St. Agnes High School Update September 22, 2023

The Former St. Agnes Building: A Respite Center for Migrants

St. Agnes as Respite

Since late July, the building that formerly housed St. Agnes Academic High School in College Point has been the site of a respite center, a rest stop for migrants. The current city contract is temporary — only ninety days — and is scheduled to end on October 31st.

With thousands of asylum seekers arriving in New York City each week, Mayor Eric Adams has opened nearly 200 facilities to house them including hotels, an airport hangar and a decommissioned Harlem jail.

“I’m not sure if you are aware of the influx that New York City is facing. We are receiving thousands of migrants, crossing the Southern Border illegally, every single day. At this point, the city is opening shelters and respite centers literally anywhere they can; that is not an exaggeration.” 

Alexis Winters, Director of Communications for Councilwoman Vickie Paladino

At the St. Agnes building, the City provides migrants with housing, three meals a day and snacks, showers, immigration guidance as well as medical attention. The respite center was slated to hold 300 people, but that number could be as high as 400. The St. Agnes center houses single adults, male and female. Because St. Agnes is a respite center, the demographics change more frequently as migrants are moved to shelters and new migrants are moved in. 

“Because of my Street Outreach to the homeless and housing insecure, I am out and about all the time and I pass by the migrant center a lot. I give them food, socks, clothes and hygienic products.”

Amityville Dominican Sister Ruth Lautt, OP

Sister Ruth notices that many of the migrants come from South or Central America, but she has also met migrants from Africa and the Caribbean who have crossed into the US from the southern border. From Sister Ruth’s vantage point, the respite center looks peaceful and orderly. While some residents complain of loitering and smoking, the migrants are not legally permitted to work, noting there is a 180-day waiting period before the federal government will allow them to receive working papers. To protect both migrants and residents, a curfew of 11PM will be instated this weekend.

Although the respite center has been a divisive issue in College Point, Sister Ruth points out that as a Dominican Sister her job is clear: She is there for all people, residents and migrants alike.

“The cry of humanity can be overwhelming at times. I think as Religious Sisters, we always have to have balance and listen to the human cry from everyone. This is not about taking sides or political stances but meeting the needs of human beings in the name of our God who, we believe, has sent us forth!”

Sister ruth lautt, OP

To Sister Ruth, “this is a temporary continuation of the Community’s ministry in College Point,” she said. “While it’s a complicated issue, and people have a lot of different feelings about it, at the end of the day we are greeting human beings as human beings, trying to meet human needs.”

As of 2026, the plans are to use the former St. Agnes building as the first public high school in College Point.

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