What was supposed to be a rally from community members in South-East Queens opposing plans for a tent shelter quickly turned into a victory rally.
“Aqueduct Racetrack is off the table,” Councilmember Joann Ariola said Monday night to the group that had gathered along North Conduit Avenue across the street from the racetrack.
“It’s just for now. Because if our borders continue to have to house 103,000 migrants and growing each and every day and each and every week, then there will be no piece of property that won’t have either a tent city or hotel that won’t have homeless in it,” Ariola said to NY1.
The rally was planned after news broke over the weekend that city and state officials were looking into creating two tent shelters on state-owned property in Queens to house a thousand migrants each.
The Creedmoor Psychiatric Center was one of those sites. The Aqueduct Racetrack was the second, prompting the civic associations from eight communities around it to gather and speak out.
“We’re grateful that they took it off. We just hope that they keep it off,” Sam Esposito, President of the Ozone Park Residents Block Association, said after hearing the news from the council member.
“We’re not unsympathetic to the migrants. You know, it’s a terrible thing that they’ve traveled far to get here,” Barbara Mcnamara, co-president of Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic, said. “But this isn’t the answer. We need real solutions for it. And putting them in a tent over here by out of U.S.A. is not the answer.”
Council member Ariola says she, along with several other elected officials, sent a letter to the Mayor, Gov. and President Monday morning after hearing about the plans.
“We have to have our federal government start to send money so that we can afford this,” Ariola said.
The neighbors were glad for the victory, but haven’t forgotten the crisis is not over.
Officials report there are 53,000 migrants currently in the city’s care and thousands continue to arrive weekly.
Already over 180 emergency shelter sites have been opened around the five boroughs.
“There’s been no input from the community, no reach out to us to see. It’s a poorly designed plan. They want to put them in tents next to a casino, next to a racetrack. That’s not where you put people,” McNamara said.
Neighbors fear if the city doesn’t receive assistance soon, officials might have no option but to reconsider this site.
“I’m an immigrant myself, but, you know, we have to do something better than this. So, you know, we have to hold our elected officials, our mayor, governor, you know, even the president accountable for this because this is not right,” Romeo Hitlall, president of the United Hindu Leadership council, said.
Officials were expected to do a walk-through of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center this week. As of Monday night, no changes to those plans had been announced.