BY THE VILLAGE SUN | It’s time to center the critical need for more reticketing centers for homeless migrants.
That’s the urgent message in a letter sent Friday to Zach Iscol, the commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, by Councilmember Carlina Rivera, along with Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Councilmember Diana Ayala, the chairperson of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare.
Currently, there is only one such reticketing center in the whole city — located in the East Village, at the former St. Brigid School, at Seventh Street and Avenue B, across from Tompkins Square Park.
Addressing the full board meeting of Community Board 2 on Jan. 18, Rivera said she planned to ask the city to open another reticketing center. But the letter goes even further, calling for several more.
“We write to urge the administration to open additional reticketing and reapplication centers throughout the city in order to meet the needs of families and the recent volume created by the 30- and 60-day shelter limit stays implemented by Mayor Adams,” the letter states. “Since November, the situation in the East Village at St. Brigid’s, the city’s only reticketing center, has been untenable and increasingly unmanageable. Thousands of individuals who have recently migrated or arrived involuntarily to New York seeking asylum have shown up to St. Brigid’s doorstep on E. 7th Street and Ave. B in Manhattan and we ask for an immediate expansion of sites.”
The councilmembers are urging the city to create not just more than one reticketing center — but ones in each of the five boroughs. Several sites have been identified in Rivera’s Council District 2, which includes the East Village and part of the Lower East Side and stretches up to Kips Bay.
“With more than one center and a consideration for locations in each borough, the City can ensure people do not stand on line in the cold without access to even basic facilities like bathrooms,” the councilmembers urged. “Multiple locations would also ensure that people are closer to culturally competent, community-based programs and services. Volunteers with LESReady!, a Lower East Side nonprofit with organizing and service-provision experience, have identified four potential sites in Council District 2 alone that could support overflow pending the City’s approval.
“It is important,” they added, “that we provide the same services available at St. Brigid’s at these additional locations and ask that the managing agencies also do more to provide translation services for both those seeking asylum and the local police precincts who help with the crowds present.”
Having only one reticketing center is imposing a burden on the East Village community — plus a travel hardship on those migrants who might currently be living elsewhere in the city at some distance away.
The New York Post recently reported that three port-a-potties that were installed in Tompkins Square Park during the restroom buildings’ renovation, were overwhelmed by so much added usage and that cups of urine were being left around the park. The benches and paths in the park’s southeast corner are full of discarded food containers.
“Currently, having one reticketing center has not only led to physical capacity concerns,” the councilmembers wrote, “it has created a burden on the adjacent local community and its public spaces. Resources are needed in keeping up with quality of life issues and it appears that efficiency at St. Brigid’s has been in decline, with travel hardships and the overall cost-effectiveness of the process in place in question.”
Of particular concern, public safety issues have been increasing at and around the St. Brigid site — creating “unsustainable” conditions and nothing short of “a humanitarian decline,” they said. On the morning of Jan. 6, amid a crowd of 400, a large fight broke out over someone cutting the line and spilling coffee on someone; police officers trying to break it up were injured and two migrants were arrested.
“Without a support network available even locally to those waiting, public safety concerns have increased,” the three pols stated. “According to multiple media reports, just in the past 3 weeks, altercations outside of St. Brigid’s have led to violence, multiple arrests, and minor injuries sustained by police officers present.
“It was reported by the New York Daily News that on January 5, over 1,000 individuals seeking asylum waited on line to receive services at the St. Brigid’s reticketing center, a daily number that has occurred frequently. This model is clearly unsustainable and is fueling public scrutiny of a humanitarian decline occurring in a city that values its identity as a beacon to immigrants.”
Clearly, federal funding is critical to help alleviate the crisis, they said. But in the meantime — amid the glaring lack of responsiveness from Washington — “a better system” is needed to ensure migrants’ emergency shelter, they stressed.
“People seeking asylum have the right to be in the United States per our national policies,” the councilmembers averred. “We must continue to marshal our efforts to urge the federal government to provide New York City with financial support, and get individuals seeking asylum employment authorization and language and vocational training. However, we must act quickly and compassionately in creating a better system for the thousands of people coming to St. Brigid’s for assistance. We urge you to open additional centers and create space for families in need.”