Jun 01, 2023

Asylum seekers say they were forced to toss belongings ahead of sudden move to Bronx hotel

By Lisa Rozner

Updated on: August 23, 2023 / 9:16 PM / CBS New York

NEW YORK -- As New York City scrambles to find housing for a growing number of asylum seekers, a Brooklyn community advocate says the way one group was treated Wednesday was "dehumanizing."

Some families at a Brooklyn shelter tell CBS New York's Lisa Rozner they had to throw out items for their young children so they could move with less than a day's notice.

Around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, asylum seekers holding newborns and moms with their toddlers loaded two school buses outside shelter apartments on Park Avenue in Bushwick.

The city allegedly told each family they could only bring two bags to hotel rooms that they were each being moved to in the Bronx.

As they prepared to go from having a kitchen to just a mini-fridge, they left behind high chairs, baby bathtubs and more, says community activist Sylvia Rodriguez, who had been voluntarily helping some of the 16 families over the last year.

"Some of them were asking if my husband and I could store some of their items, and it's things like winter coats and boots," Rodriguez said. "They had tears in their eyes. I know the kids were preparing to go back to school."

One asylum seeker told CBS New York off camera he was given two days' notice of the move, but several told Rodriguez they were only notified Tuesday afternoon.

Case managers were seen hugging some of the families but would not say why the families were moved to the Best Western off the Major Deegan in the Bronx.

City officials addressed the situation broadly at an afternoon briefing.

"We really want these kids to be able to be in a place where they can have a backyard, where they can have a big kitchen," said Anne Williams-Isom, deputy mayor for health and human services.

"When we have hotels today that have adults in them, we are transitioning those adults into our new sites," said Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president of New York City Health and Hospitals.

One asylum seeker told CBS New York off camera while his family did have to discard some personal belongings, they are still so grateful to be here and they will make this location work however they have to.

"These are human beings, and we have to consider that, especially when there are children involved," Rodriguez said.

The Department of Social Services sent CBS New York the following statement:

"Since spring of 2022, over 100,000 asylum seekers have gone through the City's care, and the City is currently providing care for more than 59,000 asylum seekers. In the face of this ongoing and unprecedented crisis, our agency has responded with urgency and compassion, rapidly opening emergency sites to ensure that asylum seekers in need have immediate access to critical lifelines -- safe shelter, food, and other essential services. In order to continue meeting the needs of both this population and long-term New Yorkers experiencing homelessness, DSS-DHS must carefully manage our existing shelter capacity, even while bringing additional capacity online. At all times, the City, and our not-for-profit provider partners, work closely with our clients to make sure we are preserving stability as much as possible when transfers occur. We are proud of our dedicated teams, who despite extraordinary challenges, continue to step up to provide services to all those in need."

Of the roughly 60,000 asylum seekers in the city's care, about 1/3 are children.

Lisa Rozner joined CBS2 in 2017.

First published on August 23, 2023 / 6:17 PM

© 2023 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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