Work began in earnest Tuesday on a tent city in the parking lot of Bronx’s Orchard Beach designed to accommodate the overflow of migrants coming to New York from Latin America via Texas and other parts of the country unwilling to accommodate them.
It’s the first of the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers to be constructed citywide in response to the migrant crisis. Tuesday morning saw workers erecting steel beams for the tent in Orchard Beach’s parking lot; by 1 p.m., the reinforced shells of two tents had already been completed.
Crews lugged beams, screwed nails, and drove trucks filled with what will be the tents’ coverings, all in anticipation of thousands of migrants being dropped off in New York City.
Mayor Eric Adams declared a humanitarian crisis last week with city services stretched thin and shelters overwhelmed with new arrivals yearning to breathe free in the Big Apple.
Bronx Assembly Member Michael Benedetto toured the site during the early stages of construction, stating that he is awe-inspired by the process and states he stands behind the mayor.
“I’m awed by it to tell you the truth. The tents that they’re putting up seem to be quite sturdy. The tents supposedly will be on platforms. So, the people, if there is some water problem here in Orchard Beach parking lot, they will be walking above the water. I support the mayor and what he’s doing. This is a humanitarian effort,” Benedetto said.
Benedetto also revealed that he expects the site to open on Oct. 4.
But Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson criticized the plan, believing it is dangerous to house migrants in areas prone to flooding. Mayor Adams had previously acknowledged Gibson’s concerns, but noted that desperate times called for desperate measures on the city’s part.
“Yeah, and I take my hat off to Borough President President Gibson. She raised her concern about the flood prone area. But at the same time, she just acknowledged, ‘hey, Eric is dealing with a crisis. Our cities are dealing with a humanitarian crisis.’ And I think that we really don’t sometimes understand that this is a humanitarian refugee crisis,” Mayor Adams said during a press conference on Tuesday. “And so we looked at 50 locations and found the best location we’re going to open more sights. This is not long term. You know, let’s be clear. This is not something that’s going to be done long term. This is not a shelter issue. This is a humanitarian refugee, migrant crisis, humanitarian crisis. And so we’re going to pivot and shift as needed.”
Although Adams says he is committed to adding asylum seekers who have braved unimaginable horrors to make to the United States, the city is being criticized by both those who are championing immigrant rights, and those who are less than enthused with their new neighbors.
“I have nothing against immigrants, believe me. My grandparents were immigrants but we don’t know where they are coming from and they are putting them in our backyard,” Nancy Weihh, a Bronx resident of over 70 years, told amNewYork Metro.
Other human rights groups are also criticizing the move, yet for very different reasons.
Advocates are challenging the site for both weather and safety concerns. Critiques are also being levied for having the migrants placed at such a remote location. Mayor Eric Adams rejected such notions.
“And to those who are saying, you know, it’s inhumane to use tents. I mean, like, what are people talking about? There was a tent in Central Park during COVID. Did people forget? I was on the ground in COVID. I know that we had a boat. We had a hospital boat that was utilized. We had other locations that were utilized,” Adams scoffed.
Additional reporting by Ethan Stark-Miller