City eyes partnering with local charities to help distribute donations outside migrant shelters

donation collection outside migrant shelter
The Masbia welcome tent outside the Sunset Park recreation center, where a number of migrants are being housed by the city.
Photo courtesy of Masbia

The city’s Office of Emergency Management is exploring partnering up with nonprofits to facilitate the collection and distribution of donations from the public outside migrant shelters as it continues to grapple with the growing migrant crisis. 

While a formal agreement is yet to be made, the city has invited Masbia, a kosher soup kitchen, to replicate its model of makeshift welcome tents outside city-operated shelters for asylum seekers.

The trial partnership was triggered following Masbia’s success of nurturing neighborhood support and distributing donations outside the Sunset Park recreation center which has been home to a number of newly-arrived asylum seekers since early August.

Flatbush-based Masbia‘s welcome tents enable neighbors to bring donations, and give migrants living in the shelter to have a place to hang out and do recreational activities.

people distributing donated items to migrant shelters in brooklyn
Gallagher and other local pols distributed clothing Aug. 28 with the help of OEM and the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance. Photo courtesy of Emily Gallagher/X

“The idea was to nurture the humanity of the neighborhood and have everyone express that immigrants are welcome to our neighborhood. Some did it by just helping to write a welcome sign, others by donating supplies,” Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of Masbia, told Brooklyn Paper.

“The supplies that were needed kept on changing, but the basics were men’s underwear, men’s hygiene products, books and cards to learn English, and for this particular location, swimming trunks, towels and padlocks so they could access the pool on the other side of the building,” said Rapaport, noting that the influx of donations from Sunset Park neighbors was organic, and spread via word of mouth.

The Masbia relief team set up their tent the same day that two anti-migrant protests were held in the park, but Rapaport says they were dwarfed by the outpouring of generosity.

“It was such a beautiful thing. It was so nice to see real New York,” he said. “We are here ready to welcome and share, and those who don’t want to: Could you please stand aside and let us do our work?”

Migrant relief centers in neighborhoods across the boroughs have drawn scorn and protests from some residents, but many local pols and charities are have seen an unprecedented wave of generosity from other neighbors of these sites.

Assembly Member Emily Gallagher told Brooklyn Paper that the response to her officers donation drive for the migrants housed in the McCarren Park rec center in Williamsburg was “overwhelming,” and it took volunteers three days to sort through donations.

“We actually had so many clothes that were really nice, good quality items that we were able to donate a significant amount to local men’s shelter, which took three SUVs to transport,” said Gallagher. “We also had people coming up to ask how they could help and get involved. So clearly, there is a big appetite in our district to connect.”

woman at migrant protest with sign
Masbia — along with state and city officials — have called on the federal government to expedite work permits for migrants. Photo courtesy of Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

As part of a trial partnership, the Masbia relief team in August built a few tents outside a respite center that already holds over one thousand migrants in the huge building complex on Hall Street known as The Hall. According to Masbia’s website, the most-needed items include backpacks, padlocks for lockers, men’s underwear, socks, towels, board games, hygiene items, school supplies, and books and other literature in Spanish. 

The OEM says it is still assessing the framework for these potential collaborations and that it is not prepared to officially confirm any formal agreement as the finer details of what would be required are worked out. Should the partnerships go ahead, it would be specific to Emergency Management respite centers, which are minimal and often set up within short notice.

In step with the mayor, the OEM said it is desperately asking the Biden administration to take executive action to let migrants work legally in the hopes it will help them live independently and exit the city’s care. The city is currently providing for some 60,000 migrants, and providing care and shelter for asylum-seekers could cost the city an estimated $12 billion by 2025.