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Amid frustration from local officials, DocGo facing scrutiny from New York state AG

 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
Venezuelan asylum-seekers outside Albany's Ramada Inn, May 2023.

The company hired by New York City to coordinate services and the relocation of migrants upstate is being investigated by state Attorney General Tish James.

Earlier this year New York City Mayor Eric Adams contracted with DocGo, a mobile medical services and transportation provider, to bus asylum seekers upstate to municipalities — many of which said they were unprepared to receive them.

Some migrants have reported being deceived and silenced by DocGo, which received a letter seeking information from James’ office on Monday. That development was reported by “The New York Times.”

DocGo received a $432 million contract from Adams’ administration to care for the more than 100,000 asylum seekers who have strained New York City services. In the Schenectady County town of Rotterdam, residents of the Super8 motel were evicted to make way for the migrants.

111th district state Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara is among public officials who called for the Attorney General to step in. The Democrat welcomes news of James' involvement.

"It's an important development," said Santabarbara. "It's a crucial, crucial step towards finding out what happened here exactly who was responsible, whether it's the motel owner, whether it was DocGo, officials in New York City, the legality of these abrupt evictions without advance warning, as well as any other breaches of fundamental rights. We have to ensure things like this did not happen again. This is a situation. This shouldn't have happened in the first place, could have been avoided. Unfortunately, we didn't see that. And now with the Attorney General going forward, we hope to see accountability here."

Albany County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce, a Democrat, also asked the Attorney General's office to intervene with migrants also being housed in the town of Colonie.

"I look at it as a bit of a public health emergency. It's a humanitarian emergency. And you know, as this thing develops, and as it progresses in Albany County, now that they're here, and they're somewhat settling into the community and into Albany County, some of these issues are starting to arise. And situation is developing," Joyce said. "So we just need to react as the situation develops. And we're seeing now that they're settled here, and they're coming in and they're moving about the community and trying to find work and medical appointments and food and all these different types of requirements. And it's like any other emergency, your experience in the community as things progress and evolve, just need to adapt. At this point, you know, we've seen with DocGo some shortfalls that have occurred, but these are human beings, new Americans and, and new arrivals. And there's what the local government officials are saying and what the vendors are saying and there's a bit of a disconnect there."

According to a Siena poll released Tuesday, 82 percent of voters say the influx of migrants is a serious problem, public opinion exacerbated by the communication breakdown between government representatives and DocGo. Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says all he ever wanted was information.

"The CEO did meet with my staff last week, things have gotten better, we finally get clear cut information on what we need, how many, you know, kids, what are their age ranges, what languages they speak, and one of them, there's like one or two languages we couldn’t even identify. So these are things that we want to make sure that we're helping them integrate into the community. So yeah, it was alarming. And we raised that that problem, [at a] press conference, and I did so to, you know, reach out to Attorney General's office to investigate the {DocGo] contracts to make sure we're holding them accountable, “ said McCoy.

In the Capital Region, DocGo representatives have attempted to prevent the migrants from speaking with WAMC News. DocGo responded to a request for comment by email, writing in part it looks “forward to working with the AG's office in the same manner and providing the requested information expeditiously.”

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.
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