At least 13 people were arrested Wednesday night during a rally that drew hundreds to protest the newly opened tent shelter for asylum seekers at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens, according to police.
City officials said around 120 migrants arrived at the shelter on its opening day Tuesday, and 250 were expected to get there by Wednesday. Located in the parking lot of the Creedmoor campus, the tents are expected to house 1,000 single adult men – drawing opposition from those rallying Wednesday, including Bayside resident Joan Palmentiere.
“I’m here because my granddaughter plays in this playground and I’m very upset that she won’t be able to with 1,000-something military-aged men,” she told Gothamist. “I’m worried for her because it’s not going to be safe. There’s a school here and the YMCA – it’s just a very bad location to put something like this.”
Across the street from the entrance Wednesday night protesters held signs that read “Americans over migrants” and “send them back.” Chants from the crowd included “No tent city” and “Close the border.”
Led by Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, they crossed the street to the entrance of the campus where they clashed with police. After being warned over a loudspeaker to get out of the intersection and stop blocking traffic, several people, including Sliwa, were placed in zip-tie handcuffs and arrested by police, though it was unclear what charges they faced.
The new respite center was approved by the state, which is also footing the bill. It comes as city officials say the city has run out of space and money for new arrivals at shelters and emergency hotel sites. More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in the city since last spring, with more than 58,500 remaining in the city’s care, according to a Wednesday statement from Mayor Eric Adams.
The mayor said Sunday that the “dam has burst” as migrants lined the streets around Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hotel, spending some nights sleeping on buses or on the sidewalk in hopes of finding a space for shelter. Adams has been seeking potential sites across the city for months, including emergency shelters on Randall’s Island and in Sunset Park.
Tension between the city and state over the situation also came to a head Wednesday when, as part of a court proceeding, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s lawyers sent a letter calling out the city for not accepting help sooner and being slow to act on the crisis.
A bus full of migrant men departed an Astoria church building Tuesday night, several men who were staying at the church told Gothamist. A group of them shared videos with Gothamist showing blankets, clothes, and other belongings strewn across the floor where they had been staying.
They said city workers removed the beds and threw their belongings on the ground, with no prior warning. Workers wearing lanyards for the New York Disaster Interfaith Services could be seen on the premises.
A group of at least 10 men said they refused to go on the bus to Creedmoor and would rather sleep on the street.
Demonstrators on Wednesday said Queens Village was not the right place for asylum seekers. Some pointed out that the area is a transit desert, with just one bus line reaching the site. Others, like Irma Goran, herself an immigrant, said the residential area wouldn’t provide migrants with any work.
“Here, really there is not a lot of places where they could find jobs. There is no commercial anything around here. You don’t find stores or businesses, you don’t find any of that. It’s just houses, schools, parks, that’s all you’ll find here,” Goran said, adding that safety was also a main concern.
“Maybe they pose a danger for the little kids,” Goran said. “My daughter is 12 and she walks home by herself from the school to tell you the truth. I have to make plans now to see how I’m gonna pick up my child from school.”
City Hall spokesperson Fabien Levy on Tuesday said protesters were allowed to voice their opinions, but not allowed onto the property. He pointed to security guards stationed on the premises 24 hours a day.
“For those who are criticizing, we are out of good options. We are out of OK options. These are the only options left,” Levy said. “It’s a question of: Do you want people sleeping on the street, or do you want people sleeping on a cot?”
Arya Sundaram contributed reporting.