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Political disagreements continue over asylum seeker resettlement upstate

Pro-immigrant protestors
Karen DeWitt

Local leaders continue to disagree about how to handle the arrival of migrants to the Albany area.

Many upstate leaders have complained they weren't notified that migrants were on the way and they weren't prepared to acommodate large numbers of newcomers. Republican Town of Colonie Supervisor Peter Crummey says New York City Mayor Eric Adams did not send word that a busload of migrants was being sent to a Wolf Road motel.

"There are 24 that came up over Memorial Day weekend at 11:30 p.m. at night," Crummey said. "And that is the sum and substance right now, as I was able to get to court. 200 were on their way without any coordination or cooperation or notice to the Town of Colonie."

Crummey says the town is asking state Supreme Court to halt the arrival of more asylum-seekers to Colonie until such action is cleared under the terms of Albany County Executive Dan McCoy's May 23rd executive order, which says no municipality may make contracts involving the transportation of migrants to house them within the county without his permission.

"My challenge in the court as to a mayor of the city of New York, or a mayor in any other city in New York," Crummey said. "Do they have the power to unilaterally insert one of their programs into a jurisdiction outside of their own, and in doing so, supersede the local laws of the individual receiving municipalities? I don't believe he has that authority. It's bigger than the migrant issue, for me. The issue is, well, what if next month, he wanted to insert some other program on to Upstate towns and municipalities? What if I want to insert a town of Colonie program into the city of New York?"

Crummey also claims Mayor Adams and fellow Democrat Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan held an online meeting on May 27th from which Crummey was excluded. Adams' press secretary Fabien Levy tells WAMC he has confirmed there was no meeting involving Mayor Adams and Mayor Sheehan that day.

Sheehan's Chief of Staff David Galin also tells WAMC in an email that such a meeting never took place.

The mayor's office, which has disputed several of Crummey's statements, cited one Crummey released that day, which indicated "he was aware of New York City's plan for at least a day before trying to pretend he had no idea." Galin added "Peter Crummey continues to live in an alternate reality made up of lies and deceit."

Earlier this week the Albany Common Council passed by an 11 to 1 vote a resolution welcoming asylum-seekers to the Sanctuary City. Councilors agreed Albany is an established refugee and resettlement center. 13th ward councilor Ginnie Farrell says newcomers make the city "a richer community" hence the resolution.

"These asylum seekers which have come up from New York City, this is to support them being here," said Farrell. "Currently there is a federal 180-day, which is a six-month wait before they can start working. It's a request to move it to 30 days."

Galin says there are approximately 225 asylum seekers in Albany County as of Friday and City Hall has "not been informed by New York City of when additional buses will arrive in Albany."

He adds several organizations are helping support migrants including Capital District Latinos. Chairman Dan Irizarry says the agency provides food, clothing, English language classes and health screening for Latin American migrants.

"We are aware of the incredible journey that they have undertaken to get here," Irizarry said. "But we also realize that there's a lot of trauma and a lot of pain that people have suffered. So by providing food that folks understand and can relate to, and cultural events for people and just giving them a listening ear, that were able to help them make the transition to the Capitol district because it's a very difficult transition to make."

Capital District Latinos is selling traditional Venezuelan food to help asylum seekers in Albany hotels meet their basic needs.

Irizarry is leery of claims that 90% of Capital Region migrants have found jobs.

"There's certainly desire to work. But there's been no discussion about jobs being made available, because it depends. I think a lot of misunderstandings are kind of floating out there in the ether about people," said Irizarry. "And it also depends on the status that they're here under. And there's also a moratorium, I think on people that are that arrived here that are able to work. There's a time period, which I believe the governor is trying to shorten, but it would surprise me if, if that were to be the case. But again, unfortunately, we're dealing with a lack of transparency in many cases, with what the city intends or is doing and what we as local social services providers are aware of."

Governor Kathy Hochul says the state is making progress in its push for federal assistance to address an influx of migrants into New York City. The Democrat has asked the Biden administration to authorize the use of military bases and Floyd Bennett Field – part of the National Park system – to house migrants.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.