Tent city on Randall’s Island for migrants arriving in NYC gets first guests

The Mayor’s Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center on Randall’s Island officially opened Wednesday to temporarily house the influx of asylum seekers arriving in the Big Apple every day.

Known more colloquially as “tent city,” the facility directly outside of Icahn Stadium had an underwhelming soft open by the afternoon of Oct. 19, as it welcomed only two of city’s newest arrivals. Male, adult migrants disembarking at Port Authority are set to be bused to Randall’s Island where they will be staying until the city can determine where the individuals themselves want to be.

Many more migrants were due to arrive at the tent city in the hours to come.

A minivan brought the facility’s very first inhabitants just after 10:30 a.m., totaling to only two migrants. The men were greeted by Commissioner of New York City Emergency Management Zach Iscol with a handshake before being ushered into the intake center. There the pair were checked medically and given a COVID-19 test before being escorted into the main area.

Arriving migrants are tested for COVID-19. Photo by Dean Moses
Arriving migrants are tested for COVID-19. Photo by Dean Moses

The rest of the morning and afternoon remained quiet with no more arrivals. The only activity saw trucks rolling in water tanks and boxes of COVID-19 supplies.

The Tent City, sandwiched between several homeless shelters, drew the ire of one local shelter resident who feels as though he is being left behind. 

“I have to fight with them to get juice and milk after hours, and they have fu**ing Xbox. You have got people in these buildings that have been in these places for years,” said Baran, who told amNewYork Metro that he had been in the shelter system for about 10 months.

Not everyone agrees, however. Another man who wished to remain unnamed said he feels for the asylum seekers and believes that the tent city is less than ideal.

“Tent City” on Randall’s Island. Photo by Dean Moses

“The conditions in there [the shelter] may not be all that but you can’t compare a building to a tent. They are still living in a tent,” the onlooker said.

A local worker by the name of Tshering says that he feels like the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center is a good idea, feeling empathy for both the migrants and the city itself.

“They have got to live, if they are coming, they should be taken care of,” Tshering told amNewYork Metro. “This should be fine, it looks good. If the city doesn’t have the resources for a building, then this is fine.”

Vans transport migrants to the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center. Photo by Dean Moses
COVID-19 supplies are delivered. Photo by Dean Moses

The Adams administration has stressed that individuals who will be residing at the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center will be allowed to come and go as they please, albeit with a 10 p.m. curfew. The city says the facility is being utilized in conjunction with 55 emergency shelters and the Humanitarian Relief Center hotel in Midtown.

Randall’s Island is serviced by one bus line, the M35, and is connected to the rest of Manhattan through the Wards Island Pedestrian Bridge. 

During the tour, amNewYork Metro observed that the facility, while it’s been called a tent, has hardened walls that are said to withstand up to 90 mph winds, and features all the comforts of home — including areas for showers.