© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bus of migrants resettling at Ramada in city of Albany come from across the globe

 Glad to be in Albany:  Outside the hotel on Tuesday, Venezuelan asylum-seekers — three men and a woman in their 20s —  were about to venture out to explore nearby Westgate Mall.
Dave Lucas
Glad to be in Albany: Outside the Ramada Inn on Tuesday, Venezuelan asylum-seekers — three men and a woman in their 20s — were about to venture out to explore nearby Westgate Mall.

With upstate New York communities receiving busloads of asylum seekers from New York City, the first migrants to arrive in the city of Albany say they're anxious to build new lives.

They come from many places, from different backgrounds, and they’re eager to find opportunities. The Columbia County Sanctuary Movement has been assisting the 79 newcomers who have found shelter at the Ramada Inn on Watervliet Avenue Extension. Ivy Hest is the group's Co-Executive Director.

"There are a number of a number of countries represented here," said Hest. "There's a large number from Venezuela and also from Mauritania. But then we've got folks from Chad and from Haiti and Jamaica. I've been on the ground since the first bus arrival and welcoming every bus that's come in since."

Outside the hotel on Tuesday, some Venezuelans — three men and a woman in their 20s — were about to venture out to explore nearby Westgate Mall.

Jose Arévalo says he arrived the night before. Gregory says he came to New York City a month ago before arriving in Albany on Sunday. The others say they’re new arrivals and are ready to work. Hest says the newcomers aren't sitting around in their hotel rooms, waiting for something to happen.

"There was a group of 14 of the recent arrivals who walked six miles yesterday looking for work," Hest said. "They didn't know that it was a national holiday. And they set up a WhatsApp group to tell people that 'we were all going together to look for a job,' six miles away in Menands."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan was at the Ramada earlier in the day.

"The very first thing that two of the asylum seekers asked me was, 'Can we work? We really want to work,'" Sheehan said. "So we have an employment crisis up here where we have lots and lots of open positions. That's why I'm advocating to shorten the waiting period for individuals to be able to get temporary work authorization, so that they are able to do what it is they really want to be able to do, which is to work so that they can provide for themselves and their families."

Sheehan, a Democrat, says initially she didn't want the migrants housed at the Ramada due to safety concerns.

"I think anybody looking at it would assess that it is in need of some maintenance and some updates," said Sheehan. "So I have some concerns with respect to the condition of the hotel. It is also a place where we have dozens and dozens of police calls every year, and this is a vulnerable population. So I want to ensure that they are not subjected to people coming to try to take advantage of the fact that they may have limited English capacity, they may, you know not fully understand what it is that, you know, those who would seek to take advantage of vulnerable populations might be presenting to them. So I've been assured that that is something that the company that was hired by New York City to provide services to these individuals is well aware of and that they are making every effort to ensure that they are keeping this vulnerable population safe."

Sheehan noted that New York City is footing the bill for asylum-seekers’ expenses, not local taxpayers. Additional busloads of migrants are believed headed to the Capital Region. Republican Town of Colonie Supervisor Peter Crummey, who has opposed the move, places the number of individuals expected at 400.

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.
Related Content