Migrant Crisis: Local Pols Announce Court’s Vacate Order For St John Villa Due To Safety Concerns


Staten Island Elected Officials Announce Vacate Order Served Against Migrant Shelter at Former St. John Villa Academy  

Amid safety concerns, the Villa shelter site will be closed Monday.

Staten Island, NY – Borough President Vito Fossella and his fellow Staten Island elected officials announced that a vacate order has been issued against the migrant shelter located on the grounds of the Former St. John Villa school in Arrochar.  

The vacate order, numbered V127221, was issued by the New York City Fire Department Commissioner to the School Construction Authority following an FDNY inspection of the site this past Sunday, which revealed several safety concerns due to a lack of sprinkler system or fire alarm. The order referenced regulation 3RCNY 901-04, which cites “a condition imminently perilous to life and property”. Inspections of migrant shelters have been taking place since late last week, one of which resulted in the closure of the shelter located at the former Richard H. Hungerford school in Stapleton due to asbestos concerns.

The Villa shelter, opened in late August, was originally fitted to house 300 migrants, but following intense public protest, approximately 170 migrants were admitted into the facility. Prior to opening the shelter, the FDNY inspected the site for risks to safe habitation. The Villa site was one among several shelters on an FDNY list provided to elected officials of sites that were not up to standard to safely house migrants. Staten Island public officials announced Friday that there was an expectation that, upon further inspection, a vacate order would be issued to the site.  

Other sites that were listed as not safe for habitation suffered from a lack of fire safety coordinators, cluttered areas of egress with personal belongings, and use of propane for heating units, among other issues.

“From day one, we said that this facility was not only a horrible location for a migrant shelter, but also was not viable. The site is located in a neighborhood with R1-2 zoning which does not permit high-density housing, and the school’s facilities and design were never meant to or constructed to accommodate 24-hour-a-day habitation,” said Borough President Fossella. “We maintained that there were not only locational, but more significantly, safety issues with the site. We are beyond pleased that, finally, our opinions have been validated by the FDNY. It’s time for the lives of the people of Arrochar and the students at St. Joseph Hill and P.S. 39 to get back to normal.”

“The residents surrounding St. John’s Villa did not deserve this disruption to their neighborhood of heavy police presence, nightly protests, and smells of raw sewage,” said Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis. “St. John’s Villa should have already been made a public school as promised and zoned for, not a migrant shelter. We hope this is the beginning of New York City putting the needs and desires of our citizens and our community first.”  

“From the beginning, we have always stood firm that a migrant shelter at Villa was an issue of safety,” said State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton. “Today’s closure by the FDNY proves what we’ve said all along. We hope that this shows the city how critical input is from the elected officials and neighbors who know their community best. As an alumnus of St. John Villa Academy, I look forward to its next chapter, being a school that Staten Islanders deserve.”  

Assemblyman Michael Tannousis said, “Today’s actions taken by the Fire Department demonstrates what we, the elected officials and residents, have been saying since the beginning of this nightmare. This location is the absolute worst possible location for a migrant shelter. Unfortunately, the fire department had to take action before someone became seriously injured. If only we were consulted beforehand, this migrant shelter would not have opened in the first place.”  

“The former St. John Villa campus was never an appropriate site to be used as a shelter,” said Councilman David Carr. “It is about time it was closed, and I appreciate the FDNY refusing to compromise on safety standards. This should send a signal to the City that it is long past time for us to end our open-ended commitment to sheltering migrants.”  

“For well over a month, we have alerted the city and state of the fire and safety violations existing at the building. While it is good the city has finally acted, both the fire and police commissioner need to explain to the people why it has taken so long to act,” said State Senator Andrew Lanza.  

“I am glad that the shelter is finally being shuttered and the residents of this community can return to normalcy,” said Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo. “We all knew there were safety concerns here and the placement of migrants at this site was always improper.”  

“The site of former St. John Villa Academy and the events of these past several weeks exposed the hypocrisy of out of touch city bureaucrats whose subversive actions sought to prioritize sanctuary city rhetoric over the safety of our communities, egregiously violating basic fire code in the process and placing thousands of lives collectively at risk,” said Assemblyman Michael Reilly.  “No community, not in this city, state, or country, should be forced to deal with the consequences of this federal government’s reckless border policies.”  

“Finally, the pendulum is swinging back, and folks are starting to realize this has been ridiculous from the beginning,” said Councilman Joe Borelli.  

Banner Image: St John Villa protest. Image Credit – Staten Islander News


BP Vito Fossella

The Office of the Borough President has a responsibility to advocate for the entire Borough of Staten Island and all its residents, and represents the Borough's interests within City government. The Borough President communicates directly with the Mayor and the City Council to emphasize Staten Island’s budget priorities. In addition, the Borough President is responsible for reviewing major land use decisions and proposing sites for city facilities within the Borough. As the chair of the Borough Board, the Borough President leads Staten Island’s City Council delegation and Community Board chairs in the process of reviewing and approving the transfer of public properties to private use. The Borough President’s Office houses the Borough's Topographical Bureau, which maintains the borough’s official maps and assigns street addresses. The Borough President monitors the delivery of city services on Staten Island, and acts as a liaison between residents and city agencies when problems arise to devise solutions. The Borough President is also responsible for appointing one member to the Panel for Educational Policy and one member to the City Planning Commission, as well as some 150 members to Staten Island’s three community boards.

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