Migrants at new Brooklyn shelter say privacy is an issue, but commute is manageable

The city is now preparing to move families into the hotel early next week.

Friday, February 3, 2023
Migrants at new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal shelter say privacy is an issue
Migrant men at the new Brooklyn Cruise Terminal said the location is manageable, but lack of privacy is an issue. Sonia Rincon has the story.

HELL'S KITCHEN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The Watson Hotel in Hell's Kitchen is preparing to welcome families next week after the remaining single migrant men were cleared from the sidewalk in front of the hotel.

Police officers took chainsaws to locks holding many of the migrants' bikes in an unannounced clearing of the sidewalk outside the hotel on Wednesday night.

It came after the city's days-long effort to move migrants from outside the Hell's Kitchen hotel to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.

Some of the migrants said they'd rather be on the sidewalk, in the cold and snow, than in a shelter in Brooklyn. However, the handful of men that were originally camped out in front of the hotel, were absent as the city moved in.

Some of the migrants and activists claimed that the conditions were uninhabitable at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. They said that it's cold and there aren't enough bathrooms, that it's isolated, and that they don't like the congregate setting.

The city has refuted those claims, saying there is free transportation, plenty of bathrooms and it's not cold.

"It's warm, It's safe," NYC Councilmember Gale Brewer said. "The problem is privacy and location."

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The location, on a Red Hook pier, lacks the convenience of a Manhattan hotel, like the Watson.

Despite those shortcomings, the city says the shelter does provide the men with laundry machines, e-bike charging stations, a secure room, like a coat check to store locked bins, and a Health and Hospitals doctor on site at all times.

Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon asked asylum seeker Jorge Hernandez, who is from Venezuela, about the food and climate control.

He said that it is fine and that he can sleep comfortably and rest for work, which is one of the most important issues for migrants.

On Thursday, Governor Kathy Hochul said more state help is coming to expedite the process to work legally while seeking asylum.

"I'm adding more attorneys to help that process go more quickly," she said. "After 180 days from receiving that status, they're eligible to work in our state. And that's going to be a game changer for them."

In the meantime, the requests for federal help continue.

"The main goal should be getting additional resources, should be getting additional municipalities, should be getting folks the work authorizations to work," NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said. "And getting people into permanent housing."

The public advocate, who also got a tour on Thursday, says the fact that the terminal is the best option shows just how little shelter space the city has to work with in an emergency.

In about 10 weeks it won't even be an option once cruise season starts.


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