Showing posts with label St. Brigid's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Brigid's. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Addressing the asylum seeker crisis; city to update Community Board 3 next week

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy

On Feb. 9, a few dozen city administrators, local elected officials and community leaders came together for a 90-minute meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis of serving asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School.

The gathering occurred before a public meeting that Community Board 3 is hosting this Tuesday evening, Feb. 27. More about that session is below.

Dustin Ridener, special projects administrator for NYC Emergency Management (NYCEM), described the Feb. 9 get-together as a "small, focused gathering of invited advocates and stakeholders [that] aims to explore collaborative strategies with the community to enhance the support provided to asylum seekers, [to] find more effective and meaningful ways to assist New York City's newest arrivals." 

There were few clear takeaways in the end, though many of the invited had opinions on what has been taking place the last nine months on the corner of Seventh Street and Avenue B and the immediate area. St. Brigid served as a respite center for asylum seekers for several months last year. Starting in October, the facility has been used as a reticketing center — the only one in the city

Since then, the situation here is only getting worse,  as more and more asylum seekers are reaching their 30-day limits at shelters across New York City, and they line up in the cold outside St. Brigid so they can be placed back into new shelters. (We outlined the challenges here.)

NYCEM Commissioner (and East Village resident) Zach Iscol stated that they want to change the narrative "from people in need to people we need." 

"What can be done in the East Village [can] provide a model on how things are done," he said.

Mammad Mahmoodi, co-founder of East Village Loves NYC, the nonprofit that provides food and resources to people in need, including asylum seekers, suggested a name change from a reticketing center, "as it does everything except reticket."

He said EV Loves NYC has been providing 2,000 meals three times a week to asylum seekers, and that Trinity Lower East Side on Ninth Street and Avenue B has been providing 600 meals every weekday — and that no one has received funding.

EV Loves NYC co-founder Sasha Allenby brought up clothing and warming centers, especially for female asylum seekers with no hats, gloves, shoes, or warm clothing. She asked about attention for at-risk populations, people who are "literally freezing." 

The group discussed putting a system in place to identify needs and supply specific items to those folks, but no concrete plans were made.
Another point of conversation: porta potties.

As we first reported on Jan. 9, the city removed the three portable toilets from Tompkins Square Park. The porta potties were in poor shape and had been vandalized, and officials figured the same thing would happen to any replacements.

For the last month and a half, anyone who needs to use a restroom while in Tompkins has been relieving themselves in and around the park.

Paul D'Amore, chief of operations of the Department of Parks & Recreation in Manhattan, told the group that "no decision on porta potties will be made until the spring." Several people made clear there was a need for them, prompting D'Amore and Deputy Chief of Operations Ralph Musolino to agree to discuss the issue and get back to the group. 

The NYCEM pointed out that seven additional portable toilets were brought into the courtyard behind St. Brigid's and that any asylum seeker with a wristband can use them if accompanied to the area by a security escort from the facility. (We checked in with people in line at St. Brigid on the way home from the meeting and learned there were mixed messages about these toilets. Some people reported being able to access the facilities, while others said they could not.) 

The meeting concluded with a plan to reconvene to discuss the next steps. 

Afterward, EV Loves NYC's Sasha Allenby told us, "It was good to highlight the issues, but we really need to focus more on the solutions to them."

She continued: "An easy starting point would be the porta potties in the park. These are a legal requirement and should be an easily solvable issue. We also need real action on the vulnerability of the single women who are arriving."

NYCEM to address Community Board 3 

On Tuesday evening, NYCEM's Commissioner Zach Iscol "will update the community on the agency's asylum-seeker operations and community engagement efforts within the confines of CB3," per the meeting invite.
Iscol is expected to speak at 7 p.m. Only board members can ask questions at the meeting, but residents may submit questions via email by tomorrow (Feb. 23) for Iscol to address. 

The meeting will be in person at PS 20, 166 Essex St. at Houston, and streamed on YouTube here.  

Previously on EV Grieve: 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Amid an influx of asylum seekers in the East Village, elected officials urge the city to open more reticketing centers

Photos last week by Stacie Joy

City Council leaders say the Adams administration needs to create more reticketing centers in NYC to meet the demand created by the Mayor's 30- and 60-day shelter limit stays. 

The letter, signed by District 2 Councilmember Carlina Rivera, House Speaker Adrienne E. Adams, and Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, calls the situation at the city's lone center, located at the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B, "untenable and increasingly unmanageable." 

The lines here are only getting longer as more asylum seekers arrive here to reapply for a cot assignment or shelter location. Those in the line have been evicted due to the city's shelter limit, implemented late last year, which is 60 days for families and 30 days for individuals.

As previously reported, the long lines often result in many people being unable to enter before the site closes, forcing some to sleep outside the building or in Tompkins Square Park, where the city removed the public restrooms on Jan. 9.
Here's more from the letter: 
With more than one center and a consideration for locations in each borough, the City can ensure people do not stand on line in the cold without access to even basic facilities like bathrooms. Multiple locations would also ensure that people are closer to culturally competent, community-based programs and services. 

Volunteers with LESReady!, a Lower East Side nonprofit with organizing and service-provision experience, have identified four potential sites in Council District 2 alone that could support overflow pending the City's approval. It is important that we provide the same services available at St. Brigid's at these additional locations and ask that the managing agencies also do more to provide translation services for both those seeking asylum and the local police precincts who help with the crowds present. 
Currently, having one reticketing center has not only led to physical capacity concerns, it has created a burden on the adjacent local community and its public spaces. Resources are needed to keep up with quality of life issues. It appears that efficiency at St. Brigid's has been in decline, with travel hardships and the overall cost-effectiveness of the process in place in question. Public safety concerns have increased without a support network available even locally to those waiting. 
Line-cutting has been an ongoing issue. Other problems have been observed by officials and residents ... which likely prompted this newly posted Reticketing Center Code of Conduct. (The city published the Code in multiple languages.) 

The 18 points covered include "ignoring directions from staff and City partners" and "setting fire to anything."
The letter concludes with the Council leaders urging the city to act "quickly and compassionately in creating a better system for the thousands of people coming to St. Brigid's for assistance."

Since October, the former school has operated as a Reticketing Center overseen by the NYC Emergency Management (formerly the Office of Emergency Management or OEM).

According to published reports, the city has spent more than $3 billion on housing and services for asylum seekers since the spring of 2022. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Observations on the growing humanitarian crisis with asylum seekers in the East Village

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy
The faces of the asylum seekers have been blurred

A humanitarian crisis continues to unfold with no signs of letting up on this corner of the East Village.

Since October, the former St. Brigid School has operated as a Reticketing Center overseen by the NYC Emergency Management (formerly the Office of Emergency Management or OEM) on Seventh Street and Avenue B.

The lines have grown in recent weeks, stretching from Seventh Street, around the corner to Avenue B, and back down Eighth Street. Here, the people fleeing hardship in their home countries and seeking asylum await help. A majority of the asylum seekers here are from West African countries like Mauritania, Senegal, and the Gambia and are Muslim.

We've been writing about and observing what has occurred here since late May when St. Brigid served as a respite center. The situation has only gotten worse, exacerbated by the frigid winter temperatures.

What follows is an overview of the crisis.

The Challenges
As Vox pointed out, the crisis has deep roots. "The United States' immigration system has long been broken, amplifying an international humanitarian crisis, and the movement of migrants from the southern border into cities has highlighted and tested the system's many fault lines."

In NYC, a report from the Mayor's Office blamed a host of factors for the current crisis, including the lack of comprehensive federal immigration reform, Trump administration policies and overwhelmed immigration courts.

More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in the city over the last year. 
The Asylum Seekers
There are thousands of people maneuvering for a cot assignment or shelter location, with more arriving every day. 

After the Mayor’s 30-day and 60-day eviction notices went into effect late last year, more and more people have been pouring into the St Brigid's reticketing agency. (The city put the 30- and 60-day limits in place to free up shelter space, though some critics have said the policy is only causing more chaos.)

Women, children, and families are prioritized, so you will see mostly men at this center, although some women are in the line. This site, open only during the day (that is, no one can stay overnight, doors close at 7 p.m., and the site is locked up by 9 p.m.), process those looking for one of the few spaces available.
Some people return daily until a space opens up for them at a shelter or humanitarian relief center. People can also accept a free one-way ticket almost anywhere in the world. Right now, there are White House restrictions on Venezuela, but almost anywhere else is fair game. However, very few people select this option. 

If there's space, people can be sent to large sites like the cargo warehouse (Building 197) at JFK lined with cots or wait for a shelter or hotel space to become available. Since there are so few spaces, most people go to Bathgate in the Bronx, where they can sleep on the floor overnight. If there is a Code Blue weather emergency, the former Police Academy center on 20th Street in Gramercy Park will open, and people can stay in chairs overnight. 

People are hungry and need more clothing and supplies. The city does provide meals, or at least food, but often, as we have seen, the food is moldy, expired, or not in accordance with Halal dietary restrictions.  

On Saturday, those at the site received a plastic container with a hardboiled egg, a piece of bread with butter/jelly, and an orange. 
And there is never enough food. Mutual Aid groups like East Village Loves NYC have been working hard to provide hot and healthy meals to people. Still, they have been waiting for promised funding from the NYC Emergency Management. However, none has arrived.

After being strung along for months, EV Loves NYC cannot provide the meals needed. They depend on community contributions and are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We encourage residents to donate to groups like this that feed all people in need, as they are boots on the ground and have the volunteers, resources, and know-how to continue to provide support on a shoestring budget.

The Site 
The former St. Brigid School, which closed in the spring of 2019, is overflowing with people and operating way above capacity. Thousands of people are processed here, and the building's infrastructure and staff can't handle the influx.

Staff from NYC Emergency Management, teams from MedRite and security companies like Arrow and Mulligan, have difficulties every day with fights (cutting the line is a significant problem), sick individuals, and the endless flow of paperwork, translation services, and trying to cope with clearly desperate people who don't have any housing, food, clothing, personal care items or other necessary resources.

Getting work papers is almost impossible, so people work off the books or depend on governmental or community support. Site staff also have to deal with law enforcement and community members who are angry/upset and trying to help. 

The site cannot legally accept assistance from the community due to restrictions and risk-assessment issues like bedbugs, space, and the possibility of contaminated food.
City Services, Including the Parks Department and Sanitation
The additional work with the influx of people waiting in the park has caused stress. Workloads have trebled, and mitigating the trash and keeping the park clean has been tremendously difficult.
Law Enforcement
Police officials are fielding calls every day from angry residents about the asylum seekers. Complaints range from line-jumping fights (a daily, often hourly occurrence) to residents upset about men hanging out in or near the playgrounds along Avenue B in Tompkins Square Park. 
Some residents are also upset about the hundreds of refugees clogging the park, often sleeping in the area and urinating and defecating in public, a situation made worse after the city inexplicably removed the three porta potties — the park's only toilets — last Tuesday.

There have been incidents of violence reported inside the school and in the surrounding areas. New 9th Precinct Commanding Office Pam Jeronimo has made a concerted effort to have officers fluent in Wolof, Pulaar, and Arabic (as well as Spanish) on-site to assist in communication efforts.

The Church
St Brigid-St. Emeric on Avenue B at Eighth Street is part of the Archdiocese of New York. 

The Archdiocese leases the space at the school to the city for the reticketing site (formerly a HERRC). Rentals are usually on a six- or nine-month time frame. The church administrator, Father Seán Connolly, has no authority or oversight over the city's use of the space and has also expressed frustration with being unable to do more. He has participated in distributions and opened his doors for clothing drives. 

Ultimately, he says, he's "a steward of the space." 

Interfaith Coalition 
The neighborhood has an interfaith coalition of organizations, including representatives from Trinity Lower East Side, Middle Church, Graffiti Church, Hope Church and St. Brigid's/Most Holy Redeemer. They often participate in distributions and the sorting and storing of supplies. The community fridge outside Trinity on the corner of Ninth Street and Avenue B is a good spot for wrapped, labeled food donations for anyone needing a meal. 

Local Restaurants
Multiple local businesses, including C&B Cafe, Spice Brothers, 7th Street Burger, Café Mogador, Veselka, Cafe Chrystie, and others, have provided food, meals, snacks, and supplies for asylum seekers. Some work directly with kind-hearted and dedicated neighbors who hand out the food; others work with mutual aid groups like EV Loves NYC to provide bulk supplies (such as Halal meat). 

Local Elected Officials
State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein has attempted to distribute coats the office on the SE corner of Seventh Street and Avenue B received during recent drives but has been stymied by the number of people and the mob scene that ensues. 

Because there isn't an organized way to provide coats to the thousand-plus people waiting, these supplies have been going out in smaller, discreet distributions when someone is spotted without proper cold-weather clothing. All coat drive initiatives at this location have been paused. 

The City of New York 
There is a lack of leadership, money, and any clear path forward from the mayor and his office on down. It is clear that Federal funding is needed, and the city is at a breaking point in trying to manage the massive influx of refugees. 

During a town hall in September, Mayor Adams issued a dire warning: "Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don't see an ending to this. I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City."

At the same time, there isn't any open communication channel with the Mayor's Office, and talks with NYC Emergency Management have remained ongoing and friendly but ultimately empty, as help has yet to arrive.

Community Members
Many residents have asked us how they can help. We see neighbors bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches daily, collect money, and buy pizzas to serve, one slice at a time. Pooling cash among friends and relatives to bulk-order items in constant need. 

We also see people mobbed by hungry asylum seekers when too many people chase too few goods. It can be scary, and there have been situations that include assault and forcible touching.

Safety concerns exist when one person is doing a distribution, and hundreds of people swarm to receive supplies. There's no easy answer here as cooperation with the site, the city, law enforcement, and the church regarding food and supplies distribution is complicated and time-consuming. 

One way people have been having some success is to leave open totes of sweaters, coats, socks, etc., clearly labeled with signs saying Free, Gratis, Gratuit and allowing the asylum seekers to browse for needed items. (It's best to not put the items in garbage bags as they give the appearance of being trash.)

There are very few women in the line, so the overwhelming need is for men's clothing. Bulk items needed right now include gloves, socks, underwear, scarves and hats. These can be ordered in large numbers, and these items are always needed. They are small, easy to distribute, and less expensive than ordering thousands of winter coats. 

There are new people at the site every day. Some people return several days in a row waiting for a new cot assignment, but the need for supplies and food is ongoing. If you are uncomfortable handing out supplies alone, you can do one side-by-side with other distributions. 

EV Loves NYC will donate your new bulk-ordered items like gloves, hats, rain ponchos, and underwear. They cannot accept coats and oversized items right now. They are also overwhelmed and have an all-volunteer staff and request patience. 

You can watch their Instagram for planned dates and times going forward. They also work with other aid groups like NYC Migrant Solidarity and have a planned distribution at the Sixth Street Community Center between Avenue B and Avenue C every Sunday. 
[Spanish for "immigration is not easy"]

This is a humanitarian crisis with a lot of moving parts. Things are subject to change without advance notice, and often, no one is informed of the new rules until they are underway. 

There is a delicate dance of diplomacy and negotiation to get help to the needy without causing further difficulties for staff, residents, and officials — or for the volunteers and asylum seekers themselves.

A lot of frustration is expressed, and people always ask why this issue isn't being addressed. Ultimately, the mayor and the city need a plan going forward, and since there is no end in sight to the flow of refugees being sent here from the southern border, every day brings challenges.

Watching the community come together to help those in need has been heartwarming. Every day, we see asylum seekers using translator apps to express gratitude.
Find the EVG archives with more posts about the asylum seekers here.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

From the EVG archives: Asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School

Photo last week by Stacie Joy

Admittedly, the search function and various templates on the Blogger platform make finding EVG posts older than a few days a little cumbersome. So, from time to time this year, we'll highlight and link to articles surrounding a topic. 

Today, we're starting with the ongoing coverage of asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street at Avenue B. 

On May 30 (link here), we were the first media outlet in the city to cover the school's use as a respite center (and, as far as we know, the only outlet with photos from inside the facility).

Subsequent coverage includes (complete list here):

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

Unfortunately, the situation here is only getting worse,  as more and more asylum seekers are reaching their 30-day limits at shelters across New York City, and they line up in the cold outside St. Brigid so they can be placed back into new shelters.

One way to help is to donate to East Village Loves NYC, the volunteer-run nonprofit that has helped feed people in need throughout the city since the early days of the pandemic. More details here.  

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sunday's parting shot

Christo atop St. Brigid-St. Emeric on Avenue B and Eighth Street late this afternoon ... thanks to Steven for the photo!

Friday, May 25, 2018

A blue jay harasses Christo atop St. Brigid's

Multiple sources said that Christo the red-tailed hawk was taking a break from the egg-watching duties in the nest in Tompkins Square Park... when a pesky blue jay moved in for an unprovoked dive bomb atop St. Brigid's on Avenue B at Eighth Street... EVG correspondent Steven captured the attack...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Updated: Skylight falls from St. Brigid's; Virgin Mary destroyed

There was some drama on East Eighth Street at Avenue B early this morning after one of the skylights from the Church of Saint Brigid – Saint Emeric came crashing down from the roof... @MediaJorge shared these two photos showing the FDNY on the scene...

As far as we know there weren't any injuries... we'll update when we get more information on what happened...

The combined parish reopened on Jan. 27, 2013.

Updated 10:18 a.m.

EVG reader Peter from 8th St. shared these photos from this morning...

The plastic encasement that houses the statue of the Virgin Mary was also damaged...

... as well as the Virgin Mary...

Friday, December 19, 2014


The camel is here for the live nativity at St. Brigid-St. Emeric on Avenue B at East Eighth Street.

Per the church's website: "Living Nativity for Children … Show only at 4 pm; Show & Mass at 8 pm."

A quick update!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cross examination

Red-tailed hawk parents Christo and Dora spotted this afternoon atop the Church of Saint Brigid – Saint Emeric on Avenue B at East Eighth Street … photo by Bobby Williams…

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Want a bus?

Last Tuesday, during the Polar Vortex, this bus broke down in front of St. Brigid's on Avenue B at East Eighth Street. A week later, it's still there. We're told that no one from the bus operator has attempted to make any repairs… or haul it off somewhere…

Until then, what can we do with it?

Monday, October 28, 2013

More speculation on the 'saint' who saved St. Brigid's

In May 2008, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had accepted an anonymous $20 million donation to restore St. Brigid's on Avenue B and save it from demolition.

To date, the donor's name was never made public. But there was a lot of speculation... including, but not limited to: Matt Dillon (he spoke out to help save the church), Donald Trump and George Steinbrenner.

Now another name has emerged from a reliable source — Mel Gibson.

Apparently the actor-director donated to a lot of religious causes, including for preservation... (And this was pre-divorce settlement.)

If this is true, then thank you Mr. Gibson. Nice that one historic church was spared the condo after-life here.

Previously on EV Grieve:
13 keys dates in the 165-year history of St. Brigid's, reopening on Sunday

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saint Brigid-Saint Emeric gets mass-schedule holder display cases

Since reopening, Saint Brigid-Saint Emeric has had its mass schedule taped to the front doors here on Avenue B. But! In a new development captured by Dave on 7th yesterday, the church has installed display cases out front for the schedules and other announcements... (still hoping for bingo night...)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mass schedule for St. Brigid-St. Emeric

Meant to note this earlier... in case you wanted to see the inside of the recently unveiled Church of Saint Brigid-Saint Emeric on Avenue B and East Eighth Street... (And, of course, to attend a mass.) Signs went up last week showing the times for the various masses... (And the church has a new website here.)

Good chance to practice up to be the next Pope.