By Gretchen Berger
There are now close to 7,600 asylum seekers who have been bussed from the U.S. southern border to New York City, a “sanctuary city,” by Texas and Arizona, according to Mayor Eric Adams. Among them are some who will find refuge on the Upper West Side. They will live at the Park West Hotel, a private hotel on Central Park West, in Manhattan Valley. It was used during the pandemic to house homeless women.
“New York City’s ‘right to shelter’ law requires the city to find housing for any individual who requests it — regardless of immigration status or residency — so the Adams administration is legally obligated to find beds for the asylum seekers,” the New York Post reported.
The hotel, situated on a quiet, tree-lined street opposite Central Park, has a total of 94 rooms. There are 126 beds available for the 30 families and 20 school-aged children who will be calling this home for now. Some of the refugees arrived Monday night and more are expected Tuesday.
Shaun Abreu, the City Councilman from District 7, is marshaling and overseeing this “very complicated and difficult operation,” a spokesperson said, “with the help of many government agencies.”
District 7 spans north from the Upper West Side through Morningside Heights, West Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights. Abreu is the first Latino to represent the district. He is Dominican, from a family of immigrants, so “he really understands the needs of the migrants and has a great deal of compassion for the trials and tribulations they endured on their long journey here,” the spokesperson said. Abreu succeeded the district’s former Councilman Mark Levine – now Manhattan Borough President.
The asylum seekers will be receiving language services, case management, and housing assistance, as well as all necessary medical and social services. The children will be enrolled in local public schools. Abreu’s office is working to provide backpacks for each school-age child. Many people in the Manhattan Valley community have been reaching out and offering their support for their new neighbors as they prepare for their new lives.
Councilman Abreu sent WSR the following statement:
Just as New York once became a home for my family, we must make sure new families are able to call this city home. New York City has always stood as a beacon of acceptance in a country of immigrants. We will not turn our back on that reputation or these refugees today.
These families, fleeing poverty and persecution, just want to be safe and my office is proud to help make sure they get the services and resources they need. The Department of Homeless Services is coordinating translation services, housing specialists, and case management support. The 20 school-aged children will also enter our school system this year. We are actively working to make sure they have the wrap-around services promised by the city.
I have been so inspired by the support our community is giving these families. We went to the shelter yesterday to state clearly that our district welcomes them to the neighborhood. Time and time again, this neighborhood backs up its values with deeds. In the days ahead, we’re working with DHS to coordinate a backpack donation for families with children and we hope to offer opportunities for the community to help support these families. I’m calling on communities across the city to follow our lead.