Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Missed meal deliveries and a need for basics: the developing situation at the East Village respite center for asylum seekers

Photos and text by Stacie Joy 
Part two in our ongoing coverage of the asylum seeker
respite center in the East Village 

An asylum seeker asked me where he could get a job. He said his fellow asylum seekers are asking everywhere and are desperate to work — any kind of work. 

Two people showed me immigration paperwork that had them set to appear in Texas and Philadelphia, respectively, tomorrow. I use Google translate to help me with complicated translation — and they ask how far Texas is and if it’s possible to “get a ticket there.” 

Several people (most from Colombia) show me paperwork for BI SmartLINK. This immigration phone app can monitor them and provide case management, but they don’t have Wi-Fi or cellular service, so they can’t make their scheduled phone appointments. I asked some local businesses near the site — the former St. Brigid's School on Seventh Street and Avenue B — if they could share Wi-Fi passwords, but they all declined. 

I am also told that meals didn’t show up again yesterday, and folks are hungry. C&B Café donates some items: croissants, focaccia, donuts, sourdough — and the bags are empty before everyone gets something to eat. I contacted EVLovesNYC again to plan for another Sunday delivery — but their funds are dwindling. They believe they can do 100 meals for Sunday, and we talk about how to maximize meal planning on a budget. 

At this point, the site is being monitored 24/7 by officers from the 9th Precinct. None have been inside the site, and they tell me that the orders have come from high up the command chain, above the Precinct’s commanding officer — to monitor all the respite center sites, not just the one in the East Village. I ask if they can turn the flashing lights off, which they do. They seem mostly interested in being helpful but unsure exactly how to do so. 

I had spotted a sign warning about a “men’s shelter” (misspelled as a “men shetler”) opening up in Tompkins Square Park, at the playground near Seventh Street and Avenue B. I ask the officers if they expect protests, but they say no; they have no reason to believe there will be any problems. They just want to make sure everything is calm on the street.
As calm as things are outside, things are reaching a breaking point inside. During a meal distribution several days ago, State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein arrived for a scheduled facility tour. The site supervisor instructs the NYCEM (NYC Emergency Management) and Medrite (city subcontractor) teams to block and pin him to the wall. 

They keep him restrained even after they are made aware that he’s a local elected official representing the district the center is located in. Epstein explains that Mayor Adam’s senior advisor Diane Savino made the appointment for him, but no one seems inclined to allow him in, and he is escorted out. To date, he hasn’t been allowed to see the facility. 

On Monday, we take all the community-donated clothes and supplies and set up a Free Store outside the center. Nearly 100 of the asylum seekers line up to receive supplies, and in a touching twist, they all step aside and announce “women first,” and the women come and claim their clothes and supplies before the men. I am charmed by that.
What starts as a line soon devolves into a free-for-all as people swarm the tables. We received dozens and dozens of bags of clothing and donated items, and after about 30 minutes, we had just a few leftover items. I explain that we’ll be back again on Thursday with more stuff.
I get requests for chancletas, sneakers, sweatpants, underwear, jeans, T-shirts, cell phones. I try to write down special requests (women’s underwear size small, jeans with a 32 waist), but I am also told that many people won’t be there when I return. They are being shipped upstate, and it’s hard for me to know if they want to go or have no choice. 

One staffer lets me in to drop off the rest of the clothing, and I notice something optimistic: The coffeepot — previously deemed an unacceptable item — has finally been set up and is clearly being used by everyone. I smile; it’s a good sign.
If you’d like to help, donations of adult clothes (there are no children or infants at this location), bedding and towels, backpacks, and toiletries are welcome during four upcoming drop-off dates. 

Items can be brought to Epstein’s office at 107-109 Avenue B at Seventh Street on the following dates and times: 

• Thursday, June 1, 3-5:30 p.m.
• Tuesday, June 6, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 
• Thursday, June 8, 3-5:30 p.m. 
• Tuesday, June 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 

Previously on EV Grieve: 


Dave on 7th said...

Thank you Stacie for your excellent reporting. And your overwhelming humanity is beyond resfreshing in a world full of fear and hate. Such as those who are afraid of a “mens shetler at St Bridges”

VH McKenzie said...

I second the excellent reporting, Stacie. Without these posts, I'd have had no idea this was even happening in the EV!

Anonymous said...

Seconding this. Thanks, Stacie, for this very important reporting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Stacie!

This situation is heartbreaking and infuriating. A lot of people want to help, but it sounds like bureaucracy, lack of communication, and chaos are running the show.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Stacie and Grieve for this reportage. As far as Wi-Fi and phone services are concerned, the free frowned upon LinkNYC stations should be useful (e.g. on 1st Ave and E 6th St; 1st Ave and E 8th St/St.Marks; Ave A and E 12th St.). A printout of the LinkNYC map for our 10009 zip code with a legend that explains what it is could help the asylum applicants with some of their communication needs. (I'll try to put one up later today but invite you all to beat me to it.)

Anonymous said...

"...State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein arrived for a scheduled facility tour. The site supervisor instructs the NYCEM (NYC Emergency Management) and Medrite (city subcontractor) teams to block and pin him to the wall. They keep him restrained even after they are made aware that he’s a local elected official representing the district the center is located in. Epstein explains that Mayor Adam’s senior advisor Diane Savino made the appointment for him, but no one seems inclined to allow him in..."

Pinned him to the wall? Continued to restrain? Who the fuck is this " supervisor..." and, as a matter of first principle, why are they allowed to have this job?

Liam R said...

Insane how good this microblog is. If only the Lower East Side blog was of remotely similar quality...

Anonymous said...

Is there a need for reading glasses?
I have five pairs with size marked to donate

Sarah said...

It sounds like it would be helpful for concerned readers to donate to EVLovesNYC, which is good at stretching a dollar. It's so concerning that people aren't being fed!

Anonymous said...

If it's possible for blog reporting to be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, I'd nominate Stacie's reporting on this issue for a Pulitzer, quite seriously.

It's astonishing to me that NOBODY ELSE - not even an elected government official who shows up on site & gets pinned to the wall - has this level of info. And I am so grateful that Stacie is able to get in there and get the intel and the photos.

Sadly, this situation is just one more Eric Adams cluster-f&ck special. He knows nada and he does nada-minus.

This is business-as-usual for our incompetent mayor, who I think has washed his hands of this entire situation b/c he's so overwhelmed (yes, I mean that! He is not capable of dealing with this at all). WHERE IS THE MAYOR? Why isn't he ON SITE?

I feel terrible for all the people caught in these "shelters" b/c they don't know where they're supposed to go, how to get there, and they can't even get enough food to eat.

It's as if no one is in charge, or worse, that those in charge don't know or care what's happening ON THEIR WATCH.

This is the ERIC ADAMS' INCOMPETENCE being visited, like a plague of locusts, on people who need HELP.

Stacie, have you considered calling Andy Newman at the NY Times, who often writes about NYC local issues? I'm not trying to take anything away from the incredible job you're doing, but it might give this situation a much higher profile & attention if the NY Times covered this as well.

Anonymous said...

Harvey Epstein needs to notify the media about the outrageous treatment he received, and he needs to do it ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Good for Mayor Adams for putting folks into small groups throughout the city. We can’t hide migrants away in large, hidden refugee camps and pretend the crisis doesn’t exist. Albeit, there could be more resources made available but I’m sure there will be. But it’s a crisis — and New Yorkers overwhelming voted to keep the border open so this is what it looks like as folks continue to arrive in unprecedented numbers with no viable means of employment or clear path to citizenship

Anonymous said...

I dropped off a big bag of shoes and socks this morning. There's a buzzer on the door which was answered by some sort of guard, he called another worker there to take the bag. They were polite and seemed happy to accept donations.

Sarah said...

Yeah, your compassion really shines through, 12:01 pm.

There was no vote to "keep the border open," anywhere, anytime, and I always wonder why it is some people can't make their cases without telling the kinds of outright lies that would embarrass an eight-year-old on the playground. I guess if your spirit is ruled by cruelty and greed, there's no room for anything else, even shame.

Edmund J Dunn said...

Part of my post to part I of Stacie's report:

"This migrant temporary housing issue is a complex/heartbreaking one and despite having local charity outreach, will need some out of the box professional thinking on how to address it. Harvey Epstein, who I know personally, being restrained and then tossed out as per Stacie Joy's part II post to this story, shows the dysfunction of the Adams administration. Let's hope that the adults will soon be in charge."

And this post is a total Fox New/MAGA falsehood:

"But it’s a crisis — and New Yorkers overwhelming voted to keep the border open so this is what it looks like as folks continue to arrive in unprecedented numbers with no viable means of employment or clear path to citizenship"

Anonymous said...

Anyone with a cellphone can go and let these folks use their phones as a mobile hot spot.

Anonymous said...

Just adding to the chorus of well done!, Stacie & EV Grieve once again proving the need and strength of a free local press gonna also add my outrage that they blocked an elected district official from entering the site is it me or is that weird and sussish that they wouldn't allow Epstein in to tour the site

Anonymous said...

Thank you Stacie
People can go to the The Ottendorfer Branch of the New York Public Library on 2nd Avenue between 8& 9 Street for wi-fi connection
Wednesday 11 AM–7 PM
Thursday 11 AM–7 PM
Friday 10 AM–5 PM
Saturday 10 AM–5 PM
Sunday Closed
Monday 11 AM–7 PM
Tuesday 11 AM–7 PM

José Garcia said...

We have access to a car and a Costco membership. If there are priority items needed over the weekend we're good for several hundred bucks worth at least on a one shot basis plus if anyone wants to add $ and/or tag along uptown, Costco is on 125th easy shot from the EV. LMK. Best, JG

Anonymous said...

Jose Garcia,
That is a really generous offer.
Not to sound snarky but this is the kind of situation that illustrates the need for a car.
Yet the powers that be continue to insist no one should have a vehicle, no street parking etc.

John Penley said...

I am not gonna say what the person who put that hateful sign up should get but I do hope someone sees them if they do it again and takes a pic of them and posts it.

Anonymous said...

I have tons of clothing and blankets to donate, but I have to launder everything first to freshen...been in storage. Will definitely utilize the free days to drop off. Great reporting, Stacie. This is a neighborhood that wants to help! Great blog but forces me to grab the tissues. I hope the food arrives soon. I know about food insecurity, too. Poor people stick together and work it out. Hang in there, people. We love our newcomers.

Anonymous said...

The hours are very restrictive for anyone who works a 9-5pm job. Any chance there are any drop off times in the evening or weekend? Thanks!


I feel for them, I really do. But this is what happens when you flood a country who can't even take of their own homeless and veterans.

Carol from East 5th Street said...

WHERE IS CARLINA RIVERA? She's running for re-election but wait - these people can't vote so never mind.

Anonymous said...

@5:32PM: You missed the point, which is that no matter HOW or WHO is causing the migrants to show up in NYC, our Mayor has proven that he CANNOT cope and neither can his administration.

The fact that "site managers" are keeping elected officials OUT tells me everything I need to know about how Adams is NOT handling this situation effectively. He is the captain of a gigantic ship and he doesn't know where anything is beyond the ship's nightclub, and his own stateroom.

Adams is not qualified (and he keeps proving how unqualified he is, over and over again) to run this city. Andrew Yang (mentioned by someone else as "Andrew Young") would have been a complete disaster in a totally different way.

NYC cannot afford to waste the time Eric Adams is wasting. This city and its citizens have so many genuine needs. And our veterans, homeless, mentally ill, and poor need help, AS DO these migrants also need help.

The people of NYC are themselves either immigrants or the children of immigrants, thus plenty of people are rolling up their sleeves to do what they can, and many more people will contribute their time, energy, money, clothing, etc. as soon as they can. No one is turning a blind eye to the needs of our resident citizens, nor to these migrants!

But the City's current administration (esp. OEM) doesn't seem capable of handling this "emergency" situation effectively & humanely. Nothing I've read gives me any faith in the Office of Emergency Management, that's for sure.

I feel that NO ONE in NYC government actually knows what to do and how to get it to happen; meanwhile they're obstructing the solid efforts of people in our community who are trying to help.

AND BTW @7:14PM: This city & this country can perfectly well take care of those in need - but the people in charge have to make doing that a priority. Maybe if so many local and state governments weren't "owned" by private interests, those in need would get what they need in a timely and humane way.

John Penley said...

Notorious you "feel for them" well you are full of s--t and I feel for you too. As a Veteran I am sick and tired of non Vets who use Vets to make their points about immigrants. If you are not a Vet and have not helped Vets yourself kindly STFU. You need to read up on the history of Immigrants in your own neighborhood and possibly move somewhere else where there is no very long history of accepting Immigrants.The last big wave was from PR and a hell of a lot more Puerto Ricans ended up in Loisiada than the small number that just arrived now. Once again unless you served do not use vets. I find that dispicable. We actually fought so America could be a safe and welcoming place for Immigrants to come to. Also , if American citizens did not buy and sell so many illegal drugs conditions in their countries would be safer and we would not have so many people having to come here.

Anonymous said...

@3:30AM: Get over yourself, b/c non-veterans are allowed to have opinions in this country. Just like people without children are allowed to have opinions about children.

The only person consistently posting on here who doesn't LIVE HERE is you. You're not in a position to tell anyone to "move somewhere else."

BTW, we're now entering the age of legalized drugs, so you need to adjust to that. Government has figured out how to make money dealing drugs via legal cannabis shops.

If Americans didn't use illicit drugs the way so many Americans use drugs, this would be a very different country entirely. But hey, getting high = "fun" for a lot of people, sadly.


@JP Most of the men in my family, and some women, have served in the military as well being firefighters and first responders.

Dave on 7th said...

Puerto Ricans are not immigrants. They are American citizens at birth.

Anonymous said...

If the Federal Government can't do a good job with this crisis, what makes you think this city can do any better? Also, as a veteran, I have no problem with Notorious and the opinion that was offered.

Anonymous said...

On the news last night... LITTLE SHOP OF KINDNESS on 40th street! It's a free store for migrants!

Anonymous said...

I took some things over to Harvey Epstein's office today and it was heartening to see so many people who were contributing. And THANK YOU to Ms Joy who was organizing the distribution. I'm proud of my community for stepping up to help those in need.


@ 1:49 Thank you. My great grandparents were from Naples and settled in East Boston in the '20s. My grandmother was a 'war bride' who escaped Brussels during WW2 after having her house bombed and settled in Revere, MA. The pain on her face whenever Hitler or WW2 was mentioned is ingrained in my memory, that sweet woman.

When I say I feel for them, it's not a platitude or a nicety, it hits home.

Sarah said...

Yes, there was a good pile of donated items when I brought my stuff by this afternoon. Heartening to see but I heard them say another bus had just pulled in, so I'm sure needs remain high.

Disgusting that southern governors are using these people as political pawns.