HELL’S KITCHEN, Manhattan (PIX11) — Migrants camped in front of the Watson Hotel will be allowed to stay at least until Tuesday morning while New York City works to address their concerns with moving to the new Red Hook shelter.
The standoff started when some migrants, disappointed by the conditions they found at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, tried to return to their previous shelter at the hotel, only to be denied entry.
City Councilwoman and former Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer confirmed that the several dozen adult men camped on the sidewalk would not be forced to move. The pause in the standoff comes after a tense day of city officials trying to get them to disperse.
At one point, following negotiations, city workers finally convinced migrants outside the Watson Hotel to at least dismantle part of their tent encampment and make a path on the sidewalk.
Advocates who brought food and clothing say this all started Sunday night when the city began busing the adult male asylum seekers staying in the Watson to a new emergency relief center at the Brooklyn Cruise terminal in Red Hook. The city hopes to put migrant families in the Watson.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine explained migrant families need the hotel rooms. He also warned the city has a limited number of hotel rooms available.
“We had 56 million visitors last year,” Levine said. “This isn’t like the days of COVID when 80 percent of hotels were empty. They’re mostly full now.”
Still, Levine said he is also concerned the migrant men might face isolation at the Red Hook facility. PIX11 obtained video from inside the Red Hook facility showing rows and rows of cots placed head-to-toe with little space and no privacy.
On Monday the city continued with its plan to remove single men from the Watson to make room for arriving migrant families to be housed here.
Some opted to get on MTA buses bound for Red Hook, but others stormed passed the barricades to join the encampment, or go elsewhere in the city.
Kaeder Escalona, a migrant from Venezuela, said there was no long-term strategy behind his decision to leave an emergency migrant relief center in Red Hook and spend Monday night at the encampment in front of the Watson Hotel.
Local elected officials and activists compared the Brooklyn cruise terminal facility to detention centers along the border and are calling for Mayor Eric Adams to be more transparent about what’s happening there.
A spokesman for the mayor, Fabien Levy, took to Twitter to blast those comparisons to detention centers– and a few tweets also referencing concentration camps.
Earlier in the day, he defended the Red Hook facility as a safe and humane way for the city to meet the challenge of helping 42,000 migrants who’ve come here. Levy also continued the city’s campaign to get the federal government to pay for the crisis.