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‘The System Did Its Job’ Mayor Adams Says After City Finds Migrants Choosing to Stay in Basements Over the Shelter System

And more news for your Thursday.

(Hell Gate)

On Monday night, the FDNY arrived at a furniture store in Richmond Hill and found dozens of men, mostly migrants from Senegal, Mauritania, and Guinea, sleeping in bunk beds in the store's basement and on the ground floor. On Wednesday, City officials found a similar set-up at a juice bar in the Bronx. The owner of both businesses, Ebou Sarr, had been operating a sort of de facto migrant shelter system, one that according to some of the men staying there, was far preferable to the City's increasingly byzantine and chaotic migrant housing, which under the Adams administration has become a second-class system with strict time limits, inadequate facilities, and sparse meals that some have described as "dog food." At Sarr's stores, people who were able to pay gave him $300 a month for a bed and food.

"We shared everything, we were friends, we felt good there," Gueye Dèmba, a 41-year-old migrant from Senegal told the CITY, said of his time at the Queens furniture store. Dèmba had moved there after he hit his 30-day limit in the City shelter where he had been previously staying; he had visited the City's reticketing center in the East Village and decided he didn't want to wait days for another shelter placement. "It's eight days or ten days before they give you another shelter," he said. "You get exhausted, you can't sleep at night, so that’s why I left."

Sarr, himself an immigrant from Senegal, said his efforts were born out of necessity. "They were desperate. That's why we had to do something, do something, that’s better than what they’re doing," Sarr told the CITY. "I mean, they're human beings."

Both buildings were hit with vacate orders by the City, sending many of the men back to the City shelter system. 

No one should be crammed into a basement with dozens of other people—but it's a fairly damning indictment of the City's punitive posture toward migrants that many find it preferable to the City's offerings. 

On Tuesday, Mayor Adams described the men at Sarr's shelters as an anomaly. "We have been successful in our 30‑day program, intense care. And so when you move that large volume of people, are they going to be a small number that someone is going to do something inappropriate? Yes," he said. He added, "The system did its job."

And some links that are also succeeding at their jobs: 

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