Maspeth Synagogue turned migrant shelter receives backlash from community members

Outside of the Maspeth Jewish Center turned migrant shelter this week, on Grand Avenue. Police are on the scene after supposed talk of a protest outside of the synagogue.
Photo by Anthony Medina

Maspeth Jewish Center, located at 66-64 Grand Ave., is the latest house of worship to join others in the city’s efforts to provide housing for migrants in Queens.

The synagogue began operating as a 15-bed shelter for migrant men on Thursday, Mar. 7, according to information shared  by Council Member Robert Holden. 

Holden, who represents the neighborhoods of Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Elmhurst, Rego Park and parts of Ridgewood, made it clear on Facebook and X that he and the community he serves are against the site. 

“I find this completely unacceptable. The community should always come first, not financial incentives,” Holden wrote online. 

In the comments section of Holden’s Facebook post, other users also voiced their dismay over the new migrant shelter. Some users claim the migrant shelter will bring more crime into the area and question where the men will go during the day when the shelter is closed. 

Rumors of a supposed protest in front of the synagogue also circulated online, with the likelihood of one taking place sometime this week.

On Friday, Mar. 8, at around 4 p.m., a small group of critics against the migrant shelter gathered just outside of the synagogue. Close to 10 police officers from the 104th Precinct were at the scene.

Mahase Prashad, an activist and Maspeth resident who resides only blocks away from the shelter, orchestrated the late afternoon rally. He says there are plans to have a bigger demonstration at another time, similar to what Rego Park residents witnessed during a protest for a proposed homeless shelter in that neighborhood.

Prashad raised concerns regarding the migrant shelter situation, highlighting two primary issues. Firstly, he noted that the migrants are not undergoing adequate vetting before being accommodated in a house of worship, which serves as their temporary housing. Secondly, Prashad expressed discontent with the disparity in services provided, pointing out that migrants receive certain benefits not available to city residents or immigrants who have undergone the formal citizenship process, like himself.

“I came the right way. You come the right way, nobody has a problem. But don’t expect to come in from the back door and get the front door treatment,” Pershad said.

D’Anna Andrea, a member of the Guardians of Divinity activist organization, came from her neighborhood in Jamaica, to oppose the shelter.

She criticizes the Rabbi of the Maspeth synagogue for discontinuing the pre-K program in favor of receiving funds from the city.

“He essentially disregarded the children, opting instead to allow unvetted individuals into the community. I find that unacceptable,” Andrea expressed.

According to city guidelines, organizations collaborating with the city to provide shelter for migrants are restricted to accommodating them for a duration of 30 days, with permissible housing hours from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Furthermore, these participants are bound by their agreements not to disclose any information about the individuals taking shelter.

A significant number of community members opposing the shelter agree that the issue of migrants extend beyond their local area, placing the blame ultimately on Mayor Adams, Governor Hochul and President Joe Biden.

The use of religious institutions to aid in the housing of migrants came after Mayor Eric Adams announced the creation of a faith-based shelter program in June 2023. The program, in partnership with the New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) allows faith based spaces to house migrants.

Following the surge of migrants and the city’s increased involvement in addressing the issue, several city council members, including Holden, have persistently expressed their dissatisfaction, feeling burdened with the responsibility of managing the city’s challenges.