NYC hotels are being made into homeless shelters as the city prepares to deal with an influx of asylum seekers, as pandemic-era exclusions expire.

The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, a historic block of iconic New York City tourism and culture, closed three years ago under pandemic-related losses and has stood empty every since. But now New York City is contracting with the Pakistani government, who currently owns it, to reopen the 19-story, 850 room building as a shelter for asylum seekers.

During the pandemic, a collection of rules known as Title 42 made it extremely difficult for asylum seekers, whose need was no less than other years, to make it across the U.S./Mexico border. A week ago, those rules expired, and despite uncertainty, President Biden has not announced any plan to renew them or replace them. Asylum seekers are encouraged to apply for entry online through a new process, but many still come to the border, as the “easiest” (no routes to asylum are easy) way to apply is to do so from within the U.S.

Border states like Arizona and Florida are busing these asylum seekers by the thousands to blue states like New York, often stripping them of resources and family connections in the process.

“New York City has now cared for more than 65,000 asylum seekers — already opening up over 140 emergency shelters and eight large-scale humanitarian relief centers in addition to this one to manage this national crisis,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement announcing the decision to use the Roosevelt and other NYC hotels. The city is also seeking state and federal aid to make more hotels into shelters.

“It is our moral and legal obligation to provide shelter to anyone who needs it,” the city’s Department of Social Services said in a statement. “As such, we have utilized, and will continue to utilize, every tool at our disposal to meet the needs of every family and individual who comes to us seeking shelter.”

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