RANDALL’S ISLAND — The new tent facility at Randall’s Island for single, male migrants opened for its first day of operation on Wednesday.
One thing was lacking amid all of the activity surrounding the 84,000 square foot facility: single, male migrants.
Even though the complex made of massive tents was designed to house at least 500 men, by sundown on Wednesday, only three had appeared. The facility has been the subject of criticism for weeks, after it was set up originally at Orchard Beach in the Bronx last month. A variety of people, including many City Council members, had said that Orchard Beach was prone to flooding, and was too remote.
It was taken down, moved, and then set up again at Randall’s Island, at a cost of at least $750,000, according to the commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, the agency operating the site.
As for the low turnout, OEM had no official comment on Wednesday, and the commissioner, Zach Iscol, was on site on Randall’s Island for part of the day, but would not respond to questions that reporters shouted at him from behind barricades surrounding the facility.
PIX11 News spoke about the Randall’s Island facility with some men who’d migrated to New York recently from Venezuela.
Carlos Jose Toro said, through an interpreter, that he had “no idea about the Randall’s Island refuge.”
A friend of his, Luis Rosaldo, said, through an interpreter, that he’d only heard about the tent facility on Tuesday night, hours before it opened. As for staying there, he said that migrants “are in the hands of God,” and that “if their faith guides them there, that’s where they’re going to land.”
The two men were at a location miles away from Randall’s island. They were on hand for a news conference by the United Bodegas of America, the organization representing 15,000 of the small stores in the city.
UBA leader Fernando Mateo said that the member bodega owners want to provide jobs for the new migrants.
“Unfortunately,” Mateo continued, “we can’t employ them if the federal government doesn’t give them the green light to work, so they can pay taxes.”
He said that he’d contacted Mayor Eric Adams about securing working papers for new migrants. Adams also said on Wednesday that he wants the new arrivals to work, but that federal approval would be needed.
In the meantime, the migrants who are single men are not going to the tent facility. Instead, they’re relying on churches, and other community organizations. One of them is New York Communities for Change. Guadalupe Cortez, an activist in the organization, said that the new, temporary men’s facility isn’t enough to address the overall crisis.
“[It’s] families arriving,” she said, “with three, four children, and a single mom. or a whole family — husband, wife, and children.”
The city has said that it’s trying to provide temporary housing for families in shelters and hotels, at a cost of potentially $1 billion, ultimately.