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NY Post
New York Post
2 Sep 2023


NextImg:‘Not the right place’: Seventh-grader fears new migrant shelter near school

Sophia Walder is a 12-year-old Staten Islander entering seventh grade this week at St. Joseph Hill Academy in Arrochar. A shuttered Catholic high school across from hers has been converted into a 300-bed shelter for migrant adults. Trailers for showers line the property because the building doesn’t have any inside. A parking lot and a sleepy, residential side street separate the shelter from the campus, which includes an all-girls high school. The city’s controversial shelter plan ignited an angry protest last week that drew hundreds. Walder, accompanied by her mother, spoke to The Post’s Deirdre Bardolf about her fears.

We all found out about this the night before they moved migrants in.

I found out through my mom who heard about it on Instagram.

My friends and I have a group chat and we talk about this and we’re all on the same page – we’re all concerned.

Sophia Walder, with mom Rachel Maniscalco and sister Julia Tolve, fears what the new shelter will mean for her and her classmates who go to school across the street.
Stephen Yang

My mom told me that the shelter is going to have outdoor showers.

I don’t want to be playing with my friends outside and there are grown men showering in trailers right there!

We go outside for recess every day and there are so many events that happen on the campus.

The Halloween Trunk-or-Treat is in the parking lot overlooking the shelter, there are fundraisers, nighttime basketball games, and practices.

Sophia Walder attends St. Joseph Hill Academy, where a new migrant shelter was recently set up across the street.

Sophia Walder attends St. Joseph Hill Academy, where a new migrant shelter was recently set up across the street.
Stephen Yang

I don’t want to be hanging out and dancing with my friends and feel unsafe. 

We are getting to the age where we want independence to go places alone like the mall or the park to play basketball.

That’s so not going to happen now.

School is already so stressful with all the homework, tests, and high school coming up.

The view of the shelter at the former St. John Villa Academy from the neighboring St. Joseph Hill Academy parking lot across the street. Workers are seen outside the shelter with trucks and putting up fencing.
The view of the new shelter at the former St. John Villa Academy from the parking lot in Staten Island.
Stephen Yang

I have anxiety about everything!

We don’t need another thing to worry about.

It’s nerve-wracking and now everyone in school will have to keep in mind that there’s a possibility of something happening outside.

I feel a little better about the extra precautions — fences, security cameras, and additional security guard and police presence — but last year, we didn’t have to worry about lockdowns or extra procedures or anything.

Outside entrance of St. Joseph Hill on Staten Island.
St. Joseph Hill Academy on Staten Island offers pre-K, elementary and high school.
Stephen Yang

Now with this across the street, what are we going to have to face?

I love St. Joseph Hill but this is really taking a toll on me.

I know there are going to be haters and people with different opinions but this is not about race.

I’m just being realistic.

Part of the former St. John Villa Academy on Staten Island, outside from Landis Avenue.
Parts of the former St. John Villa Academy on Staten Island are now being used for adult migrants.
Paul Martinka

There is such a strain on American families as it is and so much homelessness here already.

I come from a lineage of Italian and Irish immigrants myself and I know these people don’t have many liberties in their countries and this is a better opportunity for them … but this here in Staten Island is not the right time and it is not the right place.