NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — As more and more buses full of migrants from the southern border continue to roll up to New York City, New York Mayor Eric Adams continues to press the Biden Administration for aid as the city scrambles to find housing for the more than 17,000 asylum seekers they have taken on this fiscal year.
On Friday, the mayor declared a state of emergency over the mass migration, asking for help to alleviate some of the pressure and the $1 billion cost New York City is expecting over the next year.
“We need help and we need it now,” Adams said.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed a solution that involves some upstate cities like Niagara Falls with populations below 50,000 taking in a portion of these migrants and could, in turn, qualify for additional federal aid through the Community Development Block Grant.
But Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino says while the city could benefit from the funding, it’s not about the money.
“If we don't do this right, if all we do is move these migrants from one location to another, we're actually re-victimizing them,” Restaino said.
Restaino said that because the city used to have a population of 120,000, lawmakers think it should be able to house these additional migrants, but in reality, it doesn’t have the education, health, or housing infrastructure at this time to do so.
“It's more than just welcoming additional residents and increasing our population,” he said. “It's being able to give them at least the basics so that when they come here, they have a head start and an ability to form a foundation.”
If the state were able to provide the proper funding and time necessary to put together a plan, Restaino said Niagara Falls would be more than willing to open its doors to migrants, but it is not something that can be solved overnight.
“If you're telling me that there's a bit of time for us to get our program in place, then great,” he said. “We could do that. But if you're saying to me, ‘Look, it's a week from now. This coming Thursday,’ I can assure you that there will be gaps.”
The Niagara Falls mayor also noted that the town is one that was built on immigrants as it had a heavy Italian immigrant population in the 1930s. For that reason, he says they will do what they can to be able to welcome more migrants, as they’ve benefited the city for nearly a century.