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College Point community leaders express opposition to migrant shelter at St. Agnes Academic High School

Jul. 28, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

After learning that the city has selected the shuttered St. Agnes Academic High School in College Point as a temporary migrant respite center, City Councilwoman Vickie Paladino confirmed that 300 asylum seekers, including women and families, will be bused to the facility during a press conference held on Thursday, July 27. 

Originally, according to Paladino, the city had planned to house 300 migrant men at the school, located at 13-20 124th St. However, following negotiations with the mayor’s office, Paladino provided an update saying that 100 women and 200 adult migrant families instead will be arriving at the facility on Friday, July 28, into the weekend. 

“This is the best case scenario that we’ve got,” Paladino said to her constituents, who were displeased to hear about the facility at the press conference outside of St. Agnes High School. “I don’t want it in College Point either, but we are all in a very desperate situation. Creedmoor is getting 1,000 beds — a tent city. So, I’ll take a respite center where they can stay for a week, or a month, and go.” 

St. Agnes will be a migrant respite center which is different from a Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC). A Respite Center is a temporary shelter for asylum seekers to stay until they are placed in a HERRC. These types of centers do not have any city services for the asylum seekers and are only shelters for them, according to Paladino. 

The asylum seekers will stay for 60 days at most, according to Paladino. There will be security on-site and an 11 p.m. curfew. The city’s contract for the facility is only three months. At this point, there are no plans for an extension. 

As for plans to reopen St. Agnes as a public high school in 2026, Paladino said the facility will not “impede or slow down” the project. Construction will remain on schedule when the building is once again cleared. 

“The school is in the design stages with the School Construction Authority which means there is nothing physically being done with the building yet,” Paladino said. “Even if asylum seekers were not being housed there, the school would not be under construction at this point.” 

As eastern Queens lawmakers have voiced their opposition against the Creedmoor migrant shelter in Queens Village, Paladino noted that College Point is “way over capacity” and is “unequipped to handle this crisis any longer.” 

“The location of this Respite Center is totally unacceptable. College Point is already suffering with an overburdened infrastructure, as well as crime,” Paladino said. 

During the press conference, Paladino was bombarded with questions and interrupted by loud outbursts from her constituents who were fired up about the city’s plan. At certain points, the councilwoman had to stop and ask the crowd to “address her with respect.” 

The councilwoman reassured her constituents that she will secure their safety, and will continue to provide transparency regarding any concerns they may have about the facility.

Jennifer Shannon, president of A Better College Point Civic Association, reiterated other residents’ concerns about the safety of their children, and the placement of the shelter at the school. 

“We have a middle school, Bridge to Life, which is mom’s trying to get back on their feet, an autistic school and a senior center — not a good location,” Shannon said. “Anything the city doesn’t want is put in College Point. I’m not against helping people; I’m against how the city does things. There are better places and better locations…dead smack in the middle of a community is very unfair.” 

One resident said “There’s a middle school right on the corner, where I work, and there’s teenage girls there, and it’s not safe.” 

Jerry Castro, of the College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association, said he is not against immigrants, but that there has to be an “orderly process and not floods of people crossing the border.” 

“The city has been placed in a difficult situation with millions and millions of people streaming across the border. Word travels fast and immigrants hear that New York City is a sanctuary city, just like some cities in California, maybe Chicago and California,” Castro said. “Adams may be faced with a tough situation, but he has not called on any of his fellow Democrats for the obvious solution: close the border.” 

Paladino, joined by Curtis Sliwa, a 2021 Republican mayoral candidate and founder/CEO of the Guardian Angels, took shots at the Democrat leadership on the issue of the migrant crisis in the city, while encouraging residents to join their civic associations and vote in elections. 

Curtis Sliwa, a 2021 Republican mayoral candidate and founder/CEO of the Guardian Angels, speaks at the press conference about the Migrant Respite Center at St. Agnes High School in College Point on Thursday, July 27.

“For all those who are outside of Creedmoor, where Vicki said they want to put 1,000 migrants in tents in the hot sweltering heat, their battle is our battle. It’s all of our battles – it’s us and we, not I and me,” Sliwa said. “Onto victory and let’s take our city back.” 

According to Paladino, the migrant crisis in New York City is “entirely at the hands of the Democrat leadership.” 

“Democrat leadership in the state government and federal government have refused to do what is necessary. The federal government needs to close the southern border immediately and restore an orderly immigration process,” Paladino said. “The state government needs to step in and help the city with the thousands of asylum seekers who are already here in terms of providing housing, food, services and funds.” 

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