A “bi-partisan community rally” led by Curtis Sliwa in front of former Manhattan College dorm Overlook Manor over it potentially turning into a shelter for asylum seekers, was perhaps anything but non-partisan as two sides stood opposite each other in the rain last Sunday in a war of words.
A lack of transparency around the future of the Manhattan College dorm brought Waldo Garden residents and former New York City mayoral candidate and head of the Guardian Angels Sliwa to rally together on West 238th Street and Waldo Avenue.
“For the love of money Stagg went down to city hall and made a deal with the devil, (Mayor) Eric Adams himself,” said Sliwa.“And doubled their dollars, doubled their dollars. And that’s what this is about. This is about money, follow the money. This is not caring for migrants, or homeless, or veterans or people who are destitute. This is about a transfer of our tax dollars to a group now, Stagg, that feels it does not have the responsibility to explain what they’re doing.”
The Stagg Group purchased the Manhattan College 95-unit, 400-bed dorm for $18 million last June. The sale quickly drew attention from residents who feared the dorm would be used to house migrants, particularly when the group said discussions with the city department of homeless services were made to do just that. Nothing is definitive yet, a representative said at a Community Board 8 meeting.
Just last week Manhattan College issued its own statement on the fate of its former dorm.
“We are aware of reports that the new owners may be engaged with the City of New York regarding the leasing of the property,” the school said in a prepared statement Sept. 19. “However, Manhattan College no longer owns the off-campus property, does not control the property nor is a party to any leasing agreement.”
The group with Sliwa consisted of Republicans, Democrats and independents. They held up signs reading “save our children” and “no migrants.” Rally-goers shouted things like “no shelter,” “American first,” and “immigrants suck.” At one point a Spanish speaker’s words were met with the words “speak English,” by one person.
When it was heard that Sliwa would be showing up, members of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice organized community members to come in protest of him and support of migrants. People held signs that read “The Bronx supports migrants,” “be a real guardian angel,” and “Jews for migrants.”
In addition to the group and community members, the protest was also attended by state Sen. Gustavo Rivera who led chants saying, “We stand against you, we stand for our migrant brothers and sisters.”
“The most important message that we are having here is we won’t have intolerant racists come to our neighborhoods to say who they welcome or not welcome,” Rivera said to The Riverdale Press. “They’re not welcome. Migrants are.”
Rivera explained how they welcome migrants into the city because the city is made a better place when it has a diverse population.
“Number one, anyone who comes into this country seeking asylum has a status,” Rivera said. “These are not ‘illegals.’ These are people who are seeking asylum. Second, you remember the majority of these individuals are not in New York City because they want to. Instead we had a racist administration in Texas intersecting these folks and throwing them out unwittingly into buses to come all the way to New York.”
The migrants are fleeing terrible conditions, explained Carol Gross, a woman who volunteers her time helping migrants at Port Authority.
“Migrants have as much right to be here as we do,” Gross said. “We are all migrants. Nobody’s family started out here.”
The crowd standing with Sliwa had first generation Americans and people whose families entered the United States via being sponsored or entering the country through legal means. One rally-goer, Manny Grossman, explained to The Press how his grandparents and great grandparents entered the country legally, but that the city doesn’t have the same culture and demand for work that it did back then.
“There are too many native New Yorkers who are on the dole who can’t find work,” Grossman said. “Tons of teenagers who can’t find work. These people are going to economically compete with them and Americans are not going to win.”
The people bringing migrants to the city see them as chattel, or moveable goods, to destroy neighborhoods, Grossman said. He painted a picture of other parts of the city filled with a wreckage of mopeds, motorcycles, filth, prostitution, and degradation as a result of asylum seekers.
“This is the burning wreckage of what was once New York City,” Grossman said. “And we just simply can’t afford more gasoline to the fire.”
Sliwa explained to The Press how he was contacted by the Waldo Gardens board and asked to come after they hit a brick wall with the dorm potentially turning into a shelter for migrants.
Sliwa pointed fingers at Manhattan College, Stagg, Councilman Eric Dinowitz and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.
“Meantime the people are left out,” Sliwa said. “And what they’re trying to do is say, ‘Well they’re racist, they’re xenophobes, and they don’t want migrants in.’ No, no, they want this to be what the original project was, affordable housing for seniors, homeless and veterans. That was the agreement. The community signed off on that, total transparency. Now try to get anybody to answer your calls from Stagg.”