July 25, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A family-style dinner and resource fair was held in Sunnyside on Friday, July 21, to welcome new migrants to the neighborhood.
Friday’s event, which was hosted by Councilwoman Julie Won and several community groups, took place at Sunnyside Community Services, located at 43-31 39th St., and around 270 migrants attended.
Each migrant was provided with a nourishing meal prepared by local restaurants La Adelita and Arepa Lady in collaboration with Queens Together, a local food relief organization.
Won’s office funded the event and various community groups were on hand to provide the undocumented immigrants with advice on employment, housing assistance, and legal services. Some of the organizations offering information to immigrants included the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), Voces Latinas, The Legal Aid Society, Catholic Migration Services, MetroPlusHealth and Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement.
The migrants were also given free clothing which had been donated to Won’s office — including some items donated via various donation drives — while children were treated to face painting. Several yellow-colored signs with Spanish writing were erected inside the premises, with the text of the signs translating to “Welcome to our newest neighbors.”
Won said that there are more than 30 migrant shelters currently operating in her 26th Council district which covers Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and a portion of Astoria. It is unclear how many migrants are staying at these shelters although it is known that around 54,000 migrants are currently using shelters across the five boroughs.
“Our new neighbors have traveled thousands of miles by foot risking their lives for hopes of a better future. To welcome them, we hosted a dinner to build community with our new neighbors,” Won said. “Since taking office, we have continued to advocate for critical resources including long-term housing, access to mental health services, and wraparound services to support our neighbors amid the city’s failure to offer more than the bare minimum during the migrant crisis.”
Won said the city and state must do more to ensure undocumented migrants are provided with pathways to permanent residency, housing vouchers, employment programs and legal services.
Judy Zangwill, the executive director of Sunnyside Community Services, said the organization was happy to greet the new arrivals.
“We hope our neighbors feel more welcomed, supported, and empowered with the information they need to adjust to life in Queens,” Zangwill said.
Her remarks were echoed by Jonathan Forgash, the executive director of Queens Together.
“This evening’s event provided a comforting meal with an extra helping of compassion and hospitality to guests from a neighboring migrant shelter,” Forgash said. “Together, we demonstrated the power of community.”