Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update April 2, 2024

Updates on the Migrant Crisis

Since the spring of 2022, New York City has set up a network of emergency shelters and tent cities to accommodate tens of thousands of asylum-seekers. As of March 2024, over 64,600 asylum-seekers are in city-run shelters, including hotels, houses of worship, and large tent structures, with concentrations in Manhattan and Queens. Migrants like Jhoann Reyes and his family have moved through several shelters as they faced eviction from an emergency shelter. The Department of Homeless Services operates most shelters, prioritizing families with children in private rooms. There have been community reactions, both supportive and opposed, to the placement of these shelters.

In Bed-Stuy, migrants mainly from Sudan and West Africa are energizing the Muslim community. They contribute to the neighborhood's vibrancy but also face challenges such as the need for food, housing, and work authorization. Businesses owned by migrants like Hassan Mohamed, a Sudanese businessman, have become community hubs. The influx of migrants has transformed the area, with new businesses alongside immigrant-owned establishments. The community provides support, including free iftar meals during Ramadan, but there are ongoing struggles due to limited resources and support.

Men bring out the plates of food prepared at a Sudanese-run business to share for the iftar meal. Photo from The New York Times. 

A pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey has helped 350 migrants find housing. Initially funded by federal aid for resettling refugees, the pastor's affordable housing nonprofit expanded its model to include asylum seekers who didn't qualify for federal aid, thanks to a $400,000 grant. The nonprofit covers upfront costs like rent, security deposits, and furnishing apartments, forging relationships with landlords to facilitate housing. Migrants pay the nonprofit after the first month, with most becoming self-sufficient within a few months. 

Margoth and her daughter found housing through the Reformed Church of Highland Park asylum seeker housing program in New Jersey, March 8, 2024. Credit: Alex Krales/THE CITY

While many organizers and community members work to support incoming migrants, some don’t agree that it’s an appropriate use of resources and funds. The Maspeth community is divided after Maspeth Jewish Center recently began operating as a shelter for migrants. A rally took place where opponents and supporters of the migrant shelter turned out to make their voices heard. Similarly, at a community meeting in Gowanus many gathered to express their concern about a planned migrant shelter at a former factory building in the area. 

Affordable Housing 

Last week, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine organized a coalition of Manhattan Council Members, housing groups, and unions to send a letter pushing Governor Hochul and State leadership to lift the 12 FAR cap in the state budget.

The 12 FAR cap limits how much housing can be built on a given lot, exacerbating the housing crisis. Under this rule, created in 1961, a lot that is 10,000 square feet can only build up to 120,000 square feet of housing. Learn more about this initiative.

Coalition organized by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine pushes to lift outdated housing cap. Photo from the Office of the Manhattan Borough President

The Westminster Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg, a 98-year-old historic building closed for about a decade, is being considered for repurposing by the Belleair Development Group. The group plans to transform the church and adjacent school into two townhomes and a single-family home, respecting the community's preference for lower traffic and density. The church, listed as a local historic landmark, will retain much of its original architecture, including restored windows with impact glass. 

The Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA, celebrating its 100th anniversary, seeks to develop a new church building with LGBTQ-affirming affordable housing for seniors and a childcare center. The church partnered with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) and applied for a zoning change to build residential apartments and accommodate the childcare center. They have faced backlash from members of the Arlington community and have temporarily put the project on hold. 

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