Posted on September 18, 2023

N.Y.C. Protests Against Migrants Escalate

Claire Fahy and Raúl Vilchis, New York Times, September 15, 2023

The loudspeaker on a quiet Staten Island street blasted demands at 117 decibels, louder than a dog barking in your ear. Pointed at a school that is sheltering some of the 110,000 migrants who have arrived in New York City over the last year and a half, the message could not have been more unwelcoming: “Immigrants are not safe here.”

The influx of migrants from the southern border has strained city resources, put pressure on local leaders, and scrambled the political playing field. Now, angry protests over the crisis and the city’s response to it appear to be reaching a fever pitch.

The demonstrations have increased in vitriol as Mayor Eric Adams has sharpened his own rhetoric. “This issue will destroy New York City,” he told New Yorkers last week, and a variation on those words has shown up on at least one demonstrator’s sign.

The front line of the fight is in Staten Island, the city’s most conservative borough, where roughly 2 percent of the 59,000 migrants living in homeless shelters are housed at a former school, St. John Villa Academy. At an anti-migrant rally on Staten Island Thursday night signs reading “Protect our Children” were nailed to utility poles. Protesters wore shirts emblazoned with American flags and images of former President Donald J. Trump’s face.

John Tabacco, a Newsmax host, rallied the crowd from a black pickup truck.

“This is the first place where they’re trying really infringe on our liberties and our freedoms,” Mr. Tabacco told the protesters. {snip}

At a rally at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn Thursday evening, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, told the enthusiastic crowd: “This is our battle for our neighborhoods, for our children, for our grandparents. For your equity.”


The former Staten Island school’s location in a residential neighborhood a few blocks from the Verrazano Bridge, as well as its proximity to other, active schools, has made it a lightning rod for anti-migrant protests. At a house on a nearby street, homeowner Scott Herkert planted a profanely worded sign, made from a blue tarp and two wooden posts, with the message: “No Way,” with the profanity obscured.

Mr. Herkert said his protest was prompted by the temporary showers and bathrooms that have been installed close to his backyard, which overlooks the school grounds.


Mike Holder, 46, a lifelong Staten Island resident, said his sister’s daughter attends the school across the street from the shelter.

“She’s worried,” Holder said of his sister. “I think people should stand up, get in the streets. I don’t think there’s enough people here. {snip}”

In August, after weeks of protests over the school being used as a shelter, Staten Island officials went to court to block the city’s plans, and secured a brief victory when a judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevented city officials from placing migrants at the St. John Villa Academy shelter {snip}


The migrants in the New York City shelter system are spread out across the city and have come from across the globe — from Venezuela, Colombia, Senegal, Mauritania, even Madagascar. {snip}

While New York is overwhelmingly Democratic, the protests in right-leaning areas like Staten Island and Southern Queens are a reminder of its political divisions. But they have also cropped up in unexpected places, like Sunset Park, a neighborhood heavily populated by immigrants.