Teamsters Local 237 union president Gregory Floyd stood by and expanded on recent public comments he made about safety concerns presented by the city’s migrant shelters, including claims that gang members were among those staying in such facilities.
The union’s representation of 24,000 local government agency employees includes unarmed peace officers such as school safety agents. Some members are security staff at city homeless shelters where asylum seekers are placed, but there are none at the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs) that are directly designated to house the city’s incoming migrants.
“I’m not going to have a discussion with the city about a better arrangement. It’s not my place to have a discussion with the city,” said Floyd to the Amsterdam News. “I made my opinion known and the city has opened up shelters outside of where our members work, and our members are not employed there, so we’re fine with the current arrangement.”
Such an arrangement includes Health + Hospitals (H+H) opening up bids for security staffing at the HERRCs by private, non-union vendors earlier this month. The contract is expected to start in October.
According to Floyd, his anxieties about gang members at such facilities stem from a single altercation between a Teamster security guard and a migrant, who other shelter residents later warned was an MS-13 gang member before coming to the United States. But Floyd argues that his comments aren’t intended to demonize or generalize migrants.
Floyd added that union members are not trained to work in migrant shelters, nor “do they speak the same language[s] as the migrants.” There’s a specific emphasis in the city’s request for proposals on seeking staff who speak Spanish, Wolof, French, and Creole, along with Russian, Turkish, and Georgian.
Last year, southern border states began busing significant migrant populations to New York City, leading to the creation of multiple HERRCs, including the now-defunct “tent city” on Randall’s Island. The arrivals grew in number due to the end of Title 42—a Trump-era policy preventing the legal right to asylum under the pretense of COVID-19 spread—earlier this summer.
Anthony Gentile, associate director of the John Jay College Center for Private Security and Safety, said Floyd’s comments bely a potential for underlying concerns over unarmed guards thrust into an unfamiliar environment, along with the hefty, around-the-clock duties required to oversee a migrant shelter. He pointed to a blend of school safety agents and NYPD officers at New York City schools as a potential short-term model for migrant shelters, although he acknowledged the current police staffing issues.
“The [school resource officers] are being supported by the public safety officer in a school environment, and I believe that would be the most effective and best way forward for the shelters, at least initially,” said Gentile.
The Request for Proposals details security duties at HERRCs as 24/7 coverage without gaps “even in the event of call outs, holidays, extreme weather scenarios, or other possible disruptions.” An exact number of staff was not divulged. Instead, manpower (and womanpower) requirements for security teams will be determined after vendors tour the shelters with H + H personnel.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.