To my fellow Staten Islanders,
Nearly a year ago, I stood outside the Comfort Inn in Travis to oppose its use as a migrant shelter. On that day, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, I said it was an issue created by the federal government, I said it was financially unsustainable, and I said it would not end in Travis.
And, here we are still fighting against the housing of migrants across Staten Island, most prominently at the former St. John Villa Academy in Arrochar and at Island Shores, a one-time assisted living facility in Midland Beach. Now, there is a conversation about the possibility of siting a migrant shelter at our historic Fort Wadsworth, which houses active Coast Guard members who rely on an on-site food pantry because they can’t afford to feed their families. The precedent has been set with the federal government approving a migrant shelter at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn.
We were left with no alternative, but to file a lawsuit against the city to halt the use of Villa as a migrant shelter because our attempts to talk to the mayoral administration were denied. Within hours a vacate order was issued by Supreme Court Judge Wayne Ozzi. However, that victory was short-lived as the Appellate Court removed the vacate order and the former school remains in operation as a migrant shelter.
Less than a year ago, I asked the Independent Budget Office to predict or project how much it would cost to accommodate the migrants at that point in time. And it was about a half-a-billion dollars. It's grown from a half-a-billion to $12 billion in less than a year, and it will continue to grow, and all at the expense of the taxpayers of Staten Island and New York City.
I am sympathetic to those who want to create better lives for themselves and their children. That is what we all want as part of the American dream. But how can we provide free accommodations, free clothing, free education, and free healthcare to thousands of migrants when some of our own neighbors are struggling? It is unfair and it is unjust.
Let me state one thing clearly: I will continue to fight, whether it is through the courts or through productive dialogue. I also maintain my stance that since this is a problem that was created by the federal government, it should be resolved by the federal government.
Borough President Vito J. Fossella
Staten Island Borough President