By Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio | January 17, 2024 |Documented
As snow fell on New York City Tuesday morning, dozens of migrants continued to wait outside the city’s reticketing center at the now-closed St. Brigid’s Catholic School on East 7th Street in below freezing temperatures.
They wore beanies, held umbrellas and covered themselves with emergency blankets. Some trembled from the persisting cold and rain. While some migrants were slowly ushered inside the building, others continued to arrive, lining up behind one another.
Many migrants were just looking for a cot to sleep on.
“The situation is difficult, I don’t have a choice but I try to get solutions,” said Moussa Traore, a 27-year old migrant from Mauritania who stood in the line outside St. Brigid on Tuesday morning.
Traore had been returning to the East Village to request a bed for almost two weeks, since Jan. 3, and said he would continue coming back until he could find a more stable place to sleep. On one occasion a few days ago, staff sent him to a center near JFK, Traore said, but once he arrived, he was told his name was not registered. So he returned to St. Brigid again.
On Monday night, he stayed in a church until he could return to St. Brigid. “You don’t sleep — you just sit on the chairs the whole night,” he said.
The center has been offering migrants tickets out of town and telling them to continue coming back day after day, until a shelter bed opens up in another facility.
On Wednesday, temperatures in New York will reach a low of 16 degrees, and the city has been under a “code blue” — marking below freezing temperatures overnight — for several nights and early mornings in a row.
Many single adult migrants have been sent to the St. Brigid intake site once they have hit their 30-day shelter limit staying at city sites. But once St. Brigid closes in the evening, migrants are told to go to a waiting area in The Bronx for the night. Photos from THE CITY, CBS New York and other outlets show dozens of migrants crowded together, sleeping on the floor or in chairs with just blankets.
For some migrants in the line, the increasingly cold temperatures meant it was also one of their first times seeing the snow. Paula Beltran and her partner Yadira Mendoza were some of the few women in the line outside St. Brigid on Tuesday morning. The pair had arrived in New York just over a month ago, and were placed at the Randall’s Island tent shelter together until they were evicted after 30 days. Tuesday was the fifth day they had come back to St. Brigid to ask for shelter.
Beltran and Mendoza have been sleeping in a subway station in Astoria, they said, instead of choosing to stay at night in the Bronx waiting area, which is packed with people closely together — and they felt uncomfortable as some of the only women in a group of men, they said. Both in the subway overnight and in the line, the couple has been feeling the cold. Beltran, who is from Colombia, and Mendoza, who is from Venezuela, are both not used to these low temperatures, they said, but they were able to obtain winter coats from a donation drive.
“We are just hoping for this new opportunity, this second opportunity, to establish ourselves a little bit,” Beltran, 26, said about asking for shelter. “We are here, we need to push forward.”
In October, when the Adams administration opened the reticketing center, Mayor Eric Adams said that the “purpose” of reticketing was to help migrants unite with friends or family in other parts of the country, or simply reach other destinations.
But the migrants who spoke with Documented at the reticketing center on Tuesday said they were there to request shelter in the city, and not go elsewhere.
At his weekly “off-topic” media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Adams addressed the conditions migrants were enduring while waiting for a shelter placement at St. Brigid. “We are out of room. We are accommodating as best we can,” Adams said. “To those who are there, that feel as though they are being treated unfairly, that is not our desire.”
He added: “Our hearts may be endless, but our resources are not. And so we’re going to ask them to be patient with us as we attempt to accommodate the large number of people who are in this city.”
Seydou Ayid, who is from Senegal, said he has been coming back to St. Brigid for about ten days and still had not been placed in a shelter. Ayid has sometimes been staying at the waiting area in the Bronx, and coming back to the East Village every day at 5 a.m. On Tuesday, he was shivering as he spoke and said that he felt frigid.
“The conditions are not good. We don’t eat,” Ayid, 21, said in French. “It is cold. We don’t sleep.”