Monday, August 14, 2023
Partly Cloudy. High 87 degrees.
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Lady Gaga’s Father, the New York Post, and the Migrants on West 70th Street
By Carol Tannenhauser
Last Wednesday, August 9, we noticed a flurry of new hits on a two-month-old West Side Rag story about a shelter for migrants that opened in June at the Stratford Arms Hotel, 117 West 70th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.
Something was going on with what was once a single room occupancy building, then a music-school dormitory that was now housing 400 single, adult men and women, most from Latin America — people who came seeking asylum and opportunity in America, and sanctuary in our city. So what was going on, we wondered.
It turns out that the New York Post had published a long bombshell of a story about the new residents of the Stratford Arms, linking to the Rag’s story that first announced imminent plans for their arrival. The Post’s story is packed with one man’s opinion and quotes, that man being singer Lady Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, who lives on West 70th Street and owns a restaurant, Joanne Trattoria, on West 68th.
To say Germanotta is not happy about the arrival of the migrants would be an understatement. He offered the Post a long list of grievances, alleging that the newcomers are responsible for: “impromptu block parties outside the hotel that last into the early morning, prostitution, kids getting catcalled, and reckless e-bikes and motor-scooter drivers wreaking havoc on one-way streets,” the Post wrote.
“They’re guests in our neighborhood, and they have basically taken over,” Germanotta is quoted as saying. He also cited sidewalks that “used to be mostly clean [that] are now filled with trash, including, he said, “hypodermic needles.”
Truth or hyperbole? Is there real trouble brewing in the area encompassing the Stratford Arms, or is this just the Post and a prominent local resident stirring the pot?
This is not the first time — or even the first time this year — that the Post has featured Germanotta decrying the state of New York City. Back in February, before the migrants arrived, he called the city “a filthy…mess” [that] “smells like weed everywhere.” This time, he made the pronouncement, the Post said, that, given current conditions, he wouldn’t raise Lady Gaga here today.
WSR reached out to City Councilmember Gale Brewer, whose office functions as something of a complaint clearinghouse when Upper West Siders are unhappy about something in the neighborhood.
“Are you inundated with complaints?” we asked.
“The same people,” she replied. “I get complaints from the same people. I mean, there are people who are supportive [of the shelter for asylum seekers] and people who are not.”
What about Joe Germanotta’s complaints?
“Some are accurate and some aren’t,” she said, noting that she has visited the Stratford Arms and met with residents and staff several times a week since the shelter opened.
“Inside it’s safe…no fights or drugs, with fire marshals — humans — patrolling the floors,” said Brewer. As for outside the facility, “I had requested a 24/7 police presence before the Post story,” she said, “not because there were incidents, but to be proactive. My experience working with the 2-0 precinct in the past is that when they are there, everybody is just calmer.”
Brewer said she had spoken to the principal of a school around the corner from the Stratford Arms who said some hypodermic needles had been found in the bushes around the school. The school’s maintenance crew has been picking them up. “They weren’t there before the migrants came, so I have to assume they brought them,” Brewer said. “There are little kids coming back in September and we have to make sure that’s not happening, and they’re not feeling uncomfortable.”
What about the alleged prostitutes Germanotta said he saw coming out of the Stratford in the early hours of the morning?
“Nothing goes on in the building, I can tell you that,” Brewer said, “because nobody’s allowed in. They have a no-guest policy. And you have to sign in and out with an ID.”
How about “the rowdy migrants who ride their bikes during their late-night parties at the parks [medians] between Broadway,” as characterized by the Post? The Post’s photograph and others show groups of young people sitting on the benches and the backs of the planters — or even the curbs — hanging out at night. Local residents say this is new, and while it’s not criminal behavior, it’s also not customary in this neighborhood, which values quiet and tends to tuck in early.
Finally, addressing Germanotta’s complaint about wrong-way traffic on one-way streets: “You have to go the right way on the road with a motor bike!” the councilmember exclaimed. “That’s a safety issue!”
On Wednesday, Brewer said, her office is sponsoring the first of a series of workshops for Stratford Arms residents, focusing on their needs, but also those of the community. A nonprofit called National Immigrant Community Empowerment — NICE — is coming in to run it. “We’re going to sign the people up for English-as- a-second-language classes and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) training, which you need for certain jobs and they all want,” said Brewer. “They all want to work. Many are already working. Restaurants across the city are hiring them.”
WSR noted that those working would have the potential, at least, to find other housing and leave the shelter system within the 60-day period Mayor Adams has set for this population — though whether they are working legally and could actually find affordable housing are big questions.
“We’ll see,” said Councilmember Brewer. “We’ll see.”
Have a great week!
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