A Raid At The Jefferson Street Shelter

The men evicted from a migrant shelter at 455 Jefferson Street a few days earlier had been camping on the sidewalk. Several suitcases, along with wooden planks to be used as beds, were tucked now under the awning of an empty storefront in a futile effort to protect them from this weekend’s torrential rain. A man can be seen taking turns watching over them. On the other side of Jefferson Street between Scott Street and Flushing Avenue, two others washed themselves using water from a hydrant. 

They were just a few of the fifty men whose already difficult lives took a darker turn this week. During a raid on Thursday morning, the NYPD impounded several mopeds parked outside the shelter. Some residents of the shelter were taken into custody and had their belongings confiscated. Some, like Jesus Mendez, who arrived from Venezuela six months ago, were injured. 

“I was roughed up,” Mendez said in Spanish, pointing to bruises and lacerations on his shoulder and feet. “I’m only able to wear shoes on one foot.” 

Mendez, his wrists swollen from the handcuffs, said he was also punched in the jaw. He said that he tried to show officers that his moped was registered legally, “but they didn’t understand me because I was speaking in Spanish”. 

As of late Sunday, police had not responded to inquiries about the event. On Wednesday night, hours before the raid, Mayor Eric Adams ignited controversy when he declared that the latest wave of migrants “will destroy New York City.”

Mendez was able to recover his moped, but others haven’t been so lucky. 

“They have us out here like dogs,” said Mendez. “The worst part is they kicked me out of the shelter [and] they stole my cash.” He displayed a police report stating that he had $222 in cash on him when he was taken into custody. He says the money hasn’t been returned.

After being held by law enforcement, Mendez came back to find out that he and several others were being expelled from the shelter

The building, a former office and retail space, had been repurposed to serve as shelter for asylum seekers managed by Housing Preservation and Development. Even before Thursday’s raid, the men were living on borrowed time, following a recent policy from Adams that dictates that single men may only stay in the city shelters for 60 days. 

Residents of the neighborhood seem polarized about the presence of the shelter. 

Alberta Seabrook, a longtime Bushwick resident who lives two blocks away from the shelter, says she has safety concerns but believes the migrants deserve this “second chance.” 

She, however, admitted hers was a rare opinion amongst neighbors. Nearby, a local bartender admitted she has stopped listening when her regulars discuss the migrants at her bar. 

Mendez, along with several of the others, say they had a sound plan to move out of the shelter before the sixty days were over. According to Mendez, he had just enough for the going rate of a sublet, about $500, over in the Bronx. But with his money being confiscated, he says he will have to start all over again.


Images taken by Daniel Hernandez-Alonzo.

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