Several elected officials visited on Thursday the migrant Humanitarian Relief Center set up in Brooklyn to analyze its conditions following the sit-in protest outside of the Watson Hotel.
Over the past week, a group of asylum seekers who had stayed at the hotel refused to be transferred to the relief center established in Red Hook, Brooklyn out of fear for the conditions there. But what exactly are the conditions there?
While City Hall charged that the migrants’ doubts came due to a misinformation campaign set ablaze by outside agitators, advocates on site said they were merely attempting to offer support for New York’s latest residents.
A group of elected officials including state Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, state Senator Roxanne Persaud and Congress Member Dan Goldman ventured to the facility to find out for themselves. Although the politicians lamented the lack of privacy in the congregate facility, they also lauded the city for the aspects they say have been done well.
“It is certainly not an ideal situation for anyone. But under the circumstances, it’s really admirable,” Goldman said minutes after having toured the center. “Certainly, there’s very little privacy for anyone — which I know the city is aware of — but under the circumstances with the crisis that we’re facing in the city, I was very, very pleased with what I saw in there. The bigger issue is that we need to figure out a way to resolve this crisis, that’s something that I’ve already started working on at the federal level.”
Goldman also stressed that he is working to expedite work permits so immigrants are able to earn a living in America and become self-sufficient. The Congress member also touched upon concerns that the facility provides adequate heat, but he did critique that the facility’s showers were located outside, not inside.
“Because the showers require propane to be heated, they have to be outside of the warehouse, and it is cold when you walk from the area where you sleep out to the showers — and it will be really cold this weekend. So, we already had a conversation with Health and Hospitals about potentially putting up a tent and maybe some heaters on that route you walk to and from the showers, but inside of the terminal it’s quite warm. There are no issues,” Goldman said.
Cruz shared that she did not know what to expect prior to her arrival, but with her ability to speak Spanish, she was able to get first-hand accounts from migrants regarding their experiences at the Red Hook facility.
She stated that the individuals at the facility have access to phones, three meals a day, snacks, and a warm place to put their heads down, which is something she believes is a stark contrast to the dangers of traveling through the treacherous jungles of the Darian Gap.
While there some aspects that may not be optimal, such as the beds being stitched so close together, Cruz said the migrants are being treated with dignity. However, she also pointed out that being within such close living quarters is not the healthiest situation; she hopes the city makes changes at the site to improve these conditions.
Cruz also commented on the City’s response to the Watson Hotel situation which saw NYPD and DSNY sweep away migrants from their protest encampment.
“The Watson Hotel situation [was not] ideal and it’s never the right way to send the police to clean up, because that’s basically what happened. They sent the police, got folks out, got them to come back here. There’s other ways to do it,” Cruz told amNewYork Metro. “Those folks who were there had legitimate grievances and concerns about coming here. And they should have been heard, they shouldn’t have been left out to basically fend for themselves in the cold because that’s what happened. If it hadn’t been for community groups that came by to support them where would be? I think the mayor’s team and the administration has a lot of room for improvement.”
Many of those staying at the facility appeared to come and go without impediment, as well as commuting via buses. Messages of support and flowers had also been pinned to a fence nearby.