EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (WABC) — As the migrant crisis continues in New York City, long lines outside shelters have become a common scene with many asylum seekers and their families looking for places to stay.
For several days now, migrants have been forming long lines early in the morning and waiting all day outside.
The line has dwindled very slowly throughout the day but will likely be long again Wednesday morning.
St. Brigid Catholic School by Tompkins Square Park closed 4 years ago. Now, it’s a re-intake center for adult single migrants who have already spent 30 days in the city’s care but don’t yet have another place to go.
One migrant, who made the journey from Venezuela to New York, said he had to get in line at the re-intake center to be relocated to another shelter.
He says getting work has been hard, and he and the other waiting men have reached their 30-day limit in the city shelter system and now need to reapply if they want to stay.
“Only 20% of the people are not leaving, which we’re very happy about,” New York City Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said. “But with the 120,000 people that we’re taking care of and without the help that we need from the federal government, we knew that we would be at this moment.”
The mayor and his deputies said no one wants to see this, but the long waits are because shelter space is so scarce, and there is another location where they can be processed without having to wait outside.
The men told Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon that they will sit in the Bronx location overnight but come back here in the morning because wait times in the East Village are actually shorter.
A young man from Colombia says he waited three days last month to get back into the shelter system and was returned to the same shelter. But another 30 days has gone by, and he still needs a place to stay, especially now that the temperature is dropping.
He said he doesn’t have many warm clothes.
“We need to have a better plan than people just having to wait outside for eight to 10 hours to try to get inside to deal with the intake issue,” New York State Assemblyman Harvey Epstein said.
He says he’s making the case for more state help along with community help on the ground, like giving the men food and coats.
The Lower East Side and East Village community is steeped in history of immigrants who truly struggled when they arrived in New York, including the assembly member’s own grandparents.
“We need to be mindful of that and be sympathetic but also understand we need federal solutions to federal problems,” Epstein said.
The city also announced on Tuesday that it’s adding two asylum application help centers, which should expedite the legal process for the people who’ve come here hoping to stay and work.
The mayor making that announcement again called on the federal government to do more to manage the crisis.
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News