Dozens of migrants found living in retail space, New Yorkers urged to file complaints

ByAnthony Carlo, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 29, 2024
NYC urging residents to flag illegal migrant shelters
Anthony Carlo is in the Bronx with the latest.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Mayor Eric Adams' chief of staff on Thursday encouraged New Yorkers to file complaints with the city if they witness dangerous living situations. It comes after dozens of migrants were found in unsafe conditions in the Bronx and Queens this week.

It is especially important to note since the city is monitoring another potential migrant surge.

On Wednesday, West African migrants were booted from a Bronx furniture store.

This was the second time in as many days that migrants were found living in a tiny, cramped retail space.

I'm sure they come to this country to get a better life, but you have to do it the right way," said Bronx native Ray Pena.

The location on East Kingsbridge Road charged a $2,400 deposit and $300 a month to stay in the space that had been illegally converted into sleeping quarters.

Police say electric bikes and space heaters were found, making it a fire hazard.

The city issued vacate orders after receiving complaints about the Bronx location and another one in Richmond Hill, Queens housing 74 men.

"Very unusual to find some people living in a store you know," said vendor Mazin Ali.

The owner of both locations, Ebou Sarr, said the migrants were sleeping on the street and he was trying to help.

It was also revealed that Sarr had been arrested last month for trespassing in a vacant library on Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx. He told police he was looking for a vacant building to house migrants.

The mayor's chief of staff was asked if the city's 30-day shelter limit resulted in these unsafe living conditions.

"I don't know that I can draw a direct correlation. What I can say is that over 60% of our population has taken steps to move into other places. Some of that means they are going to move into other locations here in the city, and to the extent we find individuals living in unsafe conditions, we will do what we have done," said Camille Joseph Varlack, Mayor's Chief of Staff.

She went on to say, "We are hearing that there are a lot of folks at the border and that we may have more numbers coming into the city. I think I reported there were 1,200 that came in last week. But our 30 and 60-day plans have been working."

Governor Kathy Hochul, meanwhile, repeated her plea for help from the federal government.

"We're under a lot of stress and a lot of money is being spent to house people to make sure they're not in the streets and try to get them jobs. It's taken its toll on our state. We're at capacity. We have big hearts, but we're at capacity," she said.

Varlack said when migrants reach the shelter limit and go to re-apply, they are offered a paid opportunity to relocate to any city of their choice, or the city will find them another bed.

As for Sarr illegally renting out his stores, he has been issued violations he will have to answer in court, which could potentially result in penalties.

Each of the four violations against him carries a maximum penalty of $25,000.

ALSO READ: Mayor Adams says he supports deporting migrants who commit serious crimes

Lucy Yang has the details.


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