Upset New Yorker Blares Message to Migrants on Repeat

'Immigrants are not safe here,' loudspeaker outside shelter says in 6 languages
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 14, 2023 4:36 AM CDT
Loudpeaker Outside NYC Migrant Shelter Tells People to 'Go Back'
A protest sign stands on the lawn of Scott Herkert beside the former Saint John Villa Academy that has been repurposed as a shelter for homeless migrants, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in the Staten Island borough of New York.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A New Yorker upset that the city has been housing homeless migrants on his block has set up a loudspeaker to deliver an unwelcoming message to his new neighbors: "Immigrants are not safe here." The message, recorded in six languages, blares all day from a loudspeaker on Scott Herkert's front lawn on Staten Island, exhorting migrants to "go back" to another part of the city because the community doesn't want them, the AP reports. It urges people brought to a temporary shelter inside a long-vacant Roman Catholic high school not to get off the bus. The message also claims the building has rats and cockroaches. Herkert, a state court system employee, says the new shelter has upended his block's quiet charm and brought toilets and dumpsters to the other side of his fence.

It is one of several ways some people have let shelter residents know they are not welcome. Hundreds of protesters have also held a large rally outside the former school, urging the city to house migrants elsewhere. Employees and residents of the shelter said protesters have cursed at and threatened them, frequently playing loud music late into the night. The women and families placed by the city inside the former Saint John Villa Academy have heard the message loud and clear. "We have to close our eyes and close our ears," said Aminetou El Alewai, a 39-year-old woman from Mauritania who moved into the shelter last week. "We are good people. We are not criminals. We came because of problems in our country."

As thousands of migrants continue to arrive in New York, officials have scrambled to open new emergency shelters, turning to tent facilities, school gyms, and parks to comply with a state law requiring housing for the homeless. Though Staten Island is home to only a small fraction of those shelters, they have generated an outsize share of animosity. The hostile reception coincides with increasingly dire rhetoric from Mayor Eric Adams, who warned last week that the migrant crisis would "destroy" the city. He has insisted that the more than 100,000 who have arrived so far are welcome, but he has said the cost of housing tens of thousands of people could be as much as $12 billion over the next three years.

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A spokesperson for the mayor's office, Kayla Mamelak, said the administration was "disturbed to learn about the false messages being played outside the St. John's Villa Academy respite site" and police are working to "maintain the peace in the area." Around the corner from Herkert, John Gurriera, a 72-year-old resident of Staten Island, said he was disappointed by the reaction from some of his neighbors, which he described as "not very Christian." "This is New York City," he said. "We all came from someplace else."

(More New York City stories.)

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