Asylum seekers camped outside Watson Hotel say they want to hear from Mayor Eric Adams directly
NEW YORK -- Asylum seekers remained camped outside a Manhattan hotel for the second day in a row on Tuesday.
Many are refusing to relocate to a relief center at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, citing concerns over shelter conditions. They also say the Watson Hotel's location on the West Side makes starting their new lives in New York City a little bit easier.
The city tweeted a video showing the inside of the Brooklyn relief center, which was set up to temporarily house up to 1,000 men, who arrived as asylum seekers and were initially placed at the Watson.
The city now plans to use the Watson for asylum-seeking families with children, and sources tell CBS2 that City Hall plans to start moving those families in as early as next week.
MTA buses showed up again Tuesday to take the single men to Brooklyn. Some boarded the buses, but not everyone wants to go.
"That's not a better place. That's a bad place," one man said. "That's not good for anybody."
The asylum seekers say some have been living in the hotel for weeks, others just days. They say they'd rather stay camped outside instead of moving, citing a lack of privacy and tight conditions at the new shelter.
"They're trying to move us to a shelter where there's not enough space, not enough bathrooms, not comfortable, no heat," one man said through a translator.
"There's hundreds of people packed together head to toe," another person said.
In Spanish, Carlos Espinosa said the shelter was like a jail.
They say they're waiting to hear from Mayor Eric Adams directly.
"We want to stay here. Waiting for Mayor Adams to come and tell us what solution he has for us. But we don't want to move from here if he doesn't have a solution," the man added.
READ MORE: Mayor Adams' plan to use Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as emergency shelter for asylum seekers faces backlash
Father leaders and community members stood with the men outside.
"We can do better, and we must do better," one person said.
On Monday, the mayor toured the Brooklyn facility, where the city says the men will receive a cot, hot showers, three meals a day and transportation.
"I just had to come here when I started hearing rumors about it was too cold. My brother's got on shorts," Adams said Monday in Brooklyn.
Advocates say the hotel's location provides better access to work for the asylum seekers.
"The thing that the migrants want the most is to work, and many of them are already working, and they found work, because they're centrally in Midtown, Manhattan. It will be a challenge for them to get to work from a place that is so remote," Legal Aid staff attorney Josh Goldfein said.
They add it's difficult for them to not only find legit jobs, because they have to wait six months for working papers, but also to find somewhere else to live, as they're ineligible for housing subsidies.
"If we made them available to the undocumented, to asylum seekers, they would then have an ability to get permanent housing," said Christine Quinn, CEO of Women in Need.
Watch Zinnia Maldonado's report
The city's Department of Immigrant Affairs says it's not offering detention centers, rather providing the same services at the Brooklyn terminal as any other relief center.
The city says there's security at the facility and nearly 100 toilets.
Jesus Lopez is staying there. He told CBS2 it's better than the Watson sidewalk but laments the bathrooms are in separate trailers.
"To bathe, you have to go outside and stand in the cold," he said in Spanish. "I see that as wrong."
The Immigrant Affairs Twitter account has been posting videos and pictures, trying to fight what it calls misleading information.
The commissioner of the Office of Immigrant Affairs came to the Watson on Tuesday to speak with asylum seekers, then took a bus with a group to go look at the Brooklyn facility.
"We're just trying to have a dignified place to stay," one person said at the Watson.
CBS News' Ed O'Keefe asked the mayor if his decision to open the congregate shelter was a mistake.
"No, it wasn't. It was smart that we pivot and strategically move. We have been stating for months, we are running out of room, and then when we ran out of room, we had to pivot and shift," Adams said.
Watch Alice Gainer's report
Homeless advocates argue there is enough room, if only the city would more quickly help people in shelters move into permanent housing.
"If the city were to invest in those programs to move people out, get them into permanent housing, get them back in the community, they would free up space in the shelter system for the migrants," Goldfein said.
More than 43,000 asylum seekers have come to New York City since last spring.
"Children won't sleep in the street. Single adult males will go into congregate shelter settings, but they will be treated with the dignity we've given everyone," Adams said.
Sources tell CBS2 that housing asylum seekers is estimated to cost New York City $1.4 billion this fiscal year and $2.8 billion the next fiscal year.
Ahead of Gov. Kathy Hochul's budget proposal unveiling on Wednesday, some elected leaders in the city are urging her to include funding for shelter and services for asylum seekers.
Outside the Watson, police have closed off one side of 57th Street between 10th and Ninth to traffic.
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