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Staten Island residents fume over court's decision to overturn judge's blocking of asylum seekers in former school

NYC wins emergency appeal on asylum seeker shelter on Staten Island
NYC wins emergency appeal on asylum seeker shelter on Staten Island 02:28

NEW YORK -- There was a major turn of events Friday in a legal battle on Staten Island.

Asylum seekers that were kicked out of a shelter were later allowed to stay.

That prompted protesters to spend a third night out demonstrating in the Arrochar section of the borough.

The crowd was just as passionate but not as big as had been seen over the previous few days. What they thought was cause for celebration earlier Friday afternoon changed to anger by the evening.

"We are not gonna lose. We made history!" activist Scott Lobaido said.

That was until the court, following an emergency appeal by the city, ruled asylum seekers can stay at what used to be Saint John Villa Academy, which closed five years ago.

"This turned from a victory to a protest," a woman named Daniela said.

A group of lawmakers and residents took the issue to court earlier Friday and initially won. A judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the city from placing asylum seekers at the former school building. However, just hours later, the city won its emergency appeal, allowing what may be hundreds of single women and adult families to stay.

"This is unfair. My tax dollars shouldn't be going to this," one parent named Josephine said.

Angry neighbors expressed concern over asylum seekers being housed within feet of a tightknit neighborhood. Video shows many arriving earlier in the day. Some neighbors who were protesting brought their children.

"It's extremely important to me because I always teach them to stand up for what they believe in and to stand up for what's right and this is wrong," Daniela said.

In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams' Office said it empathizes with the residents' concerns, but added, "New York City has been left largely alone to deal with a national crisis that demands difficult decision-making. But let's be clear: the sites we are now finding are the only options left. This situation demands a broader state and national solution."

"They do have other options. It's time to stop misinterpreting our right to shelter law, that it was entitled for citizens who are homeless, not citizens of other countries, and just end this madness now," Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis said.

Malliotakis is part of the group that originally sued to stop the shelter. Earlier Friday, some asylum seekers were seen leaving the building. Shortly after, cases of water arrived. Residents, even after three nights of protests, promised to stay as long as asylum seekers are at the school.

"Staten Island is fighting together to get it right," Josephine said.

"Don't give up, because I'm not," Lobaido added.

All of this will be heard in court again less than two weeks from now, in early September.

So far, more than 100,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City. Half are still in its care. Officials say less than 2% are sheltered on Staten Island.

On Saturday, police said three people at the protest were arrested and charged for lifting barriers and trying to get passed established police lines. 

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