QUEENS, N.Y. (PIX11) — Residents in Eastern Queens can now see the now all too familiar sight of white tents for a planned asylum seeker relief center on the grounds of the former Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Eastern Queens.
Residents have been absolutely certain of what they believe an influx of asylum seekers will mean for their neighborhood, specifically in the shadows of a school and playground.
“We have made it so appealing to them that they are taking this city down, block by block,” said Anne from Queens.
When PIX11’s Jay Dow asked Anne, “Isn’t this America, though?”
“Yes, but not this. Not to come over and be handed out everything that everybody else around here is paying for,” said Anne.
PIX11 News spoke to Ravi, a husband and father, who lives across the street from the new facility.
“New York is not a small city. It’s big. Send to outside somewhere like they have an open area. They make the shelters over there. They live months, years, whatever they want to live. But not here, because here is the kids, playgrounds,” said Ravi.
Jane is a renter and said she might consider moving once the center opens.
“We don’t know who they are and what their backgrounds are. I’m assuming they’re really bad people,” said Jane.
“Is that a realistic assumption though?” asked Dow.
“No, it’s not, but I have to protect myself and my family,” said Jane.
This borough has been down this road before. Over the years, PIX11 News covered many a passionate community protest in various Queens neighborhoods over proposed homeless shelters. But asylum seekers, not traditional homeless New Yorkers, are now at the center of the same debate.
Some comments struck a nerve with Benito, a Mexican immigrant and auto mechanic who crossed the border into the U.S. – illegally – in the 1990s.
“I think they have to respect the people too because they don’t know their backstories – why they come here, ya know,” said Benito.
Still, Benito is conflicted when asked how he feels about the arrival of new asylum seekers to New York City.
“I feel it’s not fair. They have more opportunities than I had 30 years ago,” Benito responded.
PIX11 News asked Benito what he thought about people who may have felt the same way about him when he first arrived in the U.S.
“Definitely, yes, but the difference is people like me, worse times to come. Now it’s easy to come,” said Benito.
In response to some of the more extreme opposition, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said it’s time to accept the reality of the situation.
“We will never support any racial undertones, any xenophobia. I don’t want people living on the streets. I don’t want to have our community stepping over people living on the streets. We have to house these individuals. We have the right to shelter law. The bottom line is now is not the time for nimby-ism. We are here. This problem, Jay, is not going away,” said Richards.
PIX11 News attempted to arrange an interview with local City Councilmember Linda Lee. She was unavailable, but her staff sent a statement, which reads in part:
“The area in question is severely lacking in public transit, businesses, and infrastructure. The City would be effectively stranding asylum seekers with minimal options to support themselves….This is not about NIMBY. It’s about securing a dignified and manageable solution.”Councilmember Linda Lee’s spokesperson