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 September 27, 2023

Judge orders St. John Villa Academy migrant shelter on Staten Island to close

A Staten Island judge ordered the closure of a former school that housed hundreds of migrants on Tuesday, as Fox News reported.

Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Wayne Ozzi's ruling comes a month after hundreds of locals protested the city's decision to house migrants at St. John Villa Academy, citing safety concerns due to the building's proximity to other schools.

"It is refreshing to know that there are jurists in our system, like Judge Ozzi, who understand our concerns with having migrant shelters placed within residential areas," Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, one of the Republican lawmakers who filed the lawsuit against New York City, said in a statement.

"This decision is a victory for the residents of Arrochar and, frankly, all Staten Islanders," he added. "We believed the City acted improperly in placing a migrant shelter within the heart of Arrochar, a low-density residential community and across the street from a Pre-K-12 school."

According to a copy of Ozzi's ruling obtained by Fox5 New York, "if there were a right to shelter embedded in the State Constitution, all county and local municipalities upstate would be compelled to provide shelter to any and all migrant asylum seekers within their borders.

"Obviously they have not," it continues. "A right to shelter, if it exists, would apply statewide, not just in New York City."

The station reports that prior to Tuesday's ruling, Republican lawmakers in Staten Island, including Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), sued New York City to prevent the school from being used as a shelter, and the judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from doing so.

However, the city prevailed in its appeal of that decision.

It is unclear if an appeal will be filed. The office of New York City Mayor Eric Adams has not quickly responded to journalists' request for comment.

According to Fox5 NY, Tuesday's ruling states that the shelter had the capacity to accommodate "up to 300 migrant asylum seekers."

A month ago, Adams' office issued a statement in response to community backlash, stating, "We located the vacant St. John Villa Academy to serve as one of our respite sites for single women and adult families.

"We understand the community's concerns and want to reassure them that we are working to ensure that the site is well-managed."

WABC reported that the city purchased the academy after it closed in 2018, and despite promises to reopen it as a school, officials proceeded with plans to transfer 300 migrants into the site.

Malliotakis said in a message to Adams on X, formerly Twitter, "ACCEPT that this shelter violated the law and give Staten Island students the 1,000 seat school they were promised and deserve."

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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