Friday, June 2, 2023

At the former St. Brigid School, a generous outpouring of community support for asylum seekers

Photos and text by Stacie Joy 

Yesterday was the first distribution day since we published the stories (here and here) about the asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid's School, which the city is using at a temporary "respite center" on Seventh Street and Avenue B. 

It's a big production, with many community members reaching out, eager to help. I hope all donated goods: clothes, bedding, towels, personal-care products, book bags and shoes will find good homes with the newly arrived refugees. 

I arrive a bit early at the drop-off location, and it's already filling up — so many people are bringing in so many items. As I frantically text some reinforcements — friends and neighbors — to help organize the growing donations, more and more people drop off bags for the hundreds of asylum seekers arriving here in the past week. 

The community support is more than I ever imagined, with residents bringing precisely what is most needed: shoes (chancletas are a highly requested footwear), jeans, sweats, T-shirts, blankets, sheets, towels, and backpacks. A local wine bar owner drops off hundreds of dollars worth of new shoes, socks and bedding. 

People carefully explain what they've brought, and several ask me about providing ongoing support. It's touching — and daunting. Hundreds of pounds of items are piling up...
As more volunteers arrive, we begin setting up tables at the Free Store outside the center. There is, predictably, initial pushback from the facility even though we're on a public sidewalk.

However, we reach an understanding and are soon working together to get the goods to the people who need them. And hundreds of asylum seekers are provided clothing, bedding and hygiene products. The donated backpacks —  a hotly sought-after item — move faster than I anticipated.
Staffers come out to help translate. Spanish and French are the two most spoken languages, but one woman speaks Mandarin, and no one can assist her. She wants to go to Flushing but needs to know how. 

Site workers also help me pair specific items with those who made a request, and we strategize how to get the most-requested item — Wi-Fi access — to the people. Since there is no coordination between the city and several agencies working within the site, getting anything accomplished through government channels is impossible. 

There are some heartwarming moments — two women are ecstatic over a donated box of new makeup, a gentleman spies some glittery shoes he admires, and the woman requesting extra-small or extra-extra-small yoga pants finally grabs two pair. Someone else spies the AeroBed that was dropped off, and we Google translate how to inflate it — often with amusing results and a much-needed moment of levity.  

As soon as items hit the table (and sometimes before), they are nabbed by the center's residents. And a new bus of immigrants arrives in the middle of the distribution, while another bus parks down the block to take people to Albany. Many take their newly acquired packs, clothes, and goods and head to the bus in preparation for heading north — all thanking us before they board. 

The scene is sometimes chaotic, with altercations between city and state employees, and the police are called to intercede. Additionally, a few Medrite employees — the subcontractors the city hired — are agitated, and some unkind words are uttered. Still, no one stops the Free Store, and even when security arrives via NYC Emergency Management, they are supportive.

This was a hugely successful community event, thanks mainly to East Village residents and EVG readers. Many of the asylum seekers expressed gratitude and thanks for the generous help.
Future drop-off dates at Assemblymember Harvey Epstein's office at 107 Avenue B at Seventh Street are:

• 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:


hywel dda said...

"there is no coordination between the city and several agencies working within the site", "altercations between city and state employees", "police are called to intercede", "NYC Emergency Management security"! Who next the National Guard? This entire cluster f**k is on Mayor Adams who is nowhere in sight, even for a photo op. And where is Council Member Rivera? Who hired Medrite? As usual the
people of the Lower East Side jump in where our government FAILS miserably. Kudos to Assemblyman Epstein's people for their hard work and caring. I hope someone will actually explain this entire mess to the public someday.

Cosmo said...

Thank you so much, Stacie, and everyone involved. This is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

And thank you to EV Grieve, which has been the ONLY news outlet where I've seen this covered.

Anonymous said...

thanks immensely stacie joy and ev grieve for the in-depth and important reporting! i haven't seen this covered in any other outlet. thank you for the future drop-off info too, and the mentions of what is needed.

Anonymous said...

It's great to see the EV hustle up support for these humans! And thank you Ms Joy for reporting and all the extra support you provide!

Just noting the FREE STORE uptown... LITTLE SHOP OF KINDNESS which is specifically for migrants

Sarah said...

Thank you to everyone involved. And no thanks to the Adams administration, whose incompetence is what has made this emergency community response so essential.

Anonymous said...

Stacie Joy, again I must express infinite thanks for your coverage of this! You should be in the diplomatic corps with your skills, but I believe you're achieving much more important results doing exactly what you are currently doing! May your good karma be multiplied by all those whose lives you have helped.

To Eric Adams: THIS is what your so-called administration (a bunch of flailing, disorganized, out-to-lunch jackasses) is SUPPOSED to be DOING. Instead, the good people of this community and city are doing it for free, out of the goodness of their hearts & their inherent humanity and decency.

All that remains now is for Eric Adams to hold a massive news conference at which HE, preening, will take full credit for EVERYTHING GOOD that is being done by OTHER PEOPLE. Adams will celebrate his non-existent competence, and his delusional effectiveness, and expect the rest of the world to admire him.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I would love to help out on Tues and I have a ton of stuff to donate. Should I just show up at 10?

Anonymous said...

Would like to know what the deal is with "Medrite" ... b/c this looks like a classic case of *something* that I will not name, but which we all recognize very well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing the info at the bottom of the story about where we can drop off donations. I have a bag of clothes and a backpack to give.

Sarah said...

Medrite runs urgent care clinics. I'm not sure what special qualifications it has to handle managing shelters. Check out this ad for a "case worker":

It looks like they are probably contracted by NYCEM or H + H:

Fairly strange. I'd like to know about the bidding process here!


Can the LinkNYC kiosks be used for free Wifi? I've never used them so I don't know what the process is to get connected.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, people.

Anonymous said...

I think there should be some specific acknowledgment of people who drove to pick up and deliver contributions.

I don’t drive but my neighbor does have a car and has always been there to help. For years, he has been transporting donations to family homeless shelters, driving elderly neighbors who need assistance etc.

There is constant negativeness about people who drive/have cars, policy focus on eliminating cars etc.

Yet here (and elsewhere) some significant donations were only possible because some people have cars.

Anonymous said...

Seize the vacant rent stabilized units and give the homeless people shelter

Anonymous said...

Can local laundromats help out and offer free or discounted laundry?

Anonymous said...

Yes re: @10:42 comment.
Would be appropriate for CW and others to acknowledge this

Giovanni said...

One of the homeless guys who is a regular on 14th and 2nd Ave used to camp out on our block, on and off for about a year, making everyone’s life miserable unless you gave him food. He was the most threatening, aggressive, abusive and loud homeless person I’ve ever seen. Then he messed with the wrong guy one day, a neighbor who has seen the inside of Rikers more than a few times. The neighbor threatened to bring his friends back to take care of the loud mouth, who fled he hasn’t been back here since. Now he is one of the guys on 14th Street who I still see harassing pedestrians. I feel bad for 787, but life is too short to deal with this kind of constant harassment.

Anonymous said...

I put together a big clothes bag of used -- but dry-cleaned and fairly high-end -- clothes, and on Sat. morning I took to St. Brigid's to contribute to the effort.

There were 3 people at metal desks inside the St.Brigid's front door, doing some sort of intake work. All of them refused my bag of clothes. I speak Spanish, so I asked a few immigrants loitering (hanging around) outside the front door if they wanted my clothes, "gratis." I just got "nos" & blank stares.

So I walked up to that Sat. morning "flea market" (sort of a homeless swap meet) on 14th at 1st Ave., where I found a merchant with a rack of clothes for sale -- but only a handful of pieces on it. I gifted him my bag of clothes, and he seemed DELIGHTED. I think I doubled or tripled his inventory.