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Queens borough president calls for better communication from the city regarding plans for housing asylum seekers at Aqueduct, Creedmoor

Jul. 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

Queens elected officials are calling on the Adams administration to provide more transparency on its plans for housing asylum seekers in tents at the Creedmoor Psychiatric campus in Queens Village and Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park in the coming weeks.

“When it comes to these two proposed sites, the mayor’s office must establish a constant channel of communication with local leaders and neighborhood stakeholders through the creation of Community Advisory Boards for each location,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards in a statement. “The city must also leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of all involved — both the surrounding communities and those housed at the sites alike — and ensure that there is adequate local transportation for our asylum seekers who need to travel elsewhere.”

Civic associations from across south Queens will rally Monday evening at Aqueduct Racetrack.QNS/File

The temporary shelters would reportedly house around 1,000 adults each on state-owned land to alleviate the crisis that has seen more than 53,000 asylum seekers who have been bused from the southern border in recent months.

“As the administration discusses the merits of these potential locations, we cannot lose sight of the individuals at the heart of this crisis,” Richards said. “Many of these asylum seekers are young families who have made perilous, months-long journeys across entire continents, carrying with them little else but hope for a safer, more prosperous future for their loved ones.”

Reports indicate that the state gave permission for the city to move forward with the proposal to place a tent encampment on the parking lot at Aqueduct.

“The decision by Governor Hochul to green-light plans that would place hundreds of migrants in this area is unacceptable,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “This area is surrounded on all sides by residential neighborhoods and those neighborhoods are already underserved by city services as is. Adding hundreds of new people will only further strain these already heavily stressed services and will undoubtedly create a crisis should this plan go through.”

She added that, among other issues, the low manpower at the 106th Precinct, and the already over-stressed staff at the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center as two chief areas of concern.

“The 106th Precinct is already short on manpower and struggling to adequately police their service area, and Jamaica Hospital — being the only hospital in the area — is nearing a breaking point in terms of workload,” Ariola said. “These newcomers will push the already scarce resources of these places past their breaking point, with dire consequences for the entire area.”

She said she will be attending the “Rally to Protect Our Community” on the grass across from the Resorts World entrance on the North Conduit, which was scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 17. A broad coalition of civic organizations across south Queens have organized the rally to protest the lack of “community input regarding the plan, the placement of non-vetted individuals being siphoned into the community and an already stretched city agency workforce,” as part of their opposition. The organizations include the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association, the Ozone Park Residents’ Block Associations, the Ozone Tudor Civic Association, the United American Hindu Leadership Council, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, the Broad Channel Civic Association and the Belle Harbor Property Owner’s Association.

“In the ‘World’s Borough,’ we have always opened our arms to anyone who wishes to build that better life right here in our community. That will never change, regardless of circumstance,” Richards said. “Above all else, such a proposal is [yet] further proof that there is no more critical work ahead of us locally than the work of rapidly and significantly expanding our affordable housing stock.”

Richards called on Washington to do more to alleviate the city’s crisis.

“On the federal level, the Biden Administration must move with the urgency of now to allow our asylum seekers to gain employment immediately,” he said.

A spokeswoman from the Mayor’s office said the only HERRC currently set to open that has yet to do so is the one near the Brooklyn Navy Yard that was previously announced.

“As the mayor has said, all options are on the table as we deal with this crisis and no humanitarian relief centers are final until announced,” she said. “With over 53,000 asylum seekers currently in the city’s care, we need additional support from state and federal partners.”

Meanwhile, the Governor was asked about offering New York City additional sites for asylum seekers during an unrelated press conference last week.

“I commend the Mayor for what he has been through. He is working in partnership with us, and this is not a situation that anybody expected to continue at this point in time, the number of people still coming. I do know that there is a lessening of the number of people coming across the border, which is good,” Hochul said. “I have my team embedded with the Mayor’s team. Literally embedded. My emergency management team has been sitting with them for months in my direction to sit there and say, “How can we help? How can we help? How can we help? How can we help? How can we solve this?” So, we are working closely with them, and we’ll continue to, but this also requires a federal response.”

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