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City of Immigrants

Hundreds of Migrants Wait Outside in the Cold for Another Chance at a NYC Shelter

"We'll stay here in the cold until we get a new shelter."

Migrants lined up outside of the St. Brigid reticketing center. (Hell Gate)

On Monday morning, the lines stretched down the block on both sides of Seventh Street and Avenue B outside of St. Brigid School in the East Village. Hundreds of migrants were waiting to hear from the Adams administration on whether they could remain in a shelter in New York City, or whether they (as the administration was urging) would take a flight out of town. Some had slept on the street overnight because they wanted to be there when the doors opened, and because they had nowhere else to go.

"It's cold, too cold," said Marlon, 21, who declined to give his last name. Marlon is an asylum seeker from Ecuador, who had spent 30 days in a shelter in Long Island City—the maximum amount for a single asylum seeker under the Adams administration. After those 30 days were up, Marlon was told to report to St. Brigid School, where the City has set up a "reticketing center," where migrants are offered tickets to leave the city, before they're eventually placed at another shelter for another thirty days. 

"The truth is I have a job here and I need to stay," Marlon told Hell Gate, while waiting on line along with other migrants. He works in Brooklyn unloading boxes at a warehouse, but he was told to leave his Queens shelter over the weekend. The reticketing center didn't open until Monday, so he spent the night sleeping outdoors in the East Village.

"The majority of people want to stay, but the shelters are full," he said.

Marlon had already filed an asylum application with the help of a church near his shelter, another reason he didn't want to leave New York City to go elsewhere. 

Each night, the center at St. Brigid closes around 7 p.m., leaving migrants with a choice: They can go up to the Bronx to try to find a place for the night, or they can linger nearby the reticketing center, often sleeping outside in the bracing cold and arriving early the next morning to get on line and gain entry to the reticketing center. 

A migrant shows off tickets he received last week when he tried to get help at the reticketing center. (Hell Gate)

Some migrants have chosen tickets out of town, but the vast majority of those standing on line were just looking for another shelter placement. Migrants showed off wristbands with dates listed of when they arrived at the center, some as far back as over a week ago. Because they were bouncing around from place to place in the city, as well as trying to find work or locate free food, they often missed the opportunity to visit St. Brigid, and, unlike other locations serving migrants, they aren't allowed to sleep outside there overnight. 

The Adams administration has used the 30-day limit to try to get migrants out of shelters entirely, as the City continues to deal with a large influx of migrants over the past year. But for some, like a Kurdish father and son from Turkey, who were waiting outside the reticketing center, they've been left with no options after a draining journey through South and Central America to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. 

"It's more terrible than Turkey because I have no rights here, no working permit," said the father, who asked that we keep his name withheld. In Turkey, ethnic Kurds are discriminated against, and the family feared the increasingly autocratic regime of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The bracelet given out to Marlon. (Hell Gate)

The father bought a car to make money as a delivery driver, and said that if they didn't find a shelter that night, they would sleep in it. 

"I know it's illegal, but what choice do we have?" he told Hell Gate. 

A worker from inside St. Brigid began handing out silver thermal blankets, as one migrant received care from an idling ambulance, which other migrants said was related to the cold. Dozens of NYPD officers stood idly by on the other side of the street as volunteers from a local community group began handing out free meals to the waiting migrants. One man was selling loose cigarettes. 

Abram, from Venezuela, had traveled to the United States with his brother a month ago. They had spent all their money before arriving, and while they worked odd jobs around the city, he couldn't imagine how they were supposed to find a room to rent. 

"We'll stay here in the cold until we get a new shelter," he said, cradling a steaming cup of coffee that a nearby cafe, which was closing for the day, had just given to him for free. 

City Hall has not responded to our questions for this story, including how many have chosen to get tickets elsewhere—they still haven't responded to our request for comment the last time we wrote about the reticketing center, on November 1.

(Hell Gate)

A group of migrants, one with a Red Cross blanket covering his lower body, called us over. 

"What does 'eye-no,' mean," they asked in Spanish. They said the workers at the center had been repeating it over and over each time they asked why things were taking so long and why they were left outside in the cold. 

"Eye-no, eye-no, eye-no," they repeated. 

I know, I know, I know.

It meant, "yo sé, yo sé, yo sé," we replied, and suggested that this is something that people say when they have no actual answers for the people standing in front of them, asking for assistance. 

The migrants shrugged in frustration. They seemed to get the message.

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