QUEENS VILLAGE — A massive tent shelter is set to be opened in the parking lot of the former Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in the coming weeks, drawing concern from some area residents. Confirmed by Mayor Eric Adams on July 27, the city is set to build a 1,000-bed shelter for adult male migrants on the Queens Village site.
The local community is divided on the size of the center and what they feel is a lack of communication about it from the mayor’s office, said Father Patrick Longalong, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens Village.
“There is a lot of tension because there is not enough transparency as to what is happening, what the plans are,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like there are enough plans in place to really effectively help these migrants. Shelters are temporary, but what is the long-term support they can give them?”
The Adams administration initially eyed the Aqueduct Racetrack alongside Creedmoor to serve as a massive emergency “tent city,” but community pushback has delayed an official confirmation on whether the racetrack’s parking lot will be transformed into a facility for migrants.
“In Aqueduct, they were successful in not having the shelters there. At Creedmoor, that is still on the table,” Father Longalong said. “The local community has been doing a series of protests.”
Opponents of a shelter at Creedmoor have sponsored rallies calling for the plan to be reconsidered, citing such considerations as its distance from public transportation. Members of one such opponent, the Queens Village Republican Club, gathered in front of the Creedmoor site as well as outside the local offices of some area elected officials to express their disapproval.
“We have people from the local civic associations that have been campaigning for months about the high rises going up at Creedmoor,” said Philip Orenstein, president of the Queens Village Republican Club, at a rally in front of state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein’s Bayside office on Aug. 5. Orenstein and club officials said they organized the demonstration to “keep the pressure up” on local politicians.
City officials said that as of July 19, adult migrants are limited to 60 days at a shelter, with the policy aiming to help them move out of the shelter system and to create space for migrant families with children. If migrants fail to find alternative housing after the 60 days are completed, they will be required to reapply for a new placement at the shelter.
“Where are the people going after 60 days? After 60 days, will there be another 1,000 people coming in?” Father Longalong asked. “You are bringing in all these people into the neighborhood and then telling them they have a time limit as to how long they can stay. Are they going to be replaced with another group of people with the same type of situation?”
Arlene Schlesinger, a resident of the nearby Oakland Gardens neighborhood for 35 years, told The Tablet that lack of community input is the crux of the tension surrounding Creedmoor.
“We have over 3,000 signatures of residents who just want to have their input,” she said.
Residents who attended community meetings at the start of the year expressed support for development of affordable housing on the Creedmoor site, but that proposal now appears to be paused in the wake of the migrant tent city plan.
“We are looking for stability,” Father Longalong said. “All these temporary things send a message of instability and chaos. We are looking for transparency and effective planning in this type of situation, not just putting them in a place because it is convenient for them.”
If a migrant center does open at Creedmoor, Father Longalong said Our Lady of Lourdes will work to determine how best to serve the newcomers. Father Longalong said clothing drives and food drives are likely places to start, but conceded that a long-term strategy is hard to predict.
At Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills, such programs have already begun to take shape to serve the migrant community there. In an emergency food drive, they collected provisions on behalf of Catholic Charities, which were then delivered to St. Pius V Church in Jamaica.
There, they use their parish kitchen to cook meals for migrants on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“We are helping Catholic Charities fulfill very targeted requests for the kind of foods that they need so that the kitchen can cook meals or allow the migrants to cook their own meals. They are the best source to know exactly what they need,” said Karen Brogno, a member of the communications office at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs.
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs is hosting a cold weather clothing drive on Aug. 20 in partnership with Catholic Charities to help prepare the migrants for the fall and winter.