One woman said she was spit at by illegal immigrants who have filled her neighborhood.
Others said they have been followed and harassed by immigrants, who zip around the city on electric mopeds, cutting off drivers, and disobeying traffic rules.
Those were some of the complaints raised by residents of New York's Upper West Side during a meeting this week with members of the city's police department over their handling of the influx of illegal immigrants who many say have overwhelmed their neighborhood.
About 50 people who live between 70th and 79th streets in Manhattan attended the Wednesday night meeting that at times turned tense, with attendees saying the massive inflow of immigrants and their disregard for law and order is destroying their quality of life. Most of the meeting focused on the hundreds of illegal immigrants housed at the Stratford Arms hotel on W. 70th Street, formerly a student dormitory of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
New York City has received more than 100,000 illegal immigrants since the spring, an influx that Mayor Eric Adams has said will "destroy" the city.
The two police officers — Hernandez and Garcia — who attended Wednesday's meeting had few satisfying answers.
Garcia said that she’s received many emails complaining about mopeds and electric scooters cutting people off in traffic and clogging the parking zones. But for safety reasons, she said, police “are not allowed to pursue” if migrants flee on bikes after being stopped.
"If we stop them, the second we turn those cameras on, they leave," she said. "We do see what you guys see.”
For a while, police had been confiscating vehicles without insurance and registration, but longtime New Yorker Brenda McIntyre of the 70th Block Association told National Review that they’d just as quickly end up back on the block. The officers clarified on Wednesday that “once the bikes get registered, we have to give them back."
McIntyre and Joe Germanotta, who grew up in the neighborhood and is better known as Lady Gaga's father, have been pressuring Adams to cancel the city’s contract with Stratford Arms. Germanotta said that the arrivals don’t appear to be asylum seekers. Many of them seem to have come to the U.S. with money. They pay to rent the e-bikes each week, he said.
Some attendees noted what they saw as a double standard in the law enforcement treatment of taxpaying residents versus the migrants. One man said he paid a $197 fine for running a red light, but said that “if these restaurant workers ran a red light” there’d be no consequences.
One woman at the meeting said she was cut off by a migrant on a moped running a red light. After she reacted negatively, telling him “come on man,” he followed her for four blocks and called her a “racist white bitch,” she said.
Residents say that many of the migrants in New York City are employed by food delivery services such as DoorDash and GrubHub. Other complaints from residents Wednesday were aimed at delivery workers’ flouting the rules of the road.
"There are no rules, no license plates, a lot of them are living in restaurants,” an woman told the officers. “So, they're legal now. There's nothing you can do to make them obey the rules of traffic? I'm talking about all the electric bikes that deliver food. I don't think there's anything on the books that has laws on their behavior.”
While the officers said they’ve only recorded three criminal offenses committed by Stratford Arms residents, the longtime neighborhood residents argued differently. One woman said she recently witnessed a migrant casually ride his moped in and out of a bank.
Lauren de la Fuente, who move to the neighborhood a year ago to take care of her parents who are in their 90s, said she’s regularly harassed by migrants for taking pictures of their conduct to present to police.
She said that after she took a picture of one immigrant's scooter parked illegally on Broadway, a major neighborhood thoroughfare, the man dropped his pants and started masturbating. De la Fuente reported it to Stratford Arms, but police didn't escalate it because they didn’t see it personally, she said. She’s also been spit at by immigrants, she said.
Recently, de la Fuente said, she was followed into a pet store on 70th Street by two immigrants who were barking at her, forcing an employee to lock the door.
Like Germanotta and McIntyre, de la Fuente blames the NYC Health + Hospitals network, which oversees Stratford Arms, for not doing enough to assimilate the new residents, including on the need for them to register their scooters and to pick up their trash.
Her parents used to enjoy sitting on the benches on the islands in between the major Upper West Side streets. Now, they’re often occupied by immigrants, she said.
“H&H has mismanaged the whole migrant situation from the start,” she said. “They’re all from the medical field. Somehow, they were given the job to do the migrant situation and they’re not qualified to do that. They’re not willing to take any feedback about the job they’re doing.”
The hospital network has refused to accept help from the police and neighbors, she said.
While Stratford Arms previously housed mainly single males, McIntyre said, the building will soon welcome single women and families with children under the age of 18.
Rather than show graciousness for the opportunities they’ve been afforded by the city, many of the newcomers have taken advantage of the generosity, de la Fuente said.
“My experience at Stratford Arms this summer was horrible,” she said. “There were young women and young men who just thought it was an all-inclusive resort with free Wi-Fi, free laundry, free medical, free housing, and didn’t want to do anything.
"And they knew there were no consequences for bad behavior."