opening statement of the lawsuit, the crisis has already “moved beyond the bounds of the city,” as on May 9, 2023, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a statewide emergency “recognizing the burden imposed on the entire state as it handles unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers” and that the executive order acknowledged that there is “already a large-scale humanitarian crisis and emergency.”
Since last spring, over 74,000 migrants have come to New York City in search of shelter, and New York City has opened 160 sites to handle the influx of migrants.
The mayor’s office was critical of jurisdictions outside New York City and said, “While many elected officials, community groups, and faith institutions have worked to welcome the small number of arrivals in each locality—in most cases, less than 1/4 of one percent—at least 30 local jurisdictions across the state have filed EOs to wall out asylum seekers.”
The purpose of the lawsuit is to declare the executive orders null and void and to stop the counties from taking any steps to enforce them any longer.
“Since this crisis began, New York City has—virtually on its own—stepped up to provide shelter, food, clothing, and other services to asylum seekers arriving in our city. We are doing our part and will continue to do our part, but we need every locality across the state to do their part as well,” said mayor Eric Adams and added, “We have repeatedly sounded the alarm that our shelter system is at capacity and that we are out of space. While many communities have been overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic about welcoming these new arrivals to their cities and towns, some elected officials have attempted to build metaphorical walls around their localities with unlawful executive orders.”
Adams characterized the actions of the 30 municipalities New York City is suing as “xenophobic bigotry.”
Aside from Suffolk, the other municipalities named as defendants in the lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court of the State of New York include: Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, Onondaga, Broome, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Delaware, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Madison, Niagara, Oneida, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Riverhead, Saratoga, Schoharie, Schuyler, Sullivan, Tioga, Sauerbrey, Warren, Wyoming.
“The relatively low number of individuals lawfully placed in these upstate jurisdictions reflect a small but significant step that will assist the City of New York in handling this growing humanitarian crisis,” said Corporation Counsel Hinds-Radix. “These counties have attempted to close their doors instead of lending their assistance to New York City’s reasonable and lawful efforts to address this crisis. We are asking the court to declare these executive orders null and void, in order to provide asylum seekers shelter during these unprecedented times.”
Local elected officials weighed in on the lawsuit.
Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-8th District) said, “New York City’s move to bring litigation against Suffolk County is the exact reason we voted to retain outside counsel. I’m happy to be proactive instead of reactive during a time of crisis. The public safety and public finances of Suffolk County residents will remain my No. 1 concern.”
State Sen. Alexis Weik (R-8th District) said that Adams’s actions were “unacceptable” and that he was “unable to respect the authority and responsibilities of duly elected executives and legislators in neighboring communities.”
Weik said that New York City was “once again attempting to seek a way around the law by finding a friendly judge and force his will upon them.”
State Sen. Dean Murray (R-3rd District) said the lawsuit was “just another example of the complete disregard for the authority of our local governments and the will of the local people.”
Murray said that “no one in Suffolk County voted for the mayor of New York City” and as such, “he should not be dictating how Suffolk County operates.”
Murray pointed out that “elected officials in New York City voted to become a ‘sanctuary city,’” whereas Suffolk County did not.
Town officials for Islip and Brookhaven declined to comment on the matter.