New York City’s new migrant “welcome center” at the former four-star Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan was already slammed Monday with fresh arrivals.
Dozens of migrants were hauled in on buses, including about 20 in a yellow school bus, to be processed. Some were forced to wait on their bus for about a half-hour, apparently till the lines inside died down — while the lucky ones arriving around lunchtime got to eat in the landmark’s crystal-chandelier ballroom, where Guy Lombardo and his band used to famously perform “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve.
“I want to stay here, but they are making us wait on the bus, and then they are taking us somewhere else,” said a 23-year-old single man from Venezuela who only gave his first name, Ulysses.
” ‘No,’ I told him, ‘I wanted to stay here,’ ” said the migrant, referring to a city worker at the hotel, which is only housing families.
“They are telling me I’m going somewhere else. I don’t know where. … I came here from Venezuela. We had to walk up across Mexico. It was a long trip, and at the end, I had to jump on ‘The Beast.’
” ‘The Beast’ is a train that you jump on while it is moving, and two men lost their legs while we tried. I don’t know where I’m going or where any of us are going — we all want to stay here in Manhattan,” he said.
Mayor Eric Adams said Monday morning that more than 800 asylum-seekers had already been through the landmark art-deco former hotel, which opened as a processing center Friday, near Grand Central Terminal.
“We opened the Roosevelt Hotel a few days ago, 800 rooms were filled or 800 people went in that location at a capacity of a little over 1,000 — that’s how smooth and quick this is moving,” Adams said at a news conference, where he was joined by Gov. Kathy Hochul in begging the White House for more help to deal with migrant crisis.
A City Hall rep later told The Post that the mayor misspoke and had meant to say 800 people had been processed at the hotel between Friday and Saturday. Officials declined to say how many families with children are currently housed at the hotel, which features just over 1,000 rooms.
More than 5,800 migrants arrived in the five boroughs in just last week alone, Adams said — on top of more than 60,000 who had come here since last spring.
Around 9 a.m. Monday, 18 asylum-seeking men in their late teens or early 20s boarded a city bus in front of the hotel bound for the Bronx, said the MTA supervisor overseeing the transport to The Post.
Over the next hour and a half, two other buses with more than 20 migrants each parked in front of sidewalk barriers outside the hotel, with their passengers waiting to be let in.
An argument erupted aboard one of the buses when an official told the migrants that the hotel was full and said he was taking them to another shelter in the Bronx.
About 15 asylum-seekers then walked off the bus toward the direction of the Port Authority Bus Terminal across town, escorted by two coordinators.
At the Port Authority, on Eighth Avenue and West 42nd Street, barricades, tables and chairs that had previously been set up to create a makeshift migrant processing center on the first floor were cleared out.
A volunteer instead sat at a table featuring a map of Midtown, saying he was there to “direct [migrants] to Roosevelt Hotel.”
Back at the hotel, The Post also counted 72 men arriving there in small groups on foot during a three-hour time span. Several of the migrants were then ushered onto a Bronx-bound bus.
Another young Venezuelan man said in Spanish that he and four others had walked over from the bus terminal in search of the migrant center.
The employees standing in front of the Roosevelt asked them in Spanish, “Do you have any questions?”
“We’re looking where we’re supposed to go,” one of the men replied.
The employees said “this door” and shuttled them inside.
A noon bus that arrived at the hotel to transport asylum-seekers elsewhere was delayed so that the travelers could eat lunch in the hotel’s storied ballroom, which features 27′ ceilings and sparkling chandeliers.
Lombardo and his Royal Canadians orchestra first performed “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve in the ballroom in 1929, and the annual party was broadcast from the 5,700-square-foot space nationwide for decades, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“Well, there goes the schedule!” said an MTA worker about the lunch break. “But I guess people gotta eat, right?”
After lunch, the bus, packed with 48 migrants bound for shelters in the Bronx and other parts of the city, was held long enough that several of the passengers got antsy and left the bus and walked with a worker to another location.
There was another bus waiting behind it, and several migrants then got off it and went into the hotel to be processed.
A man who only gave his first name, Francisco, said he is a 31-year-old father of five from Ecuador and was there with his wife.
“We leave Ecuador because the situation is unbearable. You can’t work. I’ve been assaulted several times. I used to be a taxi man. I also work on machinery. From Ecuador to Panama, to Costa Rica, we walk,” Francisco said, describing his arduous journey.
“Train from Veracruz in Mexico. … [Then] we walked. Then airplane to New York. Four and a half months. We want to stay here, but they are sending us to somewhere else. They don’t know where yet. We wait here.”
A father of four from Colombia briefly described his nearly-four month trek to New York, also.
“We traveled by airplane. We walked, and then when we get to the US, the immigration people put us on an airplane. We are being sent to the Hotel Stewart now. Here in Manhattan. I don’t know where we’re going after that,” said the man, who declined to give his name.
Another man, a father of five from Venezuela said he was going to the Roosevelt to be processed before heading off to Corona, Queens.
“We know some people there,” he said.
Hizzoner said the city’s efforts to house and shelter the influx of migrants had kept the crisis out of the view of most New Yorkers.
“That’s why unlike other cities, [you] don’t see people and families sleeping on streets, because we’ve been able to manage this crisis,” Adams said. “But it reaches a point where it becomes unmanageable.
“And we have stated it clearly: There was no more room in our city, and we’re looking at every available space, including vacant school buildings that was not being used.”
The city was recently forced to remove scores of migrants from public-school gyms across the boroughs after parents voiced safety and other concerns. Officials are reportedly considering housing some of the migrants on Rikers Island, as the city’s roughly 150 emergency sites, mostly hotels, are overflowing.
Adams’ joint appearance with Hochul marked the first time the governor has joined Hizzoner in calling on the Biden administration to help the city deal with its humanitarian crisis, which the mayor’s administration has estimated will cost taxpayers at least $4.3 billion through next spring.
The leaders demanded the federal government expedite work permits for migrants and provide more immigration judges to speed up the asylum process.
Meanwhile, a protest is planned Tuesday morning at the Kew Motor Inn in Kew Garden, Queens, where City Council candidate Jonathan Rinaldi said busloads of migrants were being dropped off.
“Our Property values, and our children’s safety are on the line,” said a press release issued by the Republican.
On Sunday, Suffolk County officials said they would take legal action to prevent migrants being bused there from the city, and an Onondaga County town supervisor upstate threatened to file a restraining order against New York City to prevent an influx there, according to CNY Central.
Two counties in the Hudson Valley – Rockland and Orange – successfully did just that last week to temporarily block Adams from sending migrants there.