Chaos erupted late Sunday night outside of a Midtown hotel when the city attempted to transfer migrants to Brooklyn, and the huddled masses refused to go.
The Watson Hotel locked its doors, refusing to allow asylum seekers back into the premises, on Jan. 29. The former residents pounded on the lodge’s door and pressed their faces against the glass, yelling “Open!” as security guards and staff watched on from the inside.
“I am cold, I am tired—I need water,” one migrant cried in Spanish. That call, among others, went unanswered Sunday night.
Sources from the city discounted, however, charged that the unrest was ignited by organizations seeking to undermine its efforts by preying on the fears of the migrants, who claimed without evidence them that the Brooklyn facility where the migrants were being taken — the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal — was akin to an ICE detention center.
The scene unfolded after the city attempted to transfer single men from the Watson Hotel to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as more new arrivals continue to settle in the Big Apple. Concerned about the conditions at their new destination, many immigrants put their foot down and refused to board the buses bound for an uncertain Brooklyn, leading to a standoff.
As the gathering outside began to charge the hotel, NYPD officers were called in an attempt to quell the pandemonium.
When MTA buses pulled up to whisk away those willing to board, the vehicle was bum rushed by migrants attempting to warn their fellow asylum seekers not to ride.
This set off a chain reaction that saw cops flocking around the bus, pushing back those frantically waving for them not to board. Disarray and confusion permeated the scene while bodies pushed against one another in an out-of-control spectacle.
“The nonprofit that runs the Watson hotel violated the right to shelter law in which they sent a mandatory notice to migrants where they’re being forced to evict the Watson hotel and be transferred into Red Hook Detention Center,” Yhaaira, a mutual aid volunteer told amNewYork Metro, leaning back against a wall with tears dripping from her eyes. “I’m very exhausted, I’m very emotional because I strongly believe in a sanctuary city and I constantly see the mayor going against the whole establishment, the whole belief of sanctuary cities.”
The Mayor’s Press Secretary Fabien Levy released a statement in which he said that the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will provide the same services as the hotel while also reiterating the need for aid from the federal government.
“This weekend, we began the process of moving single adult men from the Watson Hotel to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, as we transition the hotel to meet the large number of asylum seeking families with children. More than 42,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring and we continue to surpass our moral obligations as we provide asylum seekers with shelter, food, health care, education, and a host of other services,” Levy said. “The facilities at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will provide the same services as every other humanitarian relief center in the city, and the scheduled relocations to Brooklyn Cruise Terminal this weekend took place as planned. We remain in serious need of support from both our state and federal governments.”
After several hours, numerous migrants could be seen rushing down the street heaving luggage behind them. When amNewYork Metro inquired where they were racing away to, several asylum seekers explained that the hotel staff had given them bus tickets to upstate Plattsburgh, where they somehow hoped to make their way into Canada.
Emotions ran high as friends hugged one another, parting as some chose to take their chances with Canada while others decided to wait it out.
As the night wore on, the remaining migrants ended up sleeping on the streets outside the Watson hotel.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.