Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Orchard Beach Migrant Tent Site Raises Concerns

Tent site under construction in the parking lot at Orchard Beach. Elissa Castles for The Bronx Ink

City Councilmember Shahana Hanif, (D- Brooklyn) Chair of the Immigration Committee, called Friday’s City Council oversight hearing into session with a bang of her mallet. The packed chamber grew silent when Hanif began her opening remarks. 

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,” Hanif quoted The New Colossus, a poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Friday’s meeting comes after Mayor Eric Adams announced last Thursday the construction of two Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers in response to the thousands of asylum seekers being sent from the Texas border by GOP Governors Greg Abott and Ron Desantis. The centers consist of five large tents, projected to hold about 1,000 beds. The first center is currently being built on the Orchard Beach parking lot in the Bronx and will be completed next week.  

Local leaders, including Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, were not given prior notice to Adam’s plan and questioned the site’s ability to provide adequate shelter, its risk of flooding, and its lack of access to public transportation. These concerns were echoed on Friday when the Immigration Committee questioned the Adams’ administration, which included Department of Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro on its panel.

“We are in an emergency, there is no doubt, but I want to make it clear that this is not how we address the thousands of people coming to our city as asylum seekers,” Hanif said.

The tent site is also under scrutiny by the surrounding local Bronx community who largely reject its location at Orchard Beach. The Bronx Ink spoke to members of the community on Wednesday as they gathered to watch the new tents go up.

“Everything gets dumped in the Bronx,” said K Butler-Brock, a resident of Co-Op City. “They’re playing games with us and they’re playing games with the immigrants.”

Many residents expressed frustration with the sudden news that the tents would be built in their neighborhood without getting a say in the matter.

“They have to be housed somewhere, but it has to be done right,” said Joanne Maldonado, a resident of Throggs Neck.

On Saturday, dozens of local residents gathered to protest the Orchard Beach site, organized by Tina Forte, the GOP candidate challenging Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez for her seat in the US House of Representatives.

“I officially declare the month of October, ‘Adopt an Illegal Immigrant’. Democrats, liberals: line up! It’s a huge parking lot,” Forte said.

Many of the attendees sported white “Tina Forte for Congress” shirts, some also wearing “Make America Great Again” red hats. 

The protest was broken up when a small group of counter-protesters arrived. Steve Swieciki, a resident of City Island, was one of the five counter-protesters.

“I’m here to stand up for the people you guys have all pre-judged without even knowing them,” Swieciki said to a swarm of people surrounding him.

The protest lasted an hour before Forte packed up her campaign van and left.

Anywhere between 4 and 9 buses carrying migrants arrive daily at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. New York City has already greeted upwards of 15,000 migrants and many more are expected within the coming months. Placement at sites such as Orchard Beach, will be a voluntary choice with the maximum stay of 96 hours.

“We are facing a humanitarian crisis,” Iscol said. “The purpose of the HERRC is to figure out what people’s next move is.” 

2 Responses to “Orchard Beach Migrant Tent Site Raises Concerns”

  1. avatar Elysia Schaller Borrelli says:

    I wanted to clarify some incredibly important points. The Migrant Center at Orchard Beach was not built for one thousand migrants. The center is being planned to receive and disperse 1000 unvetted and undocumented adults every two to three days. The Migrant Center at Orchard Beach was built to receive and disperse 75,000 migrants this year alone. Their asylum status is entirely unverified. Texas nor New York knows anything about the backgrounds of the tens of thousands people that will be transported to, and for all intents and purposes simply dropped off, in the area. Zach Iscol, Commissioner of Emergency Management for New York City, admits that many could very well be freshly let go from prisons in Venezuela and other Central and South American countries. The Migrant Center at Orchard Beach is planning to receive, feed, and shelter 75,000 unvetted adults this year without any monitoring for them at all; in a park with acres of naturally forested lands, that are impossible to police, and of historic and environmental significance, IN A FLOOD ZONE, RIGHT NEXT TO ONE OF THE CITY’S LARGEST PLAYGROUNDS, less than one half of a mile away from the doorsteps of New York City families that have already been through hell over the last several years of COVID lockdowns, followed by radical rioting that has truly crippled the city. Life, for New York City residents, has already been permanently and negatively altered; stolen by a corrupt political movement of lawless government action and control. Mayor Adams is operating entirely out of the boundaries of New York City law! Our DOT is not staffed or running. 911 response time continues to increase. We are an immobilized city in danger. New York City is 40+ billion in debt, with growing poverty and individual debt, homelessness, and crime; driving tax payers, businesses, and professional opportunity out. We are spiraling into catastrophe. The city, least of all the Bronx, cannot service or support the logical needs of hundreds of thousands of undocumented people when OUR OWN PEOPLE ARE IN CRISIS! The surrounding community of residents, the local police precinct, and local emergency medical services were never even informed, let alone involved in the decisions to transport tens of thousands of people to their area. It is clear that Mayor Adams and the people he has hired to run city agencies never once considered nor care about the impact this would have on the area. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime. I can put you in touch with the community that I grew up in that couldn’t be kinder, more welcoming, or more diverse. This isn’t remotely about being ‘racist’. This plan is illogically dangerous for everyone involved. A symptom of a city that is being run into a wall.

  2. avatar Red Thomas says:

    Elysia Schaller Borrelli: So these people are okay in TX & AZ, just NIMBY? How enlightened of you.


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