New Yorkers continue passionate battle against transformation of fmr. school into massive migrant shelter

Protests raged for the fourth time in a row Tuesday outside a Staten Island Catholic school that New York City officials have transformed into a 350-bed migrant shelter.

The latest protest at St. John Villa Academy in Arrochar, which has seen protests for weeks, was geared toward the same purpose — convincing city officials to reverse course.

“An online flyer promoting Tuesday night’s demonstration said ‘Not here!’ and urged borough residents to ‘keep mobilizing in numbers,'” according to the Staten Island Advance.

Below is the scene from a previous protest at this same location:

“This is our home. If you’re not willing to fight for your home, what are you willing to fight for? You stick together, you stand with your neighbors. That’s what tonight’s about,” Borough President Vito Fossella said at Tuesday’s protest.

“This group is coming and saying ‘we want a free house and you pay for it.’ I don’t want migrants coming here to Staten Island unlawfully. I want this place shut down,” state Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican, likewise said.

“Mayor Eric Adams, Governor Hochul, Senator Schumer, President Biden, please come down here. If you have a single thread of decency, you will shut it down,” he added.

Local residents also spoke up.

“We don’t know where these people are coming from, they won’t tell us. For all we know they might be criminals or even sex offenders. They are getting more (from these shelters) than people right in this country,” one person said.

Meanwhile, one woman said she was worried about a niece who attends another school, St. Joseph Hill Academy, that lies adjacent to St. John Villa Academy.

“We are trying to do what is best for our children [but] it’s like fighting a losing battle. We don’t know what their [the migrants’] background is. Until we find out and get them vetted then they’re welcome. Until then they’re not welcome,” local resident Florence P., 68, said to the New York Post.

So far, St. John Villa Academy has been filled with two buses reportedly carrying 50 migrants. Roughly half of the 50 reportedly asked to go elsewhere, in part because of the protesters outside.

“Tensions among the groups have prompted the NYPD to beef up the police presence around the St. John Villa Academy building and block off the location with metal barriers. In addition, cameras were installed nearby the former school last month in an effort to step up security at the location,” the Advance notes.

All this comes roughly two weeks after a judge blocked the city’s migrant shelter plan.  However, the block was overturned hours later after an appeal from city officials.

The city officials are supported by a small segment of pro-migrant activists, two dozen of whom reportedly showed up at Tuesday’s rally to counter-protest.

“There’s always this rep about Staten Island that these people represent us and they don’t represent us. I see myself as reflecting the good people of Staten Island, not the racists and those people,” one activist, retired teacher Debby Poleshuck, said.

Notice how she automatically smeared dissidents as racists. It’s likely not too hard to guess who she voted for in the 2020 presidential election.

“We are better than this. This city is known for bringing in people, immigrants and refugees looking for a better life,” another activist, Berry, said.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ office for their part addressed the protest with a statement in which they blamed the current crisis on a lack of national action from Gov. Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden.

“New Yorkers are tired from bearing the brunt of this national crisis, and we empathize with their concerns. We have opened more than emergency sites, including 15 large-scale humanitarian relief centers, and are constantly searching for new places to provide the more than 60,000 asylum seekers in our care and the thousands coming every week with the shelter they are asking for,” the statement reads.

“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,” it continues.

Vivek Saxena

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