NEW YORK — Some of the thousands of migrants seeking asylum in New York City will soon have temporary shelter.
An emergency center is quickly rising in the Bronx, and CBS2’s Elijah Westbrook got a closer look at the progress on Tuesday.
The framework is taking shape in what will be a new temporary shelter for some migrants coming into the city. A great deal of progress has been made since Monday.
Some residents in the area say the sight is symbolic of the times we’re living in.
You can’t miss it if you take a drive up to Orchard Beach this week. One of the first sights you’ll see when you enter the parking lot is steel beams being erected, one by one, in the parking lot.
“I hope this is very temporary,” one person said.
The site will consist of tents to house 1,000 people, shower trailers, and ovens to prepare meals — literally the kitchen sink — as New York creates a mini-city to process migrants bused here from Texas and elsewhere.
“Bring people to a safe, clean environment as we process them for a few days as we figure out their needs and move them to the right location,” Mayor Eric Adams said.
“Personally, I think it’s a great short-term solution to a long-term problem. As the gentleman said, they’re going to be here for 60-120 days, which is basically the winter season, and it gives the government time to figure out another solution,” said longtime Bronx resident Michael Collins.
Watch Elijah Westbrook’s report
Lifelong Bronx reside Robert Reid said he typically takes a walk every morning to get fresh air by the water and take in the sights and sounds of Pelham Bay.
“My thoughts are we need to house the migrants. My grandparents came here and made a good living, so other people should have that opportunity, too,” Reid said.
“It’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be very big,” Pelham Bay resident Lizzie Lombardo told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
In addition to checking out the construction, many residents came to share their concerns. Some said they believe the temporary site will become a semi-permanent fixture, despite assurances from the mayor.
“He didn’t ask our permission. He didn’t put it to a vote,” said Debra Kurys of Pelham Bay.
“I think it’s going to take a long time for them to do what they have to do,” German Bayron said, adding when asked if he believes it will be temporary, “No, gonna be long term.”
For migrants arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, in a hectic part of Midtown, the scene at Orchard Beach will be quite a contrast. The only skyline view at the location is of New Rochelle a few miles in the distance.
People love this peaceful part of the Bronx. Local Assemblyman Michael Benedetto moved to reassure them that, “Anybody using the park will be able to use the park on days that they want to be here.”
The city says it is taking steps to safeguard the site from flooding. There will be COVID and other health screening and around-the-clock security.
The mayor said it’s not an ideal situation, but a necessary step to address a humanitarian crisis.
Watch Tony Aiello’s report
People living near Orchard Beach had the chance to ask New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol about the facility at a meeting Tuesday night, and as CBS2’s Tim McNicholas reports, many of them didn’t pull any punches.
At the meeting, residents learned the city plans to have about 1,000 migrants at the shelter at a time, and they plan to open it sometime next week, despite the objections of some people living in the area.
Iscol stood before about 150 people in City Island, trying to answer questions.
“We’re frustrated. We didn’t ask for buses to be sent to New York City,” he told the crowd.
But they didn’t like many of his answers, and they let him know.
“The great strength of New York has always been immigration. Immigrants have always been the strength,” Iscol started to say before being drowned out by jeers.
The questions ranged from the security of the center to how it will be paid for.
“Why is our tax money and our space being used for the emergencies of non-citizens when we have our own?” Elysia Schiller Borrelli asked.
Iscol said the city is working with state and federal partners on funding.
“It is not city tax dollars that are gonna be on the hook for paying for this,” Iscol said.
“How many of y’all got a letter from the mayor’s office saying do y’all want something like this?” said Co-Op City resident Algernon Quattlebaum. “You see the thing is that we got it backwards. You guys work for us.”
“Is any department taking appropriate measures to appropriately vet the migrants coming in?” asked Ricardo Garcia, with the City Island Civic Association.
“DHS does background checks on individuals who are seeking asylum. The amount of information they have is dependent largely on our relationship with the country that they are coming from,” Iscol said.
Iscol told the crowd there will be security at the facility, including the National Guard and, if needed, extra police. He repeatedly said the safety of both the migrants and people living in the area are top of mind for the city.
“These are people who are coming to our shores because they’re looking for something that all of our families looked for in the past,” Iscol said.
Adult migrants will be able to stay at the shelter for a few days to receive food, shelter, case work help and other resources.