Monday, August 28, 2023

Asylum seekers are no longer staying at the former St. Brigid School in the East Village

Text and reporting by Stacie Joy 

According to multiple sources, the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B no longer serves as a respite center for asylum seekers. 

Sources said that the last asylum seekers left the school, which the Archdiocese of New York closed in the spring of 2019, on Friday, with a handful remaining until Saturday.

Mammad Mahmoodi, co-founder and executive director of East Village Loves NYC, who has been feeding neighbors in need since the pandemic, including asylum seekers, spoke with several of the former St. Brigid residents. He said the remaining asylum seekers were relocated in smaller groups to other respite centers around the five boroughs. Most of them were not aware of the move to new quarters until the day it happened. 

Father Seán Connolly from St. Brigid/St. Emeric said the city's lease with the Archdiocese ends in mid-September. However, church officials said they were not included in any of the city's deliberations for use of the school.

The site was empty over the weekend, and with sources stating just a few security personnel remained on duty inside.
Asylum seekers — adults only — started coming to Seventh Street and Avenue B in late May for short-term stays. The space was said to accommodate 350 people, who slept on cots in classrooms and other open areas throughout the building.

As we previously reported, the city seemed ill-prepared to meet the needs of the new arrivals, primarily Spanish or French speakers, many of whom were from Venezuela, Ecuador and MauritaniaMany people showed up on-site via MTA buses without shoes, and nearly everyone possessed only the clothes they wore, lacking any personal belongings. The only provisions provided by officials were thin blankets adorned with the City of New York crest and small personal care kits.

Those fortunate enough to have phones were eager to locate a Wi-Fi connection to communicate with loved ones, yet the center had no access. In mid-June, after an unsuccessful effort to get the city to approval Wi-Fi for the space, Father Seán, the NYC Mesh Wi-Fi team and Paul Gale, a board member at the East Village Community Coalition, mapped out a plan to install equipment on the rectory of the church next door on Avenue B that provided access on the courtyard and some of the north-facing windows of the school and provided the asylum seekers with much-needed internet access.

Without a transparent chain of command, navigating the red tape and bureaucracy to provide the asylum seekers with food and other items was a never-ending challenge. Despite visible proof that the city needed help, they did not appear keen on accepting it. Some site staffers said they were reprimanded for assisting with providing aid.

Locals helped organize several clothing-and-supply distributions, and many East Village residents graciously donated a variety of items as well as their time. An interfaith coalition of local religious institutions also assembled a distribution outside the school. Cafe Mogador and C&B Cafe provided food, too... as did community group East Village Loves NYC. (EV Loves NYC later provided meals to asylum seekers at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown.)

Throughout the multiple distributions outside St. Brigid's this summer, many of the asylum seekers expressed gratitude and thanks for the generous help of the East Village residents who showed their support.

An ongoing crisis

According to various published reports, the city had 59,300 migrants in its care across 206 sites as of Aug. 20. Between Aug. 14 and 20, another 3,100 asylum seekers arrived in NYC, bringing the tally to 104,400 since the spring.

The city and state continue to spar (background here and here) over housing asylum seekers outside the five boroughs. Both sides say they need a better federal response.

In a statement Friday from the Mayor's office: "New York City has been left largely alone to deal with a national crisis that demands difficult decision-making. But let's be clear: the sites we are now finding are the only options left. This situation demands a broader state and national solution."


John Penley said...

Curtis Sliwa caused a mini riot at Gracie Mansion over this issue Sunday. Check out You Tube for video especially where an anti-Sliwa protester is calling him a member of the KKK.

John Penley said...

Anonymous said...

What’s the deal with Curtis? His antagonistic rhetoric is probably why he never gets elected. I live on 7th and faced no issues whatsoever when passing by this building. The migrants aren’t the problem. People like him are.

Anonymous said...

While I was not against the asylum seekers and their needs, I was opposed to the many vespas and bikes chained to buildings and tree gates, to the
trash they left everywhere. I saw many that did have phones, smoking weed, drinking alcohol along with the hundreds of cigarette butts left in the trees and sidewalk. Sorry to say I am not sad to see them go. 7th Street was a mess and I don’t feel that anyone with authority provided a general daily clean-up of the sidewalk and streets. Your article talks about coming here with nothing- am certain that might be the case for some, but how did they afford the Vespas? Weed? Cigarettes? They are visitors and should have been instructed as such. I think it is safe to say that 30-40% of the men were in danger if they stayed in their country. The rest? Just wanted to be here and found an excuse. I witnessed these men every day for months. NYC is an amazing place. People from all over the world. Let’s take of everybody that already lives here! House and feed them. Then we can take care of the asylum seekers.

Andy RoastBeef said...

I work in the financial district and a hotel down the street from my office has been used as a shelter since January. Last week I saw many buses pull up and begin taking them away. Where are they moving them all to? It seems the city is now trying to move them all to Randall's Island, Creedmore, defunct military bases, etc.

After all the bad PR over this are they just moving them out of visible areas in Manhattan and just taking the "out of sight, out of mind" approach?

marjorie said...

Thanks so much for continuing to report on this story!

The images from Staten Island, where residents are screaming abuse at asylum-seekers and having giant rallies in front of buildings they're staying in, are really heart-breaking. The EV has to be better and do better and continue its tradition of absorbing and helping new arrivals to this country.

Anonymous said...

EVG reporting here was amazing

Sarah said...

Sliwa doesn't give a shit about the migrants. He just wants attention.

Thank you to everyone who rallied together to help these guests in our community in the face of nonsensical bureaucratic obstacles. EV Grieve drew attention to the issue and didn't give up. I'm proud of everyone.

Anonymous said...

Curtis is a bully. He is posturing and as one commenter pointed out, he is seeking attention to remain relevant. Pathetic! Leave the migrants alone.

mvd said...

I live half a block from st Brigid's, and found the asylum seekers who were housed they're to be perfectly fine neighbors.

Andy said...

Live down the street, walked by everyday and never had a problem. There's a big lot behind the school where the city could have let people store the mopeds but really the city's efforts here are intended to be self-destructive. They want it to be unpleasant for everyone, putting in the minimal effort required by law with, in my opinion, the goal of eroding right to shelter laws through incompetence and hopes of public rage.
Adams doesn't want to address the influx, he wants to use it to stoke anger and deflect away from his micromanaging incompetence.

2ndAvenueSilverPanther said...

I was happy to donate lots of clothing I no longer need, and the migrants seemed genuinely grateful. Our community made me proud, while recent footage from Staten Island was reminiscent of Mississippi in the early 1960's.

Anonymous said...

"While I was not against the asylum seekers and their needs, I was opposed to the many vespas and bikes chained to buildings and tree gates, to the trash they left everywhere."

"There's a big lot behind the school where the city could have let people store the mopeds"

Well, I guess I wasn't paying attention, but how would migrants have obtained mopeds and/or vespas? They arrived by bus. Did they go out shopping for mopeds while here? I genuinely don't get it. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Anonymous said...

Maybe now we can use the much needed space for a middle school.