Some in Staten Island putting up fight over shelter for asylum seekers

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022
Some in Staten Island putting up fight over shelter for asylum seekers
Some people on Staten Island are upset of asylum seekers being bused in overnight from Texas and housed in their neighborhood of Travis. CeFaan Kim has the story.

TRAVIS, Staten Island (WABC) -- Some people on Staten Island are upset of asylum seekers being bused in overnight from Texas and housed in their neighborhood.

They say Travis is already overwhelmed by underserved homeless people, but the mayor says it's every borough's responsibility to do its part in dealing with the crisis.

On Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams said it is the responsibility of every borough to house asylum seekers, including Staten Island.

Elected officials say for days, the Comfort Inn in the Travis section of Staten Island has been taking in busloads of migrants.

Roughly 1,800 of them all arrived in the city over the weekend, bringing the city's total to 18,600 asylum seekers.

"This is a federal problem that warrants a federal solution," said Staten Island borough president Vito Fossella.

Republican leaders are putting the blame on President Biden.

Last week Adams declared a state of emergency, saying it will cost the city a billion dollars and asked for federal intervention.

"This is a hotel on the side of a highway really in the backwater of Staten Island," said City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli. "This is not a place where there are nonprofits, there are community organizations, there are no resources for these folks here."

"A FEMA-like situation warranting a FEMA-like response, I don't think anybody ever envisioned 15, 20, 25,000 people showing up, saying we have to accommodate everybody," Fossella said. "So I'm curious to see what the city's official position is."

"Everyone is going to see asylum seekers, all the calls I'm getting from elected officials, all the calls that I'm hearing from people, of saying please not here, that cannot happen," Adams said. "This is a citywide crisis and all of us are going to be impacted. Staten Island is going to be impacted like the other four boroughs."

But in the most conservative part of the city, they say a disagreement over policy doesn't mean they can't see a humanitarian crisis.

Elected officials say migrants are wandering the neighborhood aimlessly, knocking on doors and asking for help.

"I'm proud that Staten Islanders and our religious institutions are stepping up to help these people, it's the right thing to do," Borelli said. "I'm glad we aren't giving them the Martha's Vineyard treatment and just shipping them off to the next place."

"The good people of Staten Island who are very charitable, generous, compassionate, they are treating this almost like a triage situation," Fossella said.

And in the Stapleton section of the borough, at the Central Family Life Center, that's the way they see it too.

Just hours into its first day collecting donations, in coordination with the city, bags filled with clothes and toiletries piling up.

"We've had an overwhelming response from across Staten Island and beyond, persons want to help, people want to help people," said Rev. Demetrius Carolina with Central Family Life Center.

The borough president also says residents got no heads up before this happened.

The mayor says this is an emergency and that Texas is not coordinating, barely giving the city even a day's notice before sending buses.

Community Board 2 on Staten Island will hold a virtual public hearing at 7 p.m. to answer questions from Staten Island residents about plans to house asylum seekers at the Comfort Inn.

RELATED | 9 buses of migrants arrive in New York City, most in one day since asylum seekers started to arrive

Mayor Adams has said the city's shelter system is at its breaking point, with at least 11,000 migrants arriving since the summer.


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