‘Bring back our seniors’: Staten Islanders angry over migrant shelter where residents displaced, safety issues remain

Staten Island resident holds up sign at protest over migrant shelter
A Staten Island resident holds up a sign in protest of a migrant shelter on March 9, 2024.
Photo by Barbara Russo

Nearly 100 Staten Island residents protested on Friday to shut down a migrant shelter in the borough’s Midland Beach neighborhood, vocalizing their anger and frustration over an ongoing community issue rife with controversy that has been making headlines for months. 

Community activists Scott LoBaido and John Tabacco organized the rally after a group of local elected officials said in a letter to city and state officials this week that the shelter is operating in violation of multiple city codes. 

The protestors, holding signs that read messages such as “only legal immigrants welcome,” and “bring back our seniors,” rallied outside the shelter at 1111 Father Capodanno Blvd., advocating to restore the building to its previous use as a senior living facility. 

Last year, Homes for the Homeless, the nonprofit that runs the shelter and owns the property, contracted with the city through a $28 million lease to house migrants there for three years. As a result, the senior residents, approximately 50 of them U.S. veterans, were displaced to unspecified locations. 

“They put the illegals before American citizens and our veterans who lived in that building for a long time. They were kicked out,” Debbie, a protestor, said. The migrants living at the shelter are not “illegal”; they are asylum-seekers who legally sought refuge at the border, and were granted temporary permission to enter the U.S. pending review of their asylum application.

LoBaido, an outspoken critic of the city’s handling of the migrant crisis, did not shy away from sharing his views on the issue.

“Staten Island is a unique borough,” he said. “We give our politicians a lot of heat throughout the years for not doing this or that. It’s tough to be a politician. But our local politicians, since we started this fight last year, have been on top of it like nobody’s business.”

What are the city code violations?

Migrant shelter site on Staten Island
The migrant shelter at 1111 Father Capodanno Blvd. in the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island.Photo via Google Maps

Staten Island elected officials, including Assembly Member Michael Tannousis, Congress Member Nicole Malliotakis, Borough President Vito Fossella, state Senator Andrew Lanza and City Council Member David Carr, previously sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams demanding the shelter be shut down. 

After filing a Freedom of Information request, the group discovered that continuing the use of the facility as a migrant shelter resulted in multiple violations of tenants’ rights, Department of Buildings agreements and problematic leasing. 

“From the first wave of migrants that came to New York, we have been consistent in opposing shelters opening on Staten Island,” Fossella said. “Staten Islanders did not cause the migrant crisis and should not have to solve the crisis. We said more than one and half years ago that what the city was doing would be unsustainable, and it remains so.”

Protestors clash with police

Staten Island state Senator Andrew Lanza speaks in megaphone
State senator Andrew Lanza speaks at a protest against a migrant shelter on Staten Island on March 8, 2024.Photo by Barbara Russo

Meanwhile, back at the protest, the scene briefly became chaotic when police ordered the protestors to move across the street. After several run-ins with officers on site, Lanza went to the megaphone to express his discontent. 

“The rank-and-file police officers that we have here are the best police force on planet Earth, and we’re lucky to have them,” Lanza said to the crowd. “They’ve got to take their orders from a bunch of people who don’t care about us and would rather protect people who are breaking the law than people who are exercising their first amendment rights.”

amNewYork Metro spotted National Guard members patrolling the area behind the shelter. Only the governor can order in the National Guard, but according to Assembly Member Tannousis, it was not clear why they were there. 

“I don’t understand what the purpose is, but it’s just another example of our tax dollars being expended because of the laws we have in New York City to the detriment of our taxpayers,” he said.