Showing posts with label asylum seekers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label asylum seekers. Show all posts

Monday, December 4, 2023

City officials help facilitate successful meal handout for asylum seekers in the East Village

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

After the difficulties with the planned food and clothing distribution at the former St Brigid School on Friday, NYC Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol and Deputy Commissioner of External Affairs David Schmid (both East Village residents) reached out to help facilitate a planned meal handout yesterday at the asylum-seeker reticketing site on Seventh Street and Avenue B. 

The city offered volunteers with East Village Loves NYC the interior courtyard space, complete with OEM pop-up tents to protect against the rain, to pass out 390-plus hot meals to those in need. (On Friday, after arranging for food distribution, officials at the site wouldn't let volunteers hand out the warm meals to those asylum seekers inside the school.)
Father Seán Connolly from St. Brigid/St. Emeric also helped facilitate the distribution and coordinate a plan between the city-run site and the Archdiocese of New York, which owns the space that the city leases. Plans are currently underway to provide additional supplies through the Church and a faith-based initiative.
Yesterday's distribution, serving asylum seekers from China, Russia, Western and Northern Africa, and Central and South America, included all Halal dishes of beef chili, chicken paprikash, vegan red lentil stew, Danish, fruit, nuts/snack packs, and hot coffee, which was extra welcome in the raw, rainy conditions. 

Community members — along with city officials and the always-popular Google translator app — showed up to help provide communication services.
I spotted several people wearing slippers or chancletas and saw others clearly unprepared for the colder temperatures accompanying NYC this time of year. OEM officials discussed the difficulties in providing shoes, coats, and warm clothing and the logistical challenges in assisting the massive influx of asylum seekers. (Per media accounts, more than 140,000 asylum seekers have arrived here since last spring.) 

The mood was optimistic at the end of yesterday's distribution. 

"[The city] set us up in our own private space and provided tents to keep us dry," said EV Loves NYC co-founder and executive director Mammad Mahmoodi. "This meant we could deliver the offerings with much more dignity and care. We hope that this is the start of a healthy and productive relationship between us all and that they fulfill some promises they made moving forward."

Previously on EV Grieve:

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Distro disaster: City rejects warm homemade meals for hungry asylum seekers in the East Village, opts to serve moldy rolls

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

Despite assurances from the site supervisors at the former St Brigid school for a cooperative effort in a food and clothing distribution yesterday, things did not go according to plan.

As is the case so often when working with the city's asylum-seeker sites, like here on Seventh Street and Avenue B, snafus started early, with access denied, not allowing us to feed people, and (literally) shutting the doors and windows to the clothing pipeline.
After a week of intense media attention and freezing temperatures, asylum seekers waiting in line to receive placement are now allowed indoors, where they can begin trying to find space in a new shelter after receiving their 30-day notice from previous locations. 

Some opt for reticketing elsewhere (anywhere in the world, one-way tickets are available), but only a few. I personally have only witnessed three in the past week. Those who cannot be placed in the system return to Bathgate in the Bronx, where they can sleep on the floor and start the process here again the following morning. 

Since people were indoors yesterday, on-site officials would not let them exit and re-enter to receive the donated meals and clothing that they needed.

At one point, a pipeline was established to provide clothing and food through the windows, but security soon shut all the windows and ended this makeshift distribution.
The volunteer-run East Village Loves NYC prepared 450 hot Halal meals, and Pep Kim from Cafe Chrystie donated hot coffee, sweatshirts, socks, and other merch to the effort. Coats, scarves, and gloves were also donated by local residents via a drive with the East Village Community Coalition.
While some people received the much-needed meals, many were prohibited from receiving assistance. 

Pastor Will Kroeze from Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish on Ninth Street and Avenue B was able to take some of the extras to provide for other community members in need. 

EV Loves NYC co-founder Mammad Mahmoodi explains, "The City requested our meals multiple times. We put so much effort and energy into getting 450 meals, snacks, coffee, tea, etc. together — from 5 a.m.! — to be rejected [from providing] service inside for hungry folks. We even moved to send some meals via windows that they blocked. Meals were outside, hungry folks inside, and the city blocked the connection." 

In an image provided by an anonymous source from inside St. Brigid, we were shown the on-site meals delivered by ReThink Foods that indicate mold on the rolls. 

I spoke with site management, who told me that the city-run site "receives food adequate for the needs of the migrants."

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

More asylum seekers are lining up for help at the former St. Brigid School in the East Village

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

The former St. Brigid School is seeing an overwhelming number of asylum seekers this week here on Seventh Street and Avenue B. 

The site is being used for "reticketing" services ... which help provide transportation to asylum seekers bussed to NYC but whose final destination is elsewhere.

In recent weeks, up to 150 people — all adult males, no children — come through the site on a given day. On Monday, more than 650 were at the former school, which is not offering beds or shelter now. 

On Monday, the volunteer-run East Village Loves NYC handed out 275-plus Halal meals to the men waiting outside. Below are Sasha Allenby and Mammad Mahmoodi from EV Loves NYC...
Most of these asylum seekers reported they were hungry and had no food. They also said they had been removed from other shelters after 30 days and hoped to find another respite center to await a final destination in the States. (Mayor Adams has limited the amount of time adult migrants can stay in city shelters to 30 days.) 

While I was there, some people chose to go to respite centers at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens or at JFK, and one person was reticketed to Albany.
Most people waiting in recent days would not be able to be processed. They will most likely return to Bathgate, in the Bronx, where asylum seekers can sleep on the floor indoors before trying their luck again another day. 

On Monday, there was a heavy NYPD presence with barricades erected to help manage the crowd. Staff from the Office of Emergency Management handed out mylar blankets. The site had prepackaged sandwiches and bottles of water inside, plus what looked like cans of tuna and some snacks.
A few local businesses have reached out about doing a distribution. However, working with the city is exceedingly difficult. I can't stress that enough.
Some asylum seekers were spotted sleeping in Tompkins Square Park and nearby curbside dining structures as temps hovered in the high 20s Monday night.

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."

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Volunteers and donations sought for asylum seekers in the East Village this week

Photos and text by Stacie Joy 

Here is information about the next distribution for asylum seekers temporarily staying at the former St. Brigid School on Avenue B and Seventh Street ... featuring an interfaith coalition with participating religious institutions including: 

• St. Brigid/St. Emeric/Most Holy Redeemer 
• Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish 
• Graffiti Church 
• Middle Middle Collegiate Church 
Residents can drop off clothes and goods starting today ... plus tomorrow and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the St Brigid's rectory, 119 Avenue B between Seventh Street and Eighth Street. 

The distribution will be on Thursday, June 29, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Volunteers are welcome to attend and help. (A bonus if you speak French or Spanish.)

In-demand donations include adult clothing, blankets and bedding, backpacks, and shoes (especially chancletas). (Please note: no children or infants are at this location.)
Previously on EV Grieve:

Friday, June 16, 2023

Cafe Mogador provides a free meal to asylum seekers staying in the East Village

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy

Last evening, East Village mainstay Cafe Mogador, 101 St. Mark's Place, provided a free meal to the asylum seekers staying temporarily at the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B.

Danny Orlin (middle above), son of Cafe Mogador founder Rivka Orlin, was there with some of the restaurant's staff member to distribute the meals — chicken tagine with rice.
The recipients were very appreciative, and everyone loved the food...

Monday, June 12, 2023

How these East Village volunteers finally made Wi-Fi a reality for asylum seekers

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

It has been a never-ending challenge to navigate the red tape and bureaucracy since the city quietly established the East Village respite center for asylum seekers in late May, but we can report some much-welcomed progress.

This past Wednesday, Father Seán Connolly from St. Brigid/St. Emeric met with MedRite reps and the NYC Mesh Wi-Fi install team as we strategized how best to get equipment in place to provide access to the hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B.

We toured the roof (where we all stared at the thick yellow wildfire smoke and smog that coated the sky), the electrical room, and the basement and looked in on some classrooms (currently being used as sleeping quarters lined with cots) with window access.    
I'm not this tech-savvy, so I zoned out during line-of-sight, nodes and hubs conversation and used the time to check in with a few of the people who are staying at the site. A gay couple from Russia mentioned (via Google Translate) that their "kidneys are freezing" and requested a mattress or pad, or pillow, and blanket. Two men from Mauritania asked for shoes. I assured them we are getting them in as quickly as possible. I wish I spoke French, as so many asylum speakers here do. 

Then, just when I think we are ready for the Wi-Fi installation, the site supervisor alerted us that approval has not been granted — despite the earlier letter drafted by Father Seán and the church. So the NYC Mesh team is back to square one. 

Paul Gale, a board member at the East Village Community Coalition and tech wizard co-creator of the peak-pandemic era What's Open in the East Village site, bought and donated a T-Mobile hotspot that someone can plug in at a nearby location, and we awaited word on the efficacy of that. 

We disbanded for the day and prepared for Thursday's planned distribution, although the ominous and dangerous air quality casts doubt on this. 

By the following afternoon, the air quality improved enough that we felt safe to do the distribution, although we scaled back the duration and size. While volunteers ran clothing and supplies from the drop-off site at 107 Avenue B, I got everyone on board for the planned Free Store: Site supervisors, MedRite staffers, OEM and security personnel, and officers from the 9th Precinct who are stationed at the site for round-the-clock police presence as mandated by the Mayor. 

The asylum seekers helped the volunteers set up the tables and then patiently waited in line as we got items sorted. We had fewer people today due to the atmospheric conditions. But by now, the system is in place and we had items sorted into categories quickly. Bags up front so each shopper can fill their sacks with needed supplies. Clothes, then bedding and bath, followed by personal care items. Shoes line the wall with a chair nearby so folks can try them on for size.
An EVG reader and volunteer named Helen arrived to assist the lone Mandarin speaker. It turned out that Helen's parents are from the same province as the woman, and they talked about basic needs of the asylum seekers and other challenges they are facing. The woman was relieved to have someone to speak with. 

At the end of the night, she showed me a Google-translated note on her phone thanking us.
Hilary, an EVG reader who lives near the site, donated two soccer balls to the Free Store, and they were a big hit, with impromptu matches breaking out. It was Mauritania vs. Colombia up first. 

We also heard back from the precinct officers trying to get the donated supplies to the Police Academy Gym respite center site in Gramercy Park, but they have, once again, been turned away. An officer lamented, "There has to be a way to get this stuff to the people who need it." 

Meanwhile, the NYC Mesh team mapped out a plan to install equipment on the rectory of the church next door on Avenue B, which will allow access on the courtyard and some of the north-facing windows of the school. The team, helmed by Brian Hall, works for hours getting it up and running, and by the time we left at 8 p.m., dozens of folks have signed on and are receiving service!
Paul made a sign with QR codes and a multi-language approach, and we start handing them out and getting them posted within the building. 

Now limited Wi-Fi is available in two locations — the back of the building with Mesh and in front of the building with Paul's T-Mobile hotspot. This admittedly limited WiFi, which doesn't stretch into the central portion of the building, will allow the asylum seekers to make their immigration calls and check-ins and also message family and friends.
There are smiles. People here could use some much-need positive developments.

If you'd like to volunteer, the next — and last planned distribution on the calendar — is tomorrow, Tuesday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Please show up at 107 Avenue B during that time frame to assist.

Thank you to all the community members who have taken the time to donate or help out — the effort is truly appreciated.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Despite the city's endless bureaucracy, East Village residents continue to aid asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

Last week, EVG reader (and parent of Miss Kita the Wonder Dog) Jose Garcia messaged the site and offered to do a Costco run with his husband to purchase supplies for the asylum seekers temporarily housed at the former St. Brigid School

So the three of us (Kita stayed home) spent this past Sunday afternoon trying to find inexpensive sandals, shoes, T-shirts, underwear, and socks at the 125th Street Costco location.
Upon returning to the school on Seventh Street and Avenue B with our newly purchased supplies, we started handing them to grateful asylum seekers outside. We didn't have enough for everyone, and I promised we'd return on the next distribution day.

At that point, Sunday's site supervisor came out and yelled at me, "You can't do this! You just can't do this! You have to stop!" The previous clothing drive had ongoing issues: fights between city employees and the state Assemblymember's office that led to someone calling the police. And problems working with all the different abbreviated groups inside the center: OEM, NYCEM, MedRite and the Mayor's Office. 

There isn't a clear chain of command and no transparency. Despite clear and visible proof that the city needs help, they do not appear keen on accepting it. Some site staffers report being reprimanded for accepting donations or assisting with providing aid.

Signs went up at the center announcing that visitors and donations (not to mention weapons) were not permitted inside the school.
Tuesday's distribution ran more smoothly, primarily due to cooperation carefully forged and negotiated with the new MedRite site supervisor and a team of East Village volunteers who spent some sweaty hours sorting clothes and supplies and helping distribute them to those in need.
There was also an assist from some hired security team members from inside the center and help from the refugees themselves. 

It was a successful event, and people could source most of what was needed. I was told there were 237 people inside at the time of distribution (maximum capacity is 350), and I guestimate we saw about 150 of them in line for supplies.

During Tuesday's volunteer distribution, NYC Mesh and Verizon both showed up (again), offering free Wi-Fi installation for the site — a crucial need for the asylum seekers eager to be able to contact loved ones. But the NYC Mesh and Verizon reps were turned away (again), with officials citing something about "proper procedure" and a need for authorization. 

However, it's unclear just who authorizes this (or anything) at this respite center. A rep from the city's IT team was onsite as a volunteer, and she is trying some outreach, and we are trying to establish a pipeline with the Mayor's Office. Meanwhile, Father Seán Connolly from St. Brigid's/St. Emeric on Avenue B and Eighth Street wrote a letter requesting access to install equipment.
Everyone remains persistent and optimistic, but the endless bureaucracy and lack of transparency or assistance wear people down. 

An official "from immigration" was onsite Tuesday asking asylum seekers in line if they want to be sent to Albany or points north with the same offer as before (housing, beds, a shower, working papers and a job). However, word is spreading that this may not be factual. I didn't see anyone taking them up on the offer. 

We had supplies left over that were slated for the Police Academy Gym site on 21st Street (another local Respite Center). Still, we couldn't get any cooperation between that site supervisor or workers at the location. Officers from the 9th Precinct tried to assist with the delivery, but they, too, were rebuffed. After several frantic calls, we found a home for the donated items at the Delancey Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church on Forsyth Street, which will pass them on to the unhoused locals they work with.

If you’d like to donate or volunteer, another drive is scheduled today (June 8) from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Please just show up at 107 Avenue B at Seventh Street to volunteer or to drop off selected merchandise: men's pants, shorts, and sweats are especially in need. And, as always, chancletas in all sizes. New boxers-briefs, backpacks, and jackets/sweaters are also highly requested.

While volunteers are needed to sort the new donations at 107 Avenue B, there may not be an outdoor distribution if the smoky conditions remain. 
Future drop-off date: Tuesday, June 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Previously on EV Grieve

Monday, June 5, 2023

A call for volunteers and donations for asylum seekers this week

Text and photo by Stacie Joy 
Photo from yesterday as EVLovesNYC provided meals
to asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School 

Thank you to all the EVG readers and community members who have offered to help with the distributions for asylum seekers at the former St. Brigid School this week. 

We're posting a volunteer call here. We're looking for people from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 6, and from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday. People can arrive at 107 Avenue B (near the corner of Seventh Street) any time in that range to assist for however long they can. 

We especially need folks who can arrive early to sort and fold clothing and personal items and people who have translation skills in Spanish and French (or Arabic, Mandarin, or Russian) who may be comfortable at the tables distributing goods. (No heavy lifting!) 

In-demand donations include backpacks, book bags, shoes (especially sneakers and chancletas), laundry detergent, jeans, sweats, T-shirts, shorts, underwear, jackets and sweaters. Also welcome: Blankets and bedding, washcloths and towels, and personal care kits. All for adults; there are no children or infants at this location. 

The only assistance the asylum seekers are receiving is from community members. The city continues to obstruct and object to the flow of goods, food, and services, yet the Mayor's office continues to request community support. It's confusing and frustrating, though watching the neighborhood turn out repeatedly to assist has been uplifting and heartening.
Previously on EV Grieve:

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:

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: