15-Bed Shelter Opens in Maspeth Synagogue

By Celia Bernhardt | [email protected] 

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

A new 15-bed shelter for male asylum seekers opens today at 66-64 Grand Avenue in Maspeth, located at a historic building that formerly operated as a synagogue. 

Built in the 1920s, the building has not had an active congregation for decades. The Rabbinical Seminary of America (also called Yeshiva Choftez Chaim of Queens) took over the building in 2017. The organization ran a preschool in the building from September 2023 until one week ago, according to a representative. 

The location is close to a local Key Foods. The news has already begun to draw outraged responses from residents in Facebook groups.

Councilman Rob Holden took to X to decry the move by the city. “Our office is aware of a notice that @NYCMayorsOffice sent for a proposal to house 15 migrants at the Synagogue located at 66-64 Grand Avenue in Maspeth, starting tomorrow,” Holden wrote. “We’ve spoken directly with the Rabbi, who denies this and says no contract was signed.”

The Queens Ledger spoke to a representative from Yeshiva Choftez Chaim who contradicted the Councilman’s post, saying that the Rabbi did not outright deny the plans to Holden. The representative said that at the time of Holden and the Rabbi’s conversation, a decision was still pending and the contract had not yet been signed. Later that day, however, the contract was signed. 

The representative said that the shelter will have security during its operating hours, which are between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. They also noted that the people who originally built the historic house of worship were all immigrants. 

As for the preschool’s recent closure, a representative of the organization explained that this was due to an inability to gather approvals from multiple city agencies in time to meet certain deadlines from the Department of Education, which proceeded to cut funding to the program. The preschool has since merged with another already-funded program. 

This is a developing story and will be updated with information as we learn more.

This story has been edited to reflect a clarification from a source.

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