No matter where you stand on bringing asylum seekers into vacant buildings in greater Riverdale, if you have a heart you can’t be in favor of the poor living conditions at the Van Cortlandt Motel.
That motel, which originally only housed men when it opened this past spring, now has families swapped out from a similar shelter in Queens. About 50 single mothers with children now temporarily live at Van Cortlandt Motel compared to about the 100 or so men who were housed there before, according to a former security guard there.
Over the past week, we found out how bad the living conditions have been for the tenants, most of whom speak foreign languages like Spanish and Russian.
We were told they suffered from bug bites and live with moldy ceilings, nauseous smells and mice. On top of that, many of the families are unable to eat the food since it is not culturally acceptable or edible.
In fact, management has thrown out unopened prepared food since they were uneaten. As for accommodations, a family of five living in one room only has three twin-sized beds
And then there was the alleged abuse of the asylum seekers by the management, who reportedly cursed out and belittled them in English — words they don’t understand since the don’t speak the language.
“The (motel) manager, she’s really nasty with them,” said Aaliyah Enriquez, the former security guard. “Talking about, ‘Be grateful you have a room,’ or ‘Go back to your country.’”
Considering that there are more than 100,000 asylum seekers who have been sent to New York City from the southern border over the past year, it’s hard not to believe many are receiving similar treatment. And that’s just not right.
Seeking a place to live and a job to raise their families in a foreign country is nerve-wracking let alone having to deal with poor living conditions and abuse. In the end, they are people, just like us. Just like the homeless who live among us, they have happened upon some bad times.
While the rollout of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to house the asylum seekers has been somewhat haphazard, there may be some help on the horizon in the form of federal executive action. Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul called on President Joe Biden to expedite work authorizations, allowing many of them to earn some kind of a living while they navigate through the asylum process. She also asked for federal reimbursement of calling up 2,000 National Guard members to help with logistical and operational support.
In addition, Hochul announced a $20 million investment to expedite the casework filing process for more than 30,000 asylum seekers.
On the macro level, the plan to address the issues of processing the thousands of asylum seekers sent up to the city by southern states seems to work. But the execution has been a big problem because it lacks a cohesive strategy that should be led by the Biden administration.
Without such leadership, situations like what’s been claimed at the Van Cortlandt Motel have been allowed to happen. There has been a lack of oversight on said execution as people who are given such power to operate such temporary shelters should not have that power.
Not only do such people victimize the recipients of the aid, they make New York City government look bad.