If you are following New York City’s tent city solution to the growing migrant population at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center on Winchester Boulevard in Queens Village, you already know that there are residents and organizations, both for and against the city’s answer to housing migrant men. Creedmoor and Queens Village are nearest to Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Great Neck, some of Nassau County’s western-most villages.
In mid-August, Creedmoor tent city opened to potentially house 1,000 migrant men.
Anton Media Group has recently published a series of stories about the story unfolding, from the migrants’ perspectives and from some of the local residents and agencies.
We also had a chance to speak with activist Curtis Sliwa, founder and CEO of the Guardian Angels, a nonprofit crime prevention organization, about the growing migrant population in Queens and its potential ripple effects on Nassau and Suffolk counties. Here is what he had to tell us.
- Explain what the Guardian Angels are doing at Creedmoor? What is it that you are trying to accomplish?
Sliwa: The coalition that’s come together around protesting the tents and the migrants being put on the state property of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center is interesting, because you have a lot of first-generation immigrants who have purchased homes in the area, some of them are stakeholders in condos and co-ops right near the Nassau County border. All of them have come together; many of them are moderate Democrats along with Republicans and Independents, to protest the tents, first, because there was no transparency, no community involvement in the decision and second, because it’s in an area where there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go.
The Creedmoor property is massive; only about 30 percent of the buildings are occupied. It was always for those who needed psychiatric help. I think the residents have come to the conclusion that with all the emotionally disturbed people roaming the streets of New York, living in the subways and the parks, that is what Creedmoor should be utilized for, getting those people off the street…Americans, some of them veterans, and giving them mental health care. Migrants on the Creedmoor property makes no sense.
- Why should Nassau County residents care what’s happening in Queens?
Sliwa: I seem to remember a long time ago when there were incursions from Queens, right into Franklin Square, Elmont and Floral Park. They built a series of barriers there so that you couldn’t actually gain easy access right into those areas because a lot of guys were coming in from Queens, stealing cars and doing home invasions; the criminals were mostly American citizens.
Now you have migrant young men who have three options to mass transit from Creedmoor. They have a city bus, a bus that goes to Hillcrest [Floral Park] and a bus that goes to Great Neck. They’re not going to just stay on the grounds in the tents.
- Have you spoken with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman or Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder?
Sliwa: No, but I’ve heard their public comments, which I’m in support of; they have been very clear. Nassau County is very powerful. It’s got a powerful Republican political organization and a powerful Democratic political organization, it’s almost 50/50.
- Who is rallying for or against the tent solution at Creedmoor? Why do you think people are not supporting this solution to house migrant young men at Creedmoor?
Sliwa: If you’ve been to the rallies outside the Creedmoor then you know it has been diverse. There are a lot of first-generation immigrants, people from China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and from the Caribbean, many of them first-time homeowners. They don’t want this. They are more angry because they came to America the legal way. They had to wait. They still have family members and friends back in their country of origin who are waiting in queue. And when they see this mass influx of predominantly young men [it is infuriating].
- What should Nassau and Suffolk residents be doing? What is the fix for this?
Sliwa: It’s clear the elected officials in Nassau County have stood their ground and said no to housing illegals. They have ultimately got to complain to the state. The state allowed this. These men are living on state property. Ask the question, why is there no curfew?
That’s number one. Why is it that if an American man or woman was in a homeless shelter, they would have to be in at 10 o’clock or they would lose their bed.
Number two, why are you giving them free transit on Nassau County buses? You want to give them free transit on the city bus, MTA? The MTA is a state agency. Why do they have access to transportation into Nassau County? [Nassau residents] should want to cut off that connection.
- The migrants are here. What should be done for them, to help them?
Sliwa: In this election cycle coming up, it’s gonna definitely be a wedge issue. Republicans certainly are going to jump all over this. If Democrats say they’re in opposition to the migrants then they’re basically saying that they are in opposition to the mayor of the city, the governor of the state and the president of the United States. So it may well be that the only time things are going to change is if there’s a change at the ballot box.