Former jail in Harlem to be repurposed for asylum seekers

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Former jail in Harlem to be repurposed for asylum seekers
New York City will repurpose a former jail in Harlem to house asylum seekers.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City will repurpose a former jail in Harlem to house asylum seekers.

Officials say there are no cells at the former Lincoln Correctional Facility, which closed in 2019. At one time, it housed immigrants from the Young Women's Hebrew Association.

Contractors descended on the dingy, eight-story brick building overlooking Central Park in order to upgrade the wiring and the plumbing to accommodate a new wave of migrants from the nation's southern border. Neighbors say the location makes sense.

"America is built upon a promise and many people want to come here to share in that promise," Harlem resident Nathan Giles said.

The building can shelter up to 500 migrants. The first of them are expected to arrive within 48 hours.

"We're grateful to the state for providing this site and partnering with the city to open this space as a temporary site for asylum seekers as New York City continues to face this humanitarian crisis," a city spokesperson told CNN.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Community Center in Brooklyn is stepping up to address the crisis.

For the last nine months, they've offered shelter to 75 asylum seekers of all faiths.

"As a Muslim, it's an obligation upon us to house migrants and people who are travelers," said Soniya Ali, Muslim Community Center. "I can definitely understand when they talk about their families and their children that they have left behind, or their wives, or whoever it is that they've left behind. I do understand that because I have family members who are back home, not here, and you do feel that sense of longing.

A local government official says New York City will soon announce a program to open up to 50 "Faith-Based Stabilization Shelters." The city plans to open 10 shelters on July 1 and then open 10 additional shelters each month until November, with an option to extend the contract to open more shelters, the official said.

The goal is to count on at least 950 additional beds by the fall.

Transforming houses of worship into shelters comes as New York continues to look at other venues for shelter space for its nearly 45,000 homeless migrants. Mayor Eric Adams said the city is overextended and cannot continue to support the number of arriving migrants.

Just last week, the city opened up additional so-called "respite centers," intended to provide temporary shelter, and sent three busloads of migrants 150 miles north, to Albany, over the weekend.

Gov Kathy Hochul has ordered state officials to find suitable state facilities, including SUNY campuses, to shelter migrants.

"We're also looking at space at JFK, looking at a hangar there, waiting for federal approval," Hochul said. "We've been very focused on surveying all the state assets."

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