More than 70 Senegalese migrants discovered living in cramped NYC basement where they sleep in shifts

More than 70 Senegalese migrants discovered living in cramped NYC basement where they sleep in shifts

Dozens of migrant men were found living in cramped conditions in a basement under a furniture store in Queens, city officials reported on Tuesday. Fire prevention inspectors discovered the illegal boarding house while investigating reports of a large collection of e-bike batteries at the location.

The inspectors found approximately 40 migrants, primarily from Senegal, sleeping in the basement and on the first floor, later realizing the actual number was around 80. Due to limited space, the occupants took turns sleeping. The city Department of Buildings determined that the commercial space and cellar had been illegally converted into a makeshift hostel with inadequate ventilation, lighting, plumbing, and emergency exits.

The owner of the furniture business, Ebou Sarr, acknowledged charging each individual a $300 monthly “contribution” but claimed it was a donation and within their means. He stated his intention to use the funds to secure a building to accommodate all residents.

Sarr, originally from Senegal, explained that he initiated the project to assist migrants, providing them with accommodation and opportunities to earn income by selling furniture. He defended the setup, stating that some individuals preferred staying at his facility over city shelters due to the shelter’s limitations and bureaucracy.

Following the inspection, residents were forced to vacate the premises, leading some to sleep on the subway and endure cold weather. Despite not obtaining permission to operate the boarding house, Sarr expressed his commitment to assisting migrants and his ignorance of the necessary regulations. He downplayed safety concerns, asserting that the setup was not hazardous.

The city issued violations against the building’s owner, 132-02 Liberty Avenue Management Corporation, for illegal work without a permit and occupying the building contrary to city records. Each violation carries a potential penalty of up to $25,000.

City officials highlighted the broader housing crisis and the need for increased housing solutions to address the plight of vulnerable populations like migrants. Mayor Eric Adams expressed concern over the exploitation of such situations and assured that the migrants were no longer at the location.

Sarr emphasized his intention to continue helping migrants and collaborate with the city to secure better housing options. Despite facing challenges, he remains committed to supporting those in need.