Asylum-seekers in Queens were treated on Tuesday to free haircuts inside a hotel serving as a Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center — and Mayor Eric Adams provided quality control for the effort.
The clean-shaven chief executive of New York City had his eyebrows shaped on March 28 at the makeshift salon set up in the lobby of the Wyndham by Wingate hotel in Long Island City, at 38-70 12th St.
The program saw up-and-coming barbers set up their shears and scissors in order to cut hair for a cause. The Mayor’s Office and the SUNY Bronx Educational Opportunity Center worked together to set up the makeshift barber shop.
Hundreds of asylum-seekers and migrant families, who currently call the hotel home, were afforded the opportunity of having a free makeover after months of staying in the shelter ungroomed. Tuesday marked the initiative’s launch, which will see the cutters stay in the lobby for one week, ensuring that all those in need will have access to the trim.
However, according to Mayor Adams, the project will also be expanded to standard homeless shelters serving all New Yorkers as well. The mayor explained that this both gives student barbers the training hours they need to pursue their career while also caring for the vulnerable population.
“Give the training hours and get the free haircut. You know, our favorite New York four letter word: free. We’re going to do it here at our hotels, emergency hotels for children and families, and we’re going to do it in our shelters. So, it’s not just for those who are immigrants and asylum seekers, we’re going to do it in our shelters,” Adams said.
Hizzoner declared that he believes something as simple as a haircut could change the outlook of how a person feels and even alter their confidence level.
“To change somebody’s day really says a lot. And that’s what we’re trying to do, and not only to the hotels, but our homeless shelters. We’re really trying to make people feel better about themselves. You’re not always in control of your circumstances, but you’re in control of how you feel. And these little things go a long way,” Adams said.
The Wyndham by Wingate hotel serves families from South America all the way to Russia.
Angelina with her husband Igor and two-year-old daughter, Anna, migrated from Russia to New York City one month ago to get away from the ongoing turmoil and war. The family shared that they lived near the Ukrainian border and that they fled the country in December, and ending up waiting a few months before they could cross the border in the United States.
The family emphasized their appreciation for city agencies and the U.S. government for providing connections to medical insurance, education, access to social workers and more.
“Every benefit we have here is very important and we really appreciate it. The crew here is very polite, and they answer all our questions,” Angelina said.
“A lot of people here are really doing great things to us,” Igor chimed in.
Igor shared that once they arrived in America, they had no money, no work, no place to live or eat. They feared that they would remain in a state of limbo. The couple add that the journey was an arduous and emotional roller coaster from panic to a sense of relief upon arriving in New York City and receiving aid.
“We lived near two or three hundred kilometers from the border with Ukraine. We have Ukrainian last name. It’s really hard for us since last year,” Igor said. “When we crossed the border, we were really scared because we’ve lived in only one place, in Russia, all our lives. This journey for us was terrible and scary.”
“We were worried about our lives and about the lives of our children. That was a difficult decision, but we had to do that. New York is a really big city and we were worried about safety for our children but now that we are here we are really thankful and really happy that we have such kind of opportunities,” Angelina added.