Mayor Eric Adams attempted to dispel rumors about conditions at the new migrant Humanitarian Relief Center in Brooklyn on Saturday by spending the night at the facility.
The mayor was joined on Feb. 4 trip to the Red Hook Cruise Terminal by Manhattan Assembly Member Eddie Gibbs and homeless advocate Shams DaBaron. There, hizzoner endeavored to meet with asylum seekers, hear their concerns, and sleep alongside them during the coldest night of the year thus far.
“I would never ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself,” said Adams. “On the coldest night of the year, Assembly Member Gibbs, Shams, and I wanted to show the asylum seekers staying at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal the warmth of New York City.”
Adams said he, Gibbs and DaBaron decided to sleep at the terminal overnight to experience exactly what the migrants are experiencing.
“What we saw is what we have seen since the beginning of this crisis, individuals who are grateful to the greatest city in the world for providing them the opportunity to work towards the American Dream,” he said. “I’d like to be clear that the facilities at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal are providing the same services to asylum seekers as every other humanitarian relief center in the city, and the team at the terminal is giving new meaning to the words ‘love thy neighbor.’”
The mayor’s visit to the new relief center comes after days of sit-in protest outside of the Watson Hotel in Midtown, where a number of single male migrants were forced to leave to make room for women and children. Many of those migrants were bused by the city to the new center, but some dug their feet into the sidewalks of Manhattan, where they hunkered down in demand of better accommodations.
Those camped out in protest were discouraged by the congregate setting of the Brooklyn center, and alleged poor conditions at the new site.
While city officials have since accused several “outside agitators” of instigating the upheaval, apprehension over conditions at the humanitarian relief center remained.
Nearly one week after the chaos erupted — and days after the remaining migrants were forced off the streets and into the new shelter — the three political leaders sat with those who traveled far and wide in search for a better life, eating with them and even sleeping with them in what has been described as a barracks-like set up.
DaBaron, who has experienced homelessness before, said he has been in settings like the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal before and has advocated for privacy at city shelters. However, the man — widely known as “Da Homeless Hero” — told amNewYork that his experience Saturday was a pleasant one.
“When it was time to sleep, we went right among the people, made our beds and before we went to sleep, we had a great conversation,” he said. “For me, being someone who lived that life, it was almost like revisiting it — not in a traumatic way, but in that way where I felt among family, like I did during the pandemic when me and my fellow residents in the shelter I was in became bonded more by our mutual experience during that time. We had a really good conversation.”
Spent the coldest night of the year at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with “Homeless Hero” and advocate Shams DaBaron & @AMEddieGibbs.
Our brothers are being kept warm and the team working here is giving new meaning to the words “love thy neighbor.” pic.twitter.com/62o0wE7W2r
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) February 4, 2023
DaBaron spoke candidly about the demonstration about the Watson — and of the conditions at the congregate shelter.
“As someone who speaks against the use of congregate shelters, I have to honestly say that in this crisis moment it is the best option we have right now to ensure those coming into the city are safe, and able to access resources,” DaBaron said. “If I was in a hotel, I’d of course want to stay there but if I had to choose between me being there and giving it up for a family, I wouldn’t have a problem giving the hotel up if this was the option being offered to me.”
While members of the press were not permitted to witness the stay due to what City Hall cited as privacy concerns, the mayor’s office released several photos from the interactions there. The mayor could be seen conversing and laughing with several migrants as they played Fifa World Cup on Xbox.
“Because of the willingness of these men to move to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, families with children have already started to move into the Watson Hotel,” Adams said. “More than 44,000 asylum seekers have moved through our intake system in the last 10 months, and we’ve provided them with warm shelter, food, education, health care, legal support, and a host of other services. As someone who grew up not always knowing where I would sleep at night, I empathize uniquely with these asylum seekers and will not only work every day to provide them with these resources, but will always do so with care and compassion.”
On Thursday, several other elected officials visited the Brooklyn center to analyze its conditions.
During that trip, 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, which they called ‘Not ideal but admirable.”