Community divided over migrant shelter at Maspeth synagogue

migrant shelter
On Saturday, Mar. 16, the protest near a synagogue repurposed as a migrant shelter in Maspeth had proponents and opponents of migrants take their positions on opposite sides of Grand Avenue in Maspeth.
Photo by Anthony Medina

A dueling rally was held in Maspeth Saturday outside a synagogue turned migrant shelter where about 50 opponents and 20 supporters stood their ground on opposite sides of Grand Avenue.

The Maspeth Jewish Center, located at 66-64 Grand Ave., which began operating as a 15-bed temporary housing facility for migrant men earlier this month, sparked controversy among some residents both in-person and through social media.

Demonstrators at Saturday’s protest made their voices heard through chants and signage that clearly stated their stance on the migrant shelter and the crisis as a whole.

A Maspeth man holds up a sign in protest of a migrant shelter. Photo by Anthony Medina

Protesters against the migrant shelter raised signs that blamed Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams for the crisis, with an emphasis that illegal immigrants are not welcome in Maspeth. One sign with the words, “What about helping our veterans?” could be seen with the words “Support our veterans” and “Not Illegals” also written.

Supporters of the migrants held up signage backing the migrants’ right to shelter and right to resources. “Shelter is a Human Right” and “Housing for all” were written on the signs held by supporters, with additional signage geared towards specific opponents.

Migrant supporters hold up signs opposite of the migrant opposition. Photo by Anthony Medina

Mike Papa, who spoke on behalf of the migrant opposition group, said the main objective of the protest was to bring back the preschool that once operated out of the synagogue. He also held Community Board 5 and other elected officials partially accountable for not advocating enough for the neighborhood.

Furthermore, in moments during the protest, chanting from migrant opponents became more of a political rally as opposed to being focused on the shelter.

A shelter opponent held a “Trump 2020 The Revenge Tour” flag over an NYPD barricade, while a few other protesters could be heard chanting Trump’s name, in response to chants from migrant supporters.

Opponents of migrants display signs across from the migrant supporters. Photo by Anthony Medina

Supporters of the migrants said the demonstration had antisemitic objectives The appearance of Council Member Robert Holden had fueled supporters chants, also accusing him of being racist. Holden accused the supporters of not being from the neighborhood.

Migrant advocates display signs facing off against those opposing migrants in Maspeth. Photo by Anthony Medina

Although there were fewer migrant supporters in comparison to anti-migrant protesters at the Saturday demonstration, both sides made their voices heard.

A couple of instances where protesters confronted the opposing party at their designated area did escalate tensions, along with the sharing of harsh words, but no physical altercations occurred.