Tuesday, December 19, 2023

EV Loves NYC looks for support and a partnership with the city to aid in feeding asylum seekers

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 
Note: Faces of the asylum seekers have been blurred 

The situation at the reticketing center at the former St. Brigid School hasn't improved since the last time we visited. 

There are still almost 1,000 people being processed at the center on Seventh Street and Avenue B daily, and few shelter placements. Asylum seekers who have received their 30- or 60-day notice evicting them from their shelter wait in long lines, sometimes overnight, to be given a wristband and hopefully temporary placement or a cot assignment.

The overwhelming majority do not get placed and can opt to go to Bathgate in the Bronx, where they may be able to sleep on the floor, or, if it’s a Code Blue or weather event, a center in Gramercy, where they can stay but are only offered chairs overnight. They can also opt for oneway reticketing anywhere else in the world, but this does not seem to be a popular choice. 

Meals are also an ongoing crisis for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, with city no-bid contract providers often offering spoiled or moldy food or items that can't be eaten by Muslims. 

Last week, The New York Times reported that DocGo, which has a $432 million no-bid contract with the city, discarded more than 70,000 uneaten meals between Oct. 22 and Nov. 22. The Post spoke with asylum seekers who said the meals — which DocGo charges the city $11 each for — were unhealthy and inedible.
"The breakfast and lunch is so cold we can't eat it, so it gets thrown in the trash," said one mother.

Mutual aid groups like the volunteer-run East Village Loves NYC have been working to provide hot meals as often as possible, with Sunday's distribution providing a choice of vegan sweet potato curry, balsamic-glazed chicken or beef meatball stew with side slaw Halal meals to just shy of 600 people at the site. Also available are hot coffee, snacks, and socks — desperately needed in the cold weather. (Although fewer than the last time I attended a distribution, many people still wore chancletas or sandals.)
Almost everyone I spoke to mentioned being hungry, often pantomiming by rubbing their stomachs and gesturing for food. In Spanish, women gathered around me and asked for help with shoes, underwear, warm clothes, blankets, or tents. 

A group of 20 women were escorted to the nearby Sixth Street Community Center between Avenue B and Avenue C, where they were offered donated clothing.
Sasha Allenby, co-founder of East Village Loves New York, explained the numbers game of fundraising to provide food to those in need. Since the long lines at the reticketing center at St Brigid's started three weeks ago, the nonprofit has already delivered 3,300 free meals plus fruit and coffee, costing them over $10,000. 

"This would have cost the city over $40,000 considering they pay their contractors between $11 to $14 to provide a sub-par meal," Allenby said. "Since the asylum seekers began arriving last year, we've spent around $60,000 on providing free meals. We care about every asylum seeker and want to keep helping. Still, at the end of the day, we're the little guy on a shoestring budget raised by small donations from the community, and we can only continue helping if we are supported by the City."

Aside from feeding the asylum seekers on Sunday, East Village Loves NYC partnered with multiple organizations this week to help provide hungry New Yorkers with meals in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. (Find a list here.)
We contacted David Schmid, deputy commissioner of external affairs of the NYC Office of Emergency Management. He said that "the guests were extremely appreciative (as are we)" of the meals and assistance East Village Loves NYC provided. 

Schmid said they have a meeting set up with Mammad Mahmoodi, co-founder of the group, tomorrow for the city to discuss how they can continue the partnership. 

"We'll walk him through the Strengthening Communities program in the hopes that they'll apply for our next cohort in 2024," Schmid said. "In the meantime, we've also discussed using some private funds that we've raised internally to make a monetary donation to EV Loves NYC to recognize their contribution and ongoing support. It will be a modest donation for now, but we certainly want to acknowledge their incredible work while we explore how to best formalize and sustain the relationship going forward."
NYCEM Commissioner Zach Iscol mentioned the partnership in the Dec. 15 public safety update at City Hall, and you can hear his remarks about EV Loves NYC and the Strengthening Communities program around the 16:30-minute mark here

Curious about how you can help? EV Loves NYC is hosting a sock drive. Details here

Previously on EV Grieve


anon said...

great reporting as always stacie, this is vital information... hope EV LOVES gets the contract they deserve.

Babs said...

Thank you Stacie. I am thrilled that EV Loves NYC is able to make a difference. In terms of how much it cost them vs DocGo to provide the meals, I'm curious if EV Loves NYC is an all volunteer org. Or are they able to pay some salaries?

I applaud volunteer work, and do some myself, but to make this sustainable, people need a living wage. In any case, I thank them for caring and stepping up.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Adams complains about the cost of immigrants, yet he's the one who gives no-bid, crony contracts to sub-par vendors. A lot can be done for less, as witnessed here, if that were the real focus of the Mayor

Anonymous said...

I am going to try to express myself rationally as a left leaning liberal without causing a backlash with my thoughts. I walk past this center every day as I live on 7th street. The area is not maintained nor is there much room to navigate around everyone. I am assuming our tax dollars are funding this while every other city office and agency is finanically impacted in the most severe of ways as a result of this crisis. I do feel for these immigrants and have no idea what awful circumstances brought them here to NYC. If I did move to a foreign country though, I'd be expected to follow a protocol such as applying for a visa, learning a new language, demonstrating work skills, and having sufficient resources while adapting to a new culture and government. From what I can see, there are too many people to take care of all at once. This is why NYC is hemorrhaging money. This is why other major cities are facing the same dilemma. We can't take care of everyone although in a perfect, socialist society, it would be nice. How long will this continue? How much more money will this require while the city and its citizens will be affected?

marjorie said...

Anonymous, you can call yourself a left-leaning liberal and I can call myself a hippopotamus, but that doesn't make either of us correct.

I see your remark as unkind, victim-blaming, and unwilling to ponder authentically WHO, exactly, is at fault here. The city is failing to give these newcomers (who, as you note, may be fleeing all kinds of things you have no idea about) a safe, warm place to sleep. The city is providing rotten, inedible food. We can fault Mayor Adams, Governor Hochul, and the feds -- and indeed, we should! -- but the fact remains that these folks are suffering. Our generous volunteer neighbors are trying to do something about it. NYC is a city of newcomers and always has been.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to EVLovesNY, Stacie, EVG, and all the volunteers and residents who have been helping. I am so proud of my community for stepping up. However, this situation is not sustainable. I'm sure the Mayor would love to continue having residents do the work that we pay taxes for our government to do. We CAN take care of everyone, but with so much corruption, mismanagement of city funds, and an extreme wealth gap, this is becoming an impossible task. The likes of Bezos or Musk could easily drop a few pennies and be lauded as "heroes" for saving society (and feeding their egos) but they choose not to. Why?