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

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

You can watch last night's Community Board 3 meeting right here

Several people have asked us about last night's full Community Board 3 meeting at P.S. 20, in which Zach Iscol, commissioner of the NYC Emergency Management, provided an update on the agency's asylum-seeker operations and community engagement efforts on Seventh Street and Avenue B. (We wrote about the meeting here and here.)

We embedded the video of the meeting below. Iscol starts speaking (and answering questions) at the 23-minute mark...


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Playground reminders in Tompkins Square Park; city to update Community Board 3 on asylum seekers tonight

Photos by Stacie Joy 

Updated: You can watch a playback of the CB3 Board meeting on YouTube here. Zach Iscol starts at the 23-minute mark.

Signs stating "No adults except in the company of a child" — written in multiple languages — were recently posted on the playgrounds along Avenue B and Seventh Street in Tompkins Square Park...
In recent months, some residents have expressed concerns about the migrants waiting for a new shelter assignment outside the former St. Brigid School on Seventh Street and Avenue B. They have been congregating on the SE corner of Tompkins Square Park, including inside the playgrounds. (This past fall, Mayor Adams began limiting adult migrants' stays in shelters to 30 days before they have to leave and reapply at this so-called East Village reticketing site.) 

The influx of men standing around has caused some residents to no longer visit the playgrounds with their children. It was also made clear that the men were often unaware that they couldn't be inside the playgrounds.

Making matters worse, the city removed the three portable toilets from Tompkins Square Park on Jan. 9, forcing anyone visiting the 10.5-acre property to figure out where to relieve themselves. (The restrooms in the field house are closed until the fall for renovations.) According to residents, the playgrounds have become popular public toilets, with some equipment serving as cover. 

While the signs look official, it's unknown who left them on the playground gates. 

The two playgrounds in this park area received a year-long, $2.7 million upgrade, unveiled in October 2019.

Meanwhile, as we reported last weekZach Iscol, commissioner of the NYC Emergency Management, will appear before Community Board 3 tonight. Per the invite, he "will update the community on the agency's asylum-seeker operations and community engagement efforts within the confines of CB3." 

Iscol is expected to speak at 7 p.m. (The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.) Only CB3 board members can ask questions. (The deadline for residents to submit questions was this past Friday.)

The meeting will be in person at PS 20, 166 Essex St., just south of Houston, and streamed on YouTube here.  
Previously on EV Grieve: 

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.  

Saturday, January 6, 2024

2 NYPD officers sustain minor injuries after line cutters cause skirmish at reticketing outpost for asylum seekers on 7th Street

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

Two police officers sustained minor injuries this morning after two asylum seekers tried to cut in line at the reticketing center on Seventh Street and Avenue B. 

According to police sources, two officers were stationed at the former St. Brigid School as usual. Trouble started when two men tried to cut in line... causing a fight among the others who had been waiting in the cold for hours. (Sources also said this isn't the first time people tried to cut in line.) 

Two officers in the immediate area from the 9th Precinct responded to the scene. Both officers were injured in the fight, one suffering a bloody nose and the other a hyperextended arm. Both were checked out at the station house on Fifth Street before returning to patrol. There wasn't any word of injuries to asylum seekers involved in the skirmish. 

Several residents noted a large NYPD presence at the site as more officers arrived following reports of injured officers.
Meanwhile, police officials also cautioned well-intended residents from leaving items near the property for asylum seekers, which has caused some pushing and shoving as they fight over several pieces of clothing or food.

Officials said plans are in place for a more extensive distribution to meet the needs of more asylum seekers. 

According to media reports and local elected officials, the line here has grown from a few hundred to several thousand each day "as the city is out of space to house migrants," per CBS 2

Adult asylum seekers come to the school for placement in city shelters after their 30-day limit expires. Many asylum seekers, carrying all their belongings, start lining up as early as 4 a.m. 

Read our previous coverage here.

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

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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

City using the former St. Brigid School to help asylum seekers with transportation

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy 

The city is once again putting the former St. Brigid School to use to aid asylum seekers.

Sources confirmed to us that the city's Office of Emergency Management has repurposed the school, which the Archdiocese of New York closed in the spring of 2019, for "reticketing" services ... which help provide transportation to asylum seekers who are bussed to NYC, but whose final destination is elsewhere. (We're told that other administrative services may also be offered here under the auspices of the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers.)

The posted hours of operation here are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Signs at the site note the following (in five languages), "Attention: this is a reticketing hub! This is not a respite site/shelter. There are no beds at this site. We are here to help you get transportation to any state, or country, of your convenience."
Yesterday, we spotted several asylum seekers at the school. Two people were consulting a computer-printed map to get to Astoria. A city medical staffer told us they could only provide a single emergency meal — today, a tuna fish sandwich was available. Staff members are also not authorized to provide medical aid.  (Updated: The City has more on this story here.)

Before this development, the city was again ready to house arriving asylum seekers — adults only — in the building on Seventh Street and Avenue B. In early October, workers filled the facility with cots — set up in classrooms and other open areas throughout the building — for the arriving asylum seekers...
The facility included showers in the rear parking lot adjacent to the church...

However, according to sources, the school was susceptible to flooding, and with the heavy rains in recent weeks, workers had to make repairs before anyone could stay on-site. The flooding and a sewer issue made the basement and cafeteria unusable here. In the end, there were too many issues to address in order to house people.

As we previously reported, the city used the building for asylum seekers from late May to the end of August. The space was said to accommodate 350 people. The city struggled to meet the basic needs of the new arrivals here. (Our previous post highlighted some of the issues at the school.) 

Locals helped organize several clothing-and-supply distributions, and many East Village residents graciously donated a variety of items as well as their time. 

According to published reports, more than 120,000 asylum seekers have arrived in NYC in the past year, and about 60,000 are currently in shelters run by the city.