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Asylum seekers refusing to leave Watson Hotel for shelter at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal cite poor conditions

Asylum seekers refusing to relocate from Manhattan hotel
Asylum seekers refusing to relocate from Manhattan hotel 03:22

NEW YORK -- Mayor Eric Adams appears to have another immigration crisis on his hands as single men lodged at a Midtown hotel have been reluctant to move to a new facility at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

The mayor wants to use the hotel for families.

It's a problem city officials apparently didn't see coming -- asylum seekers who got used to the privacy of living in a hotel room don't want to move to a congregate shelter where everyone sleeps packed like sardines in a room with 1,000 cots.

READ MOREMayor Eric Adams says proposed migrant shelter at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal will be heated space

A bus with a jaunty "I Love New York" sign arrived at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook on Monday with about a dozen asylum seekers being relocated from the Watson Hotel in Midtown. They were seen lugging black suitcases into the facility amid reports some were none too happy about it.

And here's why: instead of private rooms at the Watson, they are going to sleep in a massive room with hundreds of beds.

"The space doesn't afford the same kind of individual living area that people have now, and it makes them uncomfortable to be in a space with that many people who they don't know, who they may have concerns about," Legal Aid Society attorney Josh Goldfein explained.

Watch Ali Bauman's report

Defiant asylum seekers camping out outside Midtown hotel 02:26

The city started moving people out of the Watson on Saturday in a relocation effort expected to take four days. The problem, according to advocates, is that the first wave of asylum seekers sent back videos that made others reluctant to move. Others just came back to the Watson.

"The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is ugly. It's disgusting," one asylum seeker said through a translator.

Others said they planned to spend another night outside the Watson Hotel on Monday.

READ MOREMayor Adams' plan to use Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as emergency shelter for asylum seekers faces backlash

When asked if sleeping in a tent outside in Hell's Kitchen is better than going to the shelter in Brooklyn, one 22-year-old from Venezuela said, "It's not better, but we need to do it because we want a solution."

He also said of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, "It's so bad. Every bed together. It has no bathrooms inside the building."

Advocates also offered a number of concerns.

"The beds are head to toe. They're very cramped together, so there's a fear that COVID might spread rapidly in such a crowded room. So migrants feel safer in the streets," Mutual Aid's Yajaira Saavedra said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report

Asylum seekers refusing to move to Brooklyn worried about finding jobs 02:17

CBS2 spoke to a number of asylum seekers at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Most admitted that the Watson was more comfortable, but they were also appreciative of having shelter and food.

"The food for some reason is just better here. It tastes better. It's more nourishing," one said in Spanish.

Raimer Cordova is staying at the Brooklyn terminal. He told CBS2, "The conditions are very good. The attention of the people towards us is good as well. The humanitarian treatment is spectacular."

But with more than 42,000 asylum seekers arriving in New York City since last spring, the mayor has continued to demand a national solution form Congress and the Biden administration.

"We need one individual who solely is playing the role of a decompression strategy so that the end of the row can't be New York City and other big cities. So we need more help from the national government," Adams said.

"It's basically impossible for an asylum seeker to move out of shelter into a permanent home because right now they're not eligible for working papers," said Christine Quinn, CEO of the group Women in Need.

READ MOREAdvocates say migrants, asylum seekers were excluded from Mayor Eric Adams' State of the City

Without working papers, shelters are the only option for many asylum seekers, who are also ineligible for housing subsidies.

"If we made them available to the undocumented, asylum seekers, they would then have the ability to get permanent housing," Quinn said.

It's about to get much colder outside this week, but some asylum seekers told CBS2 they are prepared to keep camping out until City Hall provides an alternative to the Brooklyn terminal.

A spokesman for the mayor said the facility in Red Hook will provide the same services as every other humanitarian relief center in the city.

President Joe Biden will be in New York City on Tuesday to talk about infrastructure projects like the new Gateway Tunnels. It's unclear whether the mayor will get to speak to him about asylum seekers.

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