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Rallies held against asylum seeker relief centers planned for 2 locations in Queens

Queens residents rally against plans for asylum seeker relief center
Queens residents rally against plans for asylum seeker relief center 02:09

NEW YORK - There was a heated rally Thursday against a humanitarian relief center in Queens that will house 1,000 men seeking asylum

The mayor's office announced Wednesday tents will go up at the parking lot of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center

"No tent city! No tent city!" some residents of Queens Village chanted Thursday. They're asking the mayor's office to reconsider the plan. 

They say that among their concerns are the safety of children who play at fields nearby, and those who attend PS 18, which is across the street. 

"We don't know who is coming in here," Queens resident Koshy Thomas said. 

"We already have two hotels. They're already on Jamaica Avenue," one Bellerose resident said. 

Creedmoor is on state land. The city will construct the relief center, and the state will reimburse the city for construction, maintenance and staffing. 

"Follow the money. The mayor has sold us out to the highest bidder," Glen Oaks resident Bob Friedrich said. "We don't even know what type of 24-hour security they'll provide." 

Some residents said they are concerned for the asylum seekers as well, because they say the area is a transit desert and access to opportunities are very slim. 

"If you don't drive, there's very little bus, there's no subway," community activist Bernard Chow said. 

"If they need to get services or apply for public benefits, or anything like that, then it's going to be very, very difficult," City Councilmember Linda Lee said. 

Lee and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein said they were notified of the plans via text message Tuesday. 

"I reached out and said this is not the right location, I'm telling you, and then they texting yesterday saying OK, now we're moving forward," Braunstein said. 

"They have to do better. They have to engage the community," 149th Street South Ozone Park Civic Association President Aracelia Cook said. 

"I'm with the masjid right here," Queens Village resident Tayyib Saifan said. "These people need better welfare in our community." 

A rep for the mayor's office said he told elected officials "all options are on the table."

Lee said she's requested a meeting. She heard construction starts Friday, and the center could be up and running in two weeks. 

Rep. George Santos, who represents the area, said he's calling on Mayor Eric Adams to declare a state of emergency. 

Another center for asylum seekers is planned in Queens at a former private school in College Point.

Residents were fired up there Thursday night.

"This is not what I want, make that clear, but this is what we got," Councilwoman Vickie Paladino said.

Paladino says a total of 300 asylum seekers, including women and families, will be bused to former St. Agnes Academic High School. For three months, the facility will become a migrant respite center -- a temporary shelter.

"I don't know what the answer is, but somebody has to come up with an answer and help these people," College Point resident Maria Kurtz said.

Some in attendance are concerned about the safety of children in the area.

"There's a middle school right on the corner, which I work, and there's teenage girls there, and it's not safe," one resident said.

They're also worried about their property.

"I own a home here. My property value will go down to nothing. I mean, I worked my whole life here," College Point resident Emilio Caponigro said.

Paladino says buses are expected to arrive at St. Agnes from Friday through Monday. She says St. Agnes is still slated to open in 2026 as a public school, and construction will remain on schedule when the building is once again cleared.

A spokesperson for City Hall sent CBS New York the following statement:

"We continue to be transparent and work with local elected officials to ensure that we are addressing community concerns, but as the mayor has said many times, we are in an unprecedented crisis and no options are off the table."

Mayor Eric Adams tweeted Thursday that he had a productive meeting in Washington, D.C., with key lawmakers about the city's needs.

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