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FDNY uncovers dozens of migrants living in furniture store basement

An investigation of e-bikes at the Queens store revealed migrants in the basement, sleeping on beds, mattresses stacked floor-to-ceiling

By Josephine Stratman
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams Tuesday denounced as exploitative an illegal dwelling in Queens where dozens of migrant men were found living in beds stacked in the basement of a furniture store.

Fire department officials busted the makeshift housing setup on Monday around 11 p.m. during an inspection of the Richmond Hill, Queens, property in response to complaints about e-bikes stored in the building’s backyard.

Inside, officials found around 40 mattresses and beds crammed floor-to-ceiling on both the ground floor and basement of the building, home to a furniture store, the FDNY said.

FDNY vacated the building, sending the men who were living there to the city’s emergency management department to get shelter.

The Department of Buildings issued two violations to the building’s landlord, 132-03 Liberty Avenue Mgmt Corp. The location is zoned for commercial use, not for residential.

“The system did its job,” Adams said.

Adams said the situation points to the larger issue of affordable housing in New York City and pointed the finger at state officials, adding that “we got nothing out of Albany last year” to help the housing crisis.

“When you have a situation like what we’re facing here, there’s some that are going to attempt to exploit it,” Adams said, referring to the ongoing migrant crisis. “There’s some who are going to attempt to do illegal housing.”

However, the man orchestrating the slapdash setup said he did it all out of empathy for the migrants.

Ebou Sarr, the owner of Sarr’s Wholesale Furniture store, told PIX11 that as an immigrant from Senegal himself, he felt like he had to do something to help the recent migrants.

“The city is saying that they have no place for these people,” Sarr tearfully told the news station. “It’s not true.”

Sarr told WPIX he was charging around 70 mostly Senegalese migrants living there around $300 a month to sleep there. They received breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Inspectors from the Department of Buildings also found “severe overcrowding and hazardous fire trap conditions” in the basement level, with no ventilation or natural light, the department said.

At the same Tuesday press conference, Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer said the setup is a sign of the city’s housing shortage.

“Too many people make desperate choices about where to live and what to pay for,” she said. “And at the root of that is the fact that we haven’t built enough housing.”

“The reality is with 180,000 people entering this city also looking for housing, over 65,000 currently in our system, if we don’t build more, we’re going to build more problems,” Adams said.

Thousands of migrants have come to New York City since spring of 2022 when an influx of people arriving from the southern border picked up. The number of people living in the local shelter system has doubled as a result. In recent months, the Adams administration has implemented a policy that moves migrants out of their assigned shelter beds and requires they reapply for a new bed every 30 or 60 days.

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