Hundreds gather to protest housing migrants at former Staten Island school

Janice Yu Image
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Protests continue over housing migrants on Staten Island
Janice Yu has more on the batlle between the state and city and the resources for migrants.

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- As more asylum seekers arrive in New York City each day, the battle is growing over where to house them.

City officials are pointing a finger at the Biden administration while federal officials are calling on the city and state to do more.

There were more angry protests on Staten Island on Monday night over a shelter that opened inside a former Catholic school.

Elected leaders filed a lawsuit against the city, but as of right now, and amid some legal back and forth, migrants are allowed to stay there.

But community members and local leaders are making it clear they do not want the migrants in their neighborhood.

Hundreds gathered once again in front of the former St. John Villa to protest the city's decision to use it to house 300 migrants.

The school closed back in 2018 and the city bought the property.

People who live nearby say it's a safety concern, since the property is in the middle of a neighborhood and there are two schools nearby.

"This cannot stand. This is not right. This must end now. St. John Villa is the worst place you can possibly put individuals," said Vito Fossella, Staten Island Borough President.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is responding to the city and state's pleas for help, though it isn't in the form of immediate resources.

In a letter, the DHS provided suggestions for how the city and state can better handle the ongoing crisis including things like improving data collection, planning, case management, communication and other day-to-day aspects of the operation.

"Here we have the White House saying, 'No, we aren't going to give you the right to work, we are not going to give you any places to be able to house, we are not going to do an emergency declaration, we are not going to fund this, New York, this is your problem,'" Mayor Eric Adams said. "This is wrong on New Yorkers."

This comes after a Biden administration team visited the city for a week-long assessment earlier this month.

And just last week, Governor Kathy Hochul directly criticized the administration, saying the migrant crisis originated with the federal government and therefore it should be up to them to help fix it.

In response to the Department of Homeland security's letter, Mayor Adams said the city is grateful for the collaborative process, but that it did not address the situation on the ground.

In the meantime, a court date is set for September 6 to try to put the brakes on the migrant shelter on Staten Island.

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