The first refugee-style camp is finally open in New York City.
"This is a historical moment. We haven't seen something like this in New York City for nearly a century," said Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro.
After criticism and a number of controversies, the city unveiled the interior of its first makeshift relief center, that's intended to house hundreds of asylum seekers sent here from other states.
They've created a cafeteria area inside the tents where all the migrants are expected to receive their meals each day. The Mayor's Office has told Newsy that the tents will initially be equipped to house at least 500 migrants. But they have an extra tent in case they need to expand. The six-and-a-half-acre facility will temporarily shelter single men. Each migrant will receive a camp bed with a sheet set, towel, and pillow. The center is located on Randall's Island, at the Harlem River's Edge, 3.8 miles from Times Square, Manhattan.
Chris Romine lives on the island. His parents immigrated from Venezuela years ago. He said the center's location isn't safe for the migrants.
"It's horrific. This is a park I walk thoroughly every day," said Romine. "I know those grounds well, I've been here for five years. It collects water — rainwater runs down the hill. Of all places for them to build a migrant tent, to choose there it's pretty irresponsible and inhumane."
However, city officials said the shelter is winterized, and rainwater won't be a problem.
Zachary Iscol is the NYC Commissioner of the Emergency Management Department.
"You've seen the structures. They can withstand 90-mile-per-hour winds. They are used all over the country in every climate and place, winter weather," said Iscol.
The facility has a recreation center equipped with TVs, Xbox game consoles, table games, and phones to make international calls. There are bathrooms, showers, a laundry facility, and isolation tents for those who test positive for COVID-19.
Initially, Mayor Eric Adams said the camp would be built in an Orchard Beach parking lot in the Bronx. But construction was stopped after heavy rains flooded the site.
"Took us about $325,000 to demobilize from Orchard Beach and another $325,000 to set up this facility. The rest of the cost we're still analyzing," said Adams.
New York City is looking for help from the federal government to cover the cost.
"We haven't gotten any financial support yet, but we have put in our FEMA application. We have asked the state for support. They've been great partners with planning and helping us find siting. But we haven't gotten any financial support from them," said Anne Williams-Isom, NYC deputy mayor for Health and Human Services.
The city says 90% of the staff speaks Spanish, and all were hired throughout New York City. There will be 24-hour security and hourly bus service to and from Manhattan.
The migrants will get help locating their family members or friends and finding long-term shelter at the tents.
There will be a 10 P.M. curfew, but city officials were not clear on the consequences of breaking that rule.
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