Migrants in NYC


For immediate release

November 23, 2022

Contact: Lamoradanyc@gmail.com / southbronxmutualaid@gmail.com 

On November 22nd, unhoused migrants staying at the NYMA hotel (6 W 32nd St.) organized a press conference to speak out against the maltreatment they were receiving.

Unhoused migrants at the NYMA hotel report no hot water or heat, they are served moldy-frozen food, and they have no access to privacy in their rooms since management removed door locks. Migrants are constantly assaulted physically and verbally by shelter management and staff at the Nyma Hotel-Shelter. The hotel management continues to withhold their mail, while the staff regularly enters their rooms unannounced, taking their furniture and donations. 

Hotels that receive funds from the city to house migrants are mandated to provide a case worker that will provide

  • intake and other services,
  • access to city-regulated resources and programming,
  • safe/edible food, and
  • clean rooms with privacy.

There is currently no social worker or case worker at the NYMA hotel. NYC nonprofits also received city funds for job training to prepare migrants for the workforce. However, all migrants see is occasional OSHA training, giving them false expectations of finding stable income and jobs in the city. 

The hotel shelter-staff has confiscated the microwaves in their rooms, cutting them off from affordable, hearty, and shelf-stable meals and increasing unhoused migrants’ food insecurity. One mother told us that she must use the little money she has to buy food for her children, and she often spends the day nearly fainting from starvation and dehydration until a passerby offers to buy her something to eat. In the middle of the press conference, a child was taken out of the hotel in an ambulance due to extreme food poisoning as his mother held the rotten plate of food the hotel had just served him. Migrants also report that management has closed down an entire floor meant to house them and is instead commandeering it for undisclosed personal use. 

Many of these reported instances are not exclusive to this hotel or migrants; most unhoused New Yorkers have universally experienced this across hotels, shelters, and the previously operating HERRC tents at Randall's Island. Amid rain and a dramatic drop in temperatures, mutual aid organizers saw migrants with no shoes or warm clothing staying at Randall Island's tents (#CampAdams), instead often wearing shorts, sandals, and tank tops.#CampAdams operated much like immigration detention centers rather than as a Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Recovery Center (HERRC). SLSCO, the same company that built Trump's border wall, oversaw the installation of the #CampAdams. The tents were initially constructed in Orchard Beach and soon dismantled due to being in a flood zone with very little access to transportation and services. Mayor Adams and his team decided that the solution to this inopportune location was to rebuild the tents in yet another flood zone, with inadequate transportation and access to basic human needs (food, clothing, resources, proper healthcare, etc.). 

HERRC's are not required to meet shelter regulations. Therefore, there are minimal safety protocols available. Migrants were left isolated on the island, exposed to freezing temperatures and flooding, and forced to shower outside in trucks. Most importantly, DHS and city staff did not inform migrants of shelter options, and most not questioning their placement in the tents as they were new arrivals. 

On November 16th,2022, #CampAdams was closed due to the persistent efforts of mutual aid organizers and unhoused activists. Migrants at #CampAdams transferred to the Watson Hotel- Shelter, where they waited for hours without beds, food, or medical attention. 

In 2019, Councilman Levin testified at a city hearing that only 3% of the 2 billion Department of Homeless Services budget was allocated toward shelter food. A lot has stayed the same since Councilman Levin denounced the substandard, inadequate shelter meals. Moreover, during the Nyme Hotel-shelter press conference, migrants openly discussed how many mothers had to take their children to the emergency rooms due to consuming spoiled food from the hotel. 

Migrants and unhoused activists demand a radical improvement of the food served at NYC shelters, HERRCs, and hotels. Everyone deserves access to high-quality, unprocessed, nutritious meals, with regular health inspections inside the NYC shelters kitchen to ensure they meet Department of Health standards. We also demand that every migrant has access to microwaves and refrigeration in their hotel rooms/floors. There is no reason to prohibit outside food in shelters, primarily when shelters do not provide meals that, at the very least, meet the dietary and religious needs of the unhoused folks. 

In the face of government neglect, mutual aid activists have provided freshly cooked meals and groceries to hundreds of migrants every week — without any city, state, or federal assistance. City/nonprofit contractors with personal ties to Mayor Adams, including but not limited to the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, NICE, NYIC, Make The Road NY, and La Colmena, receive millions of dollars for migrant services and continue to fail to provide adequately for migrants. Two examples of this flagrant nepotism are Manuel Castro, the former Director of NICE, now the Commissioner of MOIA (Mayor's Office of Immigration Affairs), and Cesar Vargas, Senior Advisor of MOIA. They are funneling their budgets into the charities that they used to run. These organizations and individuals must be held accountable and forced to provide the resources they promised and for which they are paid. 

Comptroller Brad Lander himself called attention to how the city fails unhoused New Yorkers. He described Adams' migrant shelter plan as a "debacle" for both humanitarian and budgetary reasons. Unhoused New Yorkers spoke to mutual-aid activists about unsanitary hotel conditions, including no heat, rodent and roach infestations, water coming from the ceiling, electrical issues, unkept common areas, and a lack of access to their stairwells. 

Health, building, and fire code inspections are infrequent. We demand monthly Callahan Inspections and the rights of clients being housed in shelters to be placed in multiple, visible places throughout the shelters. Clients are often threatened with eviction if they report any concerns of the maltreatment they experience daily. Inhumane conditions have led to multiple suicides inside these facilities. Given the recent ban on photos and recording in Department of Homeless Shelters facilities, unhoused New Yorkers will be increasingly vulnerable to the constant abuse they experience inside the shelters by DHS staff.

In response to demands for safe and permanent housing, Adams has announced placements in 80 SRO (Single Room Occupancy) apartments. This is nowhere near enough. According to city data reported by The New York Times and City Limits  2,600 supportive apartments remain empty and available. There is enough housing, with over 38,000 vacant rent-stabilized units, for everyone who needs to be housed. It is unacceptable that New Yorkers are arbitrarily rejected by city agencies, often waiting three months before they can begin to "qualify" for more permanent housing, while the city mismanages funds that could be used to provide them with stable housing. 

Migrants and mutual-aid activists demand permanent housing for all unhoused New Yorkers. We demand that all 38,000 rent-stabilized apartments be offered to unhoused New Yorkers without extended wait periods. We also demand a retroactive fine be placed on landlords who warehouse rent-stabilized apartments. We demand thorough inspections and audits for the grants given to charities and nonprofit organizations and the resources taken on behalf of migrants. We demand a full investigation into how donations of essentials like food, clothing, shoes, and school materials are being handled by nonprofits, city shelters, DOE and DOH. We also demand health services inside HERRCs.