GovernmentThe Putnam Examiner

Putnam Rules Committee Supports Byrne Ban of Temporary Shelters

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The Putnam County Legislature Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee last week supported a proposal from County Executive Kevin Byrne to expand a current homeless shelters law that would prohibit the temporary housing of asylum seekers.

The June 21 vote, which still needs an expected thumbs up from the full Legislature, took place on the day Byrne’s May 22 State of Emergency Declaration and Corresponding Executive Orders in response to New York City’s efforts to relocate asylum seekers to Hudson Valley counties without proper coordination with local municipalities were set to expire.

“I have no appetite to extend declarations month to month. That is not my intention or my desire,” Byrne told a receptive committee. “New York City has not communicated with us in good faith. We don’t have the capacity to fill the needs of other municipalities.”

The executive orders attached to Byrne’s emergency declaration gave Putnam the flexibility to re-direct county resources to enforce sanitary code, as well as directs hotels, motels and those with temporary residency permits not to accept migrants and asylum seekers from New York City, essentially transforming them into homeless shelters absent a shared services agreement with Putnam County.

Another executive order further defines Putnam not a “sanctuary county,” but declares itself a “rule of law” county. Municipalities with a “sanctuary” designation, such as neighboring Westchester, have taken on the role and responsibility of housing asylum seekers. Putnam County has not.

Legislator Ginny Nacerino, who represents District 4 in the Town of Patterson, was among the majority of lawmakers who wholeheartedly backed the amendment.

“I take issue with any municipality that blindsides another. It’s ludicrous,” she remarked. “One municipality should not be able to stampede other municipalities without any communication. That is the essence of what we are doing.”

However, Legislator Nancy Montgomery, the lone Democrat on the nine-member body, argued against the measure, contending Westchester has accepted about 300 asylum seekers and experienced no issues.

“It’s outrageous that my Republican colleagues in the Legislature are moving forward dangerous legislation that will create more divisiveness, make our region less safe for all, and make the very few existing homeless shelters illegal, all simply to cater to extremists,” Montgomery said.

“At a time when our region is still struggling to recover from the economic hardships of the pandemic, these legislators are not only fanning the flames of hate, but once again ignoring our county’s humanitarian responsibilities and curtailing the economic opportunity of our local businesses. Instead of infringing on the rights of business owners and opening our county up to lawsuits, we need to be working toward solutions that build our communities and our economy,” she added.

Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, sided with Montgomery’s stance.


“The actions taken by the Putnam County lawmakers are a direct attempt to create an asylum seeker ban and is nothing more than a fear-mongering tactic fueled by racism and xenophobia. It’s shameful to see local officials exploit vulnerable immigrant families for cheap political points,” Awawdeh remarked. “Their actions do not represent the county’s diverse constituents who have stood by immigrants and have previously welcomed new neighbors with open arms, dignity and respect, just as New Yorkers have for generations of immigrants before them. History shows that immigrants add to the cultural richness and economic success of communities across the state. We call on the Putnam County Legislature to rescind this new and dangerous piece of legislation.”


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