Staten Island residents protest use of former school to house migrants

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, August 26, 2023
Staten Island residents continue to protest over use of former school to house migrants
Marcus Solis is on Staten Island with the latest following Friday night’s protests.

ARROCHAR, Staten Island (WABC) -- Tension continues to build over in a neighborhood on Staten Island, where residents are blasting the decision to use a former school to house migrants.

The anger flared up Friday, after dozens of asylum seekers were bused to a former Catholic school, St. John Villa Academy, for housing in the Arrochar neighborhood. In response to the arrival, hundreds of residents began protesting, with three of them arrested for obstructing governmental administration.

As opposition continues over the shelter, which is now open, Saturday morning saw a significant police presence in the area in light of expected protests.

Hundreds of residents started protesting overnight - three of them arrested for obstructing governmental administration. CeFaan Kim has the latest.

Hours after migrants arrived Friday, residents had a short-lived victory. A judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the city, only to be reversed hours later, when the city won its appeal.

The mayor's office says it empathizes with residents and is reminding them this is a federal problem that can only be solved by leaders in Washington, D.C.

The city says it is out of options.

"We're Christians, we're Americans, we're patriots. We have compassion for these migrants. We love people but we just want to make sure our children are safe," said resident Germaine Ferro.

The city says the plan was to house about 50 asylum seekers on Staten Island -- single women and families, no single men. Twenty of them left because they felt unsafe.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul is putting pressure on the White House to act.

During a speech Thursday, she said the crisis originated with the federal government and therefore they should resolve it by expediting work authorization, federal housing vouchers, more space to use as shelters, and reimbursement for National Guard deployment.

The state is providing an online form where asylum seekers with work authorization in New York can register for assistance.

"The reality is, we've managed thus far without substantial support from Washington, despite the fact that this is a national indeed an inherently federal issue. But New York has shouldered this burden for far too long," Hochul said.

The governor also said large-scale shelters will not be opening in cities in upstate New York, which is something Mayor Eric Adams has been pushing for.

Adams criticized the governor's remarks by saying the state is minimizing the role it needs to play in the crisis.


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