New Yorkers and advocates for the homeless are angry, saying the city isn’t doing enough to help the hundreds of migrants lining up each day outside the East Village’s St. Brigid’s shelter reapplication center, hoping for a place to sleep as winter-time temperatures continue to drop.
The city is using the former St. Brigid’s School, located at Avenue B and East 7th Street, as a respite center where migrants can briefly warm up, get food and reapply for a stay in a city shelter. But the queue to get inside is so long, that many standing in line don’t make it inside before the site closes, often leaving them to sleep outside the building or in nearby Tompkins Square Park.
The line at St. Brigid’s is comprised mostly of men, though there are some women and children. All are seeking a new place to sleep, having been evicted after reaching the city’s new shelter limit, which is 60 days for families and 30 days for individuals.
Many residents who live in Manhattan’s Community Board 3 confines, which includes the East Village, say it is “imperative” to move people inside and out of the cold, calling it a “humanitarian crisis” that the city needs to address.
Jess Beck, who lives in the East Village, is one of many neighborhood residents advocating for more help for the migrants.
“I feel that the city dropped the ball in a major way. The administration is logistically challenged,” Beck said. “They seem to lack the creativity and the political will to put the city’s vast resources to work on this problem. In some ways, to me, it appears they don’t want to put the city’s resources to work.”
amNewYork Metro sent requests to the city about the issue but did not receive a response.
Community board concerns
Some of the community board’s concerns include lack of accessible bathrooms, food and warmth. Because of the city’s poor response to these issues, some area residents, including Beck, are stepping in to help the migrants.
Beck, who lives near St. Brigid’s, founded East Village Neighbors Who Care, a neighborhood group that organizes food and clothing drives as well as other support for the migrants of St. Brigid’s. She visits them often, talks with them and said many waiting in line are malnourished and hungry.
“We’re doing the job that the city should be doing, that politicians should be doing,” she said. “We’re a Band-Aid in a humanitarian crisis. Frankly, shame on Mayor Adams and shame on the city politicians.”
This month, Beck raised more than $8,000 to support EVLovesNYC, a nonprofit that helps New Yorkers in need. The organization was already providing meals to the migrants at St. Brigid’s on Sundays, but the new funds will help the organization increase their efforts.
Savitri Durkee, one of several volunteers at EarthChxrch, a nearby performing arts space that brings migrants inside to warm up, is not only upset with the mayoral administration, but also City Council Member Carlina Rivera, who represents the East Village.
“Carlina Rivera, we’ve never seen her. She doesn’t show up at all,” Durkee said. “She’s totally AWOL on this situation. In Tompkins Square Park, you can go over there and there’s sometimes a thousand people standing around freezing and starving. And where is she?”
Edward Amador, a spokesperson for Rivera, said the council member has visited the site and is “very involved in the matter.” She’s also spoken to NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol several times.
“We have supported individuals seeking asylum in our community through partnering with Epiphany Library to bring resources to asylum seekers, with Aid For Life to provide clothes and resources, and with Bellevue to deliver over 1,000 diapers over the past holiday season, to name a few ways,” Amador said.
Other East Village residents are more forgiving of the city’s response — including Antonio Taylor, who, along with his partner Mable Quey, prepare and deliver food such as potato salad and pasta on a periodic basis to the migrants at St. Brigid’s.
“It’s not that the city isn’t doing enough,” Taylor said. “It’s that the city is overwhelmed.”
Updated at 10:27 a.m. on Jan. 26.