As the mayor continues to press for state and federal funding to offset the cost of migrant assistance programs, he’s also touted independent initiatives to raise funds beyond the government’s coffers. The largest pool of donations, collected by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, has yet to be distributed.

Adi Talwar

Immigrants who arrived in New York City on one of the three buses from Texas on Aug. 10, waiting in front of Port Authority to be transported to city shelters.

Lea la versión en español aquí.

Immigration is, in many ways, at the heart of New York City’s ongoing budget talks: for months, Mayor Eric Adams has proposed agency cuts and belt-tightening measures, blaming the need to offset the costs of migrant assistance programs.

The city has spent $817 million on the crisis so far, and expects to spend between $1.4 to $4.2 billion through the next fiscal year to provide shelter and other resources to asylum seekers, according to Adams, who has been aggressively seeking state and federal funding to foot some of the bill.

He’s also touted two independent initiatives to raise funds to help asylum seekers beyond the government’s coffers, which have raised just over $2 million in monetary donations, though the largest portion has yet to be doled out, City Limits has learned.

Adams’ plan released last month, dubbed “The Road Forward: Blueprint to Address New York City’s Response to the Asylum Seeker Crisis” sets a goal of raising $25 million from philanthropic organizations and corporations.

The first major fundraising effort opened in October 2022 through a partnership between the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the Mayor’s Office, and the nonprofit United Way of New York City (UWNYC), and directed monetary donations to UWNYC’s Emergency Assistance and Community Needs (EACN) Fund. 

The fund has raised over $775,000, and has distributed approximately $650,000 so far to community-based organizations involved in aiding asylum seekers (United Way retains a 15 percent administrative fee). Airbnb, Trinity Church of Wall Street,* and Share Our Strength were among the major contributors.

“Our EACN Fund helps to fund trusted, direct service organizations that are providing critical services, programs, resources, and needed items to the asylum seekers who come to them for assistance, connection, and hope,” said Corrina Kirby, UWNYC’s vice president, strategic initiatives and interim chief development officer.

In 2022, UWNYC made its first round of disbursements, totaling approximately $150,000, to seven organizations that were on the ground providing emergency response: El Puente, Grannies Respond, Gambian Youth Organization, Artists, Athletes + Activists, the Salvation Army, Make the Road New York and Masa. 

In the recently announced second round of funding, UWNYC awarded $500,000 distributed through $50,000 grants each to 10 organizations: 86 the Barrier, Advocates for Children of New York, Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional, Bridge Street Development Corporation, Collective Focus, Committee for Hispanic Children & Families, Community Help in Park Slope Inc., Mixteca, St. John’s Bread & Life Program, and Vision Urbana.

The other major fundraising initiative, launched in January, was the creation of the Asylum Seeker Relief Fund embedded in the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which has raised significantly more money but has not yet distributed any of it.

The mayor’s office said that the contracts are still being negotiated and implemented. As of April 13, the Mayor’s Fund has raised $1,320,000 in monetary donations and $2,734,949 in in-kind donations.

All monetary funding will go to support asylum seekers’ service needs by funding community-based organizations. The Rockefeller Foundation, Airbnb, Trinity Church Wall Street,* and GrubHub are among some of the largest organizations to have donated to the Mayor’s Fund so far.

Since last spring, more than 50,000 immigrants have come to New York City after crossing the U.S. border, with more than 30,000 in the city’s care as of March.

A pilot in need of future funding

In January, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) in partnering with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Bike New York, Unlimited Biking, Trek, and Recycle-A-Bicycle launched a bicycle donation program to provide free bicycles to asylum seekers and other immigrants recently arriving in New York City. 

The program has three phases: donation, reparation, and distribution. The initial goal was to collect about 200 bikes, and close to 250 bikes were received and are currently being repaired. 

The distribution phase, in which five organizations will be selected to distribute the bikes, will be announced in the first two weeks of May, as will details on how to get one, according to MOIA.

According to Bike New York Community Outreach Manager Jeremy Lockett, well over 80 percent of the bikes were donated by New Yorkers directly.

Those who receive bicycles will also receive locks, a pair of front and rear lights, helmets, and will be able to take courses on the rules of the road and how to ride and navigate the city by bicycle.

And to help keep bike maintenance costs low, explained Lockett, “we will offer free maintenance at our local shop, Recycle-a-Bicycle.”

Lockett said they hope to repeat the initiative, but future plans will depend on resources. “There is a need and we can fulfill it,” said Lockett. “But we need funding to really make this possible.”

*Disclosure: Trinity Church of Wall Street is a City Limits’ funder.