Mayor Adams Claims Nearly Half of All NYC Hotel Rooms Now Filled by Migrants

Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a Manhattan news conference on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in New York. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/TNS)

NEW YORK (New York Daily News/TNS) — In an effort to illustrate the severity of the migrant crisis in the city, Mayor Adams claimed Wednesday that nearly half of all hotel rooms in New York are now occupied by migrants seeking asylum — an assertion that was immediately pounced on as being inaccurate.

Adams has come under fire on several fronts in recent days for his administration’s latest attempts to find housing for the more than 60,000 migrants who have come to the city since last year.

Republicans north of the city have slammed him for directing migrants to hotels in Rockland and Orange counties. Parents have attacked him for placing them in public school gymnasiums. And civil rights groups criticized him Wednesday for considering Rikers Island as an option to house asylum seekers.

Adams offered a response to those criticisms Wednesday by underscoring the severity of the crisis — but it appeared to backfire within a matter of hours.

“In order to address an onslaught, you have to have places you can put people,” the mayor said during an unrelated news conference in Harlem. “Almost half of all hotel rooms now are taken up by asylum seekers. Think about that. I’m not sure what it’s going to take before people hear what I am saying.

“New York City is the hotel capital. We’re the hotel capital — tourism, visitors, sporting events, graduations,” he continued. “It’s a major economic engine for us. Almost 50% of those hotel rooms are being taken up by migrant asylum seekers.”

But not long after making the claim, it came under fire. Some contended there was no way what the mayor said could be mathematically accurate. Others with a vested interest in city hotels neither confirmed nor contradicted the mayor’s assertion.

“It would be impossible,” said City Councilwoman Diana Ayala. “The math doesn’t add up.”

Ayala (D-Manhattan, Bronx) was alluding to the fact that there are approximately 130,000 hotel rooms in the city and currently fewer than 40,000 migrants residing here right now.

So far, according to city officials, 65,000 asylum seekers have come to New York City, but many have not remained. According to an internal Adams administration memo, which was first reported by CNN this month, approximately 37,500 migrants are currently living within the five boroughs.

Even if all of those migrants were staying in city hotels, it would be hard to make the argument that they’re taking up nearly half of the rooms. In addition, migrants in the city are also being housed in emergency relief shelters, congregate homeless shelters and public-school gymnasiums.

Another source with knowledge of the situation, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering the mayor, also noted that about 70% of hotel rooms in the city are located in hotels staffed by union workers. Of those rooms in union-staffed hotels, only 3,500 are now being occupied by migrants, according to the source.

When asked about this, a spokesman for the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, which represents hotel workers, declined to directly address the mayor’s remarks, saying only that “the union fully supports the mayor’s efforts to house asylum seekers at union hotels as a compassionate and safe option during this existential crisis the city faces.”

Vijay Dandapani, president of the Hotel Association of New York City, which represents owners, referred questions about migrant occupancy in hotels to a spokesman, Evan Thies, who has also served as an adviser to Adams and as his spokesman during his 2021 mayoral run.

Thies shared numbers showing that hotel occupancy rates overall have jumped from about 70% in March 2022 to 79% in March 2023, but he said the city would have to provide an official number regarding how many hotel rooms are currently occupied by migrants.

In a written statement, Dandapani sidestepped the mayor’s remarks.

“The hotel industry is focused on its primary mission: serving those who visit New York for business and to enjoy our city,” Danapani said in the statement. “We are confident that — even as we help the city navigate this challenge — we will continue to serve visitors to New York and support the local economy as a critical industry.”

After the mayor’s news conference in Harlem, a reporter asked Adams’ current spokesman Fabien Levy to provide an exact number to back up the mayor’s claim that almost half of the city’s hotel rooms are occupied by migrants.

“I don’t know,” said Levy, who didn’t immediately respond to follow-up queries.

In a further attempt to illustrate the severity of the situation, Adams said Wednesday that the federal government should declare the city’s migrant situation a formal state of emergency and said the city’s $4.3 billion cost projection doesn’t include a loss of revenue connected to the fact that instead of lodging tourists who tend to spend money on amenities, many hotels have adjusted to function primarily as homeless shelters bankrolled by the city.

“Instead of moneys coming from people who are visiting us and spending and our tourism and our Broadway plays — instead of them using those hotels, we’re using those hotels,” Adams said.

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