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Winter weather arrives as NYC migrant crisis worsens: 'It's going to get ugly'

Tim Balk, New York Daily News on

Published in News & Features

NEW YORK — In a defining image of New York’s migrant crisis, scores of asylum seekers slept on the pavement outside the migrant processing center at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown last summer. When the temperatures plunge this winter, any similar breakdowns could prove much more dire.

As the city’s asylum seeker challenge deepens, the mercury dips and new shelter deadlines approach for the arrivals, advocates are worried the migrants could face a long, cold winter.

“This becomes even more of a life-and-death issue as the weather gets cold,” said Dave Giffen, director of the Coalition for the Homeless, a court-appointed monitor of the city’s shelters. “It’s going to get ugly.”

New York City currently has about 67,000 asylum seekers in its care, according to Mayor Adams’ office, up by about 20,000 since the start of the summer.

Frigid at St. Brigid

Last month, images began to emerge of bundled-up migrants waiting outside a former Catholic school in Manhattan’s East Village that has been transformed into a reticketing site, theoretically a location for people trying to leave the city. Harvey Epstein, the local assemblyman, said outdoor lines massing in the morning made for a recurring issue during the last week of November at the site, the St. Brigid School.


The city said it would make special efforts to keep lines indoors at the reticketing center, rearranging the site to offer more space inside, and introducing a system allowing migrants to leave without losing their spot in line. The line abated for several days at the start of December.

But by Thursday, the line was back in full force — snaking around the block as snowflakes fell on Manhattan. Carlina Rivera, the local city councilwoman, said the overwhelming majority of the thousand or so migrants at the station were looking for a place to stay in the city, not a ticket out of town. She said Thursday she had spoken to one man in line who said he had slept on the subway the previous night and was seeking a warm bed.

On Thursday night, a couple dozen migrants slept outside the shelter, Epstein said. And a line of about 100 people stretched around the corner again by 7 a.m. on Friday.

“We need to find locations where people can stay inside,” Epstein said, adding that the city did not create the problem, but has a responsibility to keep people warm. “A lot of human suffering is happening, unfortunately.”


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