Migrant families began moving into the Bentley Hotel (500 East 62nd Street) back in April, and on Monday, a meeting was held to discuss the emergency sanctuary.
Members of Community Board 8 and the general public hopped on a Zoom call with representatives from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and service provider Highland Park Community Development Corporation.
Here are a few interesting things we picked up (some quotes have been edited for length and clarity):
Currently, the site is being managed by Highland Park with assistance from both the DHS and National Guard. Hailey Nolasco, Assistant Deputy Commissioner with the Department of Social Services (DSS)*, said that the National Guard is not there on “an enforcement capacity,” but rather to help “check folks in and just offering, you know, larger administrative support.” Highland Park is expected to take over “fully” by the end of July or early August.
*The Department of Social Services is comprised of the Human Resources Administration and the Department of Homeless Services.
Highland Park Program Director Carolina Colon says they currently have about 190 families at the site, while noting there are “a lot” of pregnant women who they provide an OBGYN for. Nolasco added that all babies who need formula are provided with it.
Residents are receiving three meals per day and children can get additional snacks when needed. Highland Park Executive Director William Ruiz mentioned that they “will be implementing a buffet style. So it’s almost like if you go into a very five star hotel, you’re going to go downstairs and you’re going to get a free buffet. So that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week for everybody that’s there.”
All children who were placed at the site before the end of the school year have been placed at schools, Nolasco said. When a new family arrives, their children are enrolled at the closest school that has the available capacity (with the aim of keeping them there for the duration of the family’s stay). “We definitely want to ensure continuity. So while a family is within our care, we would definitely want to make sure that they remain in the same school.”
One school-related issue which arose was the vaccination status of the arriving children. “Some of the children do have some vaccinations,” Nolasco said, while pointing out that their home countries may have different requirements than the United States. “We will make sure that they at least start start their vaccination process. I believe that the policy is within 30 days of enrolling in the school that they have to at least start their vaccination process.”
Highland Park has been able to relocate thirteen of the family’s who’ve stayed at The Bentley so far, Ruiz said. “And we’re continuing to do intakes to find out if they have families so we can relocate them, whether it’s to a different state or maybe to a different borough.”
In late June, Mayor Adams announced that another emergency sanctuary shelter would be opening at 1760 Third Avenue (between 97th and 98th streets) to house over 500 migrant families.