It was so-called advocates and not actual migrants who stoked dissent and encouraged dozens of asylum-seekers to stand their ground at a three-star Manhattan hotel rather than go to a new mega-shelter set up by Mayor Eric Adams, City Hall sources said Monday.
The protesting migrants had set up a mini-tent city outside the Watson Hotel on West 57th Street over the weekend, refusing to leave for the new site in Brooklyn, at the urging of local organizations who have “repeatedly sought to stop” the city’s “efforts to support” migrants, sources said.
As disruptions by migrants outside the hotel caused cops to shut down eastbound traffic on the major thoroughfare Monday. Adams, meanwhile, toured the new facility at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, where he played ping pong with migrants at one of its two tables.
He was joined by city Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Manuel Castro and Office of Emergency Management honcho Zachary Iscol for the roughly 40-minute visit and did not make any public comments afterward.
The NYPD had previously been called in to provide crowd control during chaos outside the hotel Sunday night, when a group of about 50 people congregated, including non-migrants who began rushing the Watson, trying to enter areas they were not supposed to be in, authorities said.
Some migrants outside the hotel Monday bore signs stating “No A La Discrimination Al Imigrante,’’ while others brushed their teeth in the street, using a water bottle to rinse out their mouths, after spending the night on the sidewalk.
Migrant Oswaldo Guillén, 23, of Ecuadorsaid it’s a no-brainer why asylum-seekers such as himself want to stay at the hotel as opposed to the terminal.
He said he had his own room at the ideally located Watson – complete with en suite bathroom, TV and bar fridge – for nearly two months before being bused Saturday without explanation to the isolated terminal, where he now has a cot in a massive chilly space and the use of communal showers in mobile trailers outside.
“The hotel had so many services they have just [now] taken away,” Guillén said.
An aid volunteer outside the hotel Monday told The Post,“Everybody who comes to New York, for whatever reason, deserves to live in places that are safe and have dignity.”
“It’s our job as New Yorkers to provide that for other people,” said the private worker, who refused to be identified. “I brought coffee, hand warmers and bananas. But I’ve heard what people really need are blankets and tents.
“The city congruent sheltering systems anywhere in the city are dehumanizing at best and dangerous.”
The volunteers claim that the protest happened organically. They said they are part of Mutual Aid NYC, a coalition of groups and volunteers who typically organize through social media for various causes. The volunteers said they arrived on the scene only after learning that migrants were sleeping on the street.
But an irked City Hall source told The Post, “It looks like the disruption outside the Watson Hotel yesterday was organized by local organizations and individuals who have repeatedly sought to stop our efforts to support the 43,000+ asylum seekers here in New York City.”
Involved parties such as the Immigration Coalition took to social mediaMonday to narrate footage of the hotel scene.
“Migrants still outside holding their ground,” one tweet said.
“They want to stay here in their rooms. They have jobs & community. Mayor Adams’ NYPD look ready to sweep, but#mutualaide is here to hold them accountable.”
South Bronx Mutual Aid on Twitter accused City Hall of “lying” about its treatment of the asylum-seekers in its care while alleging there was no heat at the Red Hook Facility.
“The Adams’ admin has reason to lie about refugee outcry at the Watson Hotel – refugees were evicted, some in the middle of the night. After forcibly removed and bused to Red Hook Marine Terminal, they fled a site they described as a “prison”/ Ice Box,” the tweet read.
A City Hall source said the terminal is heated and that it is a temperature-controlled structure like any other indoor facility.
City Hall spokesman Fabien Levy added to The Post in a statement Monday, “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 43,000 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.
“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.”
Adams has blasted the US southern-border situation and fellow Democrat President Biden for not doing enough to help the city and others across the US deal with the crisis.
Many of the newly arrived migrants came on busespaid for by border states fed-up with Biden’s lax policies.
The city previously opened another intake center on Randall’s Island for the flood of migrants but then quickly closed it because of lack of use.
As with Randall’s Island, an NYPD representative said the migrants’ move to the Brooklyn facility “has to be voluntary.”
At one point Monday, police began to put up barricades around the parking lot next to the hotel to keep wandering migrants out, as a volunteer screamed, “Don’t Go! The yard is an ice box!” a reference to a purported lack of heat at the new facility.
But some New Yorkers felt differently.
“Send them back!” a truck driver yelled while driving past the hotel.
A woman driving by also screamed, “Go back to your country!”
A man from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs was on hand outside the hotel to talk to some of the migrants, assuring them that he and other city workers “are here to help with [your] transition.”
As he began to talk to one man, a group of other migrants gathered around him, complaining about reports the Brooklyn Cruise terminal lacked heat.
A migrant also complained that “if they need to use the bathroom, they have to go a block away and bring all of their stuff because they were told that the facility would not be responsible for any lost or stolen items.”
“At least in Randall’s Island, we had a bathroom,” another migrant said, referring to on-site showers.
Representatives from NYC Homeless Outreach, city sanitation officials and police officers asked the lingering migrants Monday afternoon to take down their makeshift tents outside the hotel, before the officials went inside to discuss how to handle the situation further. The migrants complied but left up tarps that some of them are still living under.
As negotiations continued, two migrants emerged from the hotel at separate times and pretended to board the bus to Red Hook before going over or around the parking-lot barricades with their luggage in defiance. No one tried to move them, and the stunt sparked applause from the group. The barricades were eventually dismantled.
“We’ll stay here, eat food, and be safe here [on the street]. Last night, we slept right here,” said a 22-year-old immigrant, who only gave a first name of Lablador, outside the hotel.
At 1:40 p.m., about 10 migrants were seen boarding a bus to Red Hook — while others decided to go through the barricade and join the people who were steadily refusing to be moved.
A New Yorker who surveyed the scene on foot called the migrants “ungrateful.
“They want the luxury of having their own bathroom and privacy. The homeless people wouldn’t be allowed to do this,” he said before taking out his camera to film them.
“All they do is b—h and cry. They forgot where they came from,” he narrated while shooting footage.
One of the advocates for the migrants who refused to give her name claimed, “The migrants are being forced to go to Red Hook.”
But the NYPD responded that the city is “trying to use [the Watson] for family and kids.
“So if you’re a single male, they are asking you to move to Red Hook.”
In a statement, a City Hall rep added that the migrants could stay with friends or families instead of at the new humanitarian relief center.
The Post was not allowed inside the new Brooklyn complex but got a first look at the digs thanks to Guillén, who walked through the facility and took video.
Hundreds of cots with green bedding and white pillows were lined up in the terminal’s airy lofted hall, most of them empty.
A handful of asylum seekers were seen lying down, including one sleeping man wearing what appeared to be a 49ers jersey, a day after San Francisco football team was trounced in the NFC Championship game.
Clean, freshly tiled bathrooms, each featuring four sinks and eight stalls, were open for use.
Dozens of large tables were lined up in a massive cafeteria as sandwiches, potato chips and oranges were made available along with juice water and coffee. Meals were served three times a day, and migrants were “quite happy” with the food, Guillén said.
A small group of people were dining after breakfast, and several employees were milling about, according to the footage.
Guillén said he left his parents, a brother and sister back home.
He said he crossed the US border at El Paso, Texas, in November after a three-month journey from Ecuador. The trip was mostly by bus, although he had to walk through the extremely dangerous Darién Gap, which divides North and South America.
He spent three days in detention at the southern border before getting a plane ticket to New York City from a local church, he recalled. He slept on the street for his first two nights in New York City before a Catholic church in the Bronx took him in and arranged for his accommodation at the Watson Hotel.
He said the cruise terminal was filling up with about 800 men from Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and Nicaragua. Other estimates throughout the day put the real number of guests at around 300 to 400 men.
Guillén said there is no heating inside the cruise terminal and that migrants are only given one blanket.
Guillen said there are no phones for migrants to call home, and entertainment is limited to two ping pong tables, five TVs and a few PlayStations that belonged to other asylum seekers.
At the Watson, Guillén was provided a two-trip MetroCard every day. The cruise terminal is not serviced by the subway, but migrants are provided ferry fare. He also complained about the isolation of the Red Hook terminal, which is a stark contrast to the bustling scene surrounding West 57th Street.
On Monday, Guillén was going to catch the ferry around the Red Hook peninsula and walk through Brooklyn looking for a cash job.
“They don’t give us any information to help us apply for asylum. We need more benefits until we get asylum and a stable job,” he said.
There was no curfew at the cruise terminal facility, but lights were out at 10 p.m., he said.
“There is no heating. I sleep cold. I sleep in a t-shirt, sweater, sweatpants and the blanket they give us. We only get one blanket,” Guillén said.
“We don’t have any privacy. We all sleep in one room on uncomfortable beds,” he said, adding the bathrooms were “right near” the beds, and there were no storage lockers provided.
Guillén said he left Ecuador with $5,000 but has since spent it all, mostly bribing Mexican police.
He has an appointment with ICE in three months but does not have a court date. He intends to apply for asylum.
“I’m willing to do any sort of work. I will work construction, wash dishes or sell fruit at the market — I will work no matter what the job is,” he said.
“I am a hard worker. I have had many jobs from cleaning warehouses to working construction. We need a better quality of life,” the migrant continued.
“I will apply for asylum. The situation in Ecuador is very difficult. There are so many criminal gangs and death. One does not have a life there.”
Alberto Rodriguez, 23, from Venezuela said he was not forced to come to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal but was not given any other choice.
“They told us two days before they were going to move us,” he explained. “I got the bus here from the Watson at 11.30 a.m. on Saturday.”
The asylum seeker echoed concerns that the cruise terminal was cold, had uncomfortable beds and was too far from Manhattan, where some migrants had under the table jobs.
“A group of about 20 guys came and left. They’re sleeping outside the Watson Hotel. Anyone who already has work in Manhattan doesn’t want to move so far away,” he said.
Rodriguez said he came to the city after spending three days in detention at El Paso. He was put on a government bus that brought him to Manhattan on Oct. 7 and stayed at a homeless shelter before moving to the Watson last month.
He said he intends to apply for asylum, although he came to America “to work” and had already secured a cash construction job in Brooklyn that pays him $130 a day for eight hours of work.
His appointment at the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan is a shocking six years away, he claimed – on Wednesday, June 20, 2029.
Rodriguez said he wants to go to Canada because he assumes he will have his asylum claim addressed faster. He said he would stay in New York until he’s worked long enough to save for the trip to Canada.
Still, a 42-year-old from Venezuela who declined to have his name published said there is a silver lining to the Red Hook accommodations.
“The cruise ship terminal is better than the homeless shelter, where there were a lot of crazy American men and American men on drugs. But the cruise ship terminal is not as good as the hotel,” he said.
“I’m good in the terminal, I don’t care. Some people don’t like change from the Watson Hotel to the cruise ship terminal. But for me, for myself, I don’t care, I’m good.
“We are new in the country. We don’t need to fight. All help is welcome.”ts.”