Dozens of illegal immigrants camped for a second night in the street outside Manhattan’s Watson Hotel since Sunday, protesting their relocation to a new shelter at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
New York City Hall said the removal of the male adults is to make space for immigrant families. But some of those who had been staying at the free three-star NYC hotel rooms after entering the country illegally through the southern border argued that the alternative is not up to scratch.
Illegal immigrants told the New York Post that they shared the hotel room with only one person, and sometimes occupied the entire space themselves, including a private bathroom and shower. With easy reach to local shops and businesses, a two-trip MetroCard was also provided to each of them daily, an immigrant said to the outlet.
The new facility in Red Hook, featuring clean but communal sinks and toilets, in comparison, is designed to shelter as many as 1,000 single adult men, according to officials. The isolated terminal is the city’s latest opened Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC). Videos show its massive open space filled with neatly fitted cots connected to each other.
“The cruise ship terminal is better than the homeless shelter, where there were a lot of crazy American men and American men on drugs,’’ a 42-year-old Venezuela immigrant told The Post. “But the cruise ship terminal is not as good as the hotel,” he added.
Despite onsite services such as medical care and laundry, several illegal immigrants who had been to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal over the past weekend warned against the shortage of basic living standards such as heat, blankets, or storage.
Fabien Levy, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Eric Adams, rejected claims of unliveable conditions. “[T]he site is offering the same services as all other HERRCs,” Levy wrote in a late Monday post on Twitter, saying he had personally visited the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to fact-check whispers about cold spaces.
“We checked the thermostat and the facility is definitely warm [even saw a man wearing shorts inside],” the post reads.
The mayor also promised as he toured the new facility on Monday that healthy food and snacks would be provided onsite, besides heat and blankets. A video recorded onsite also shows the mayor playing ping pong with the illegal immigrants inside the mega-shelter.
“We just need to stop the anxiety,” Adams said, according to the footage.
NYPD officers have been called in to clear the street, forcing the group of illegal immigrants to break down the tents. Yet many on Monday refused to back down and kept sleeping along the sidewalk of West 57th Street, calling for a solution. Migrant activists and volunteers offer daily supplies such as food and water to the group.
Shahana Hanif, chair of the New York City Council’s Immigration Committee, condemned the forced removal of the illegal immigrants. Representing Brooklyn's 39th District, the councilwoman urged the Adams administration to “prioritize keeping people in proper brick-and-mortar facilities,” according to a Monday statement.
It came amid a crisis in which thousands of border crossers have been bused to the north every day.
According to the New York mayor’s office, the city has to date opened five humanitarian relief centers and over 80 emergency shelters to help the more than 43,000 asylum seekers who have arrived in the city since last summer. The office said while providing food, education, health care, and legal support to illegal immigrants, it’s still in desperate need of national support.
“I'm speaking directly to the [Biden] administration,” Adams said during his Monday appearance on CNN. “This is a problem that we must have a resolution, both from Congress and immigration, but the administration to deal with the immediate need that we have.”
Warning the immigrant influx could cost the Big Apple as much as $2 billion, Adams urged the Biden administration to ramp up federal funds to help the city out in mid-January, during the mayor’s visit to the Mexican border.
As of Jan. 30, New York City’s shelter system is housing more than 70,000 people, among whom two-thirds have arrived with their families, according to the homeless services department’s latest daily report. This number does not account for the more than 40,000 recently arrived illegal immigrants who have applied for shelter.
Adams previously said New York City was “nearing its breaking point” in the unprecedented crisis. Yet the mayor recently drew fire from activist groups, after saying last week that asylum seekers shouldn’t fall into its right-to-shelter policy, referring to a 1979 law that requires the city’s homeless shelter system to provide a bed to whoever needs one.