During Tuesday night’s protest, Curtis Sliwa threatened to “shut down” four bridges on Staten Island over the city’s decision to house migrants at the borough’s closed St. John’s Villa College.
At the rally outside the former private school, Sliwa also told a crowd of hundreds protesting against the 300-bed immigrant shelter that he planned to run for mayor again.
“Okay, let me tell you now, police, ahead of time so you can tell your commander-in-chief,” the Guardian Angel founder said, referring to Mayor Eric Adams.
“We’re going to close the Verrazano Bridge. We’re going to close the Goshals Bridge. We’re going to close the [Bayonne] bridge. We’re going to close the Outer Bridge intersection,” he said from the back of a pickup truck parked outside a temporary shelter in the Arrochal neighbourhood.
The Republican, who lost the 2021 mayoral race to Adams, claimed independent truckers would use 18-wheelers to jam traffic on bridges linking the borough to Brooklyn and New Jersey.
“The independent truck drivers who own these rigs are so concerned. They’re going to sacrifice their rigs,” Sliwa said. “They’re not going to let illegal immigrants into this school … We’re doing everything we can – trucks, vans, cars, the wreckage of the dump will be put away.”
His remarks drew cheers from Staten Islanders who took part in the fourth demonstration against immigrant asylum.
Several protesters slammed the shelter, saying it posed a potential hazard to students at a nearby Catholic school that includes a co-ed K-8 academy and an all-girls high school. The back of the Mount St Joseph College campus is across the street from the former St John Villa College site.
“These people are unvetted, unvaccinated. We don’t know what their background is,” said Florence P, a 68-year-old South Shore resident. “…we are working hard to protect our children.”
A member of Community Watch told the crowd that while the migrants were brought into the shelter, they would be taking care of school children.
Pete DiMiceli told the crowd: “We will be monitoring children going to and from schools that are immediately impacted in the area.”
Di Micheli and about a dozen other men from the group wore bulletproof vests that read “Protect Our Children” at the rally.
Sliva said Staten Islanders are not afraid of being arrested for protesting immigrant housing.
“Do you think there are enough police officers on Staten Island, do you think you have enough handcuffs?” he yelled. “You’re not going to beat Americans trying to save their counties, their communities, their cities, their states, and America.”
He also blasted Adams for “abandoning” Staten Island and said he would do better for the “forgotten borough” as the next mayor.
“Eric Adams, here we come,” Sliva said. “I know I can’t find Staten Island without a GPS, but in two years I’ll be following you, Eric Adams.”
Sliwa later told The Washington Post that he hadn’t filed any papers or started raising money for a second mayoral campaign, but was ready to run against a Democratic mayor.
“I’m going to be his worst nightmare. Every community he does, I’m going to remind him,” he said.
The city has struggled to find housing for the 107,000 asylum seekers who have flooded into New York since the spring of 2022.
As of last week, about two dozen immigrants were housed at the former site of St. John’s Villa College, which closed in 2018 and was later purchased by the city and eventually converted into a public school.
A judge temporarily banned the city from sheltering immigrants at the former school last week, but the order was overturned after the city filed a last-minute appeal.
An appeals court reversed the evacuation order, allowing migrants already in shelters to stay.
Sliwa said that if elected mayor, he would send the buses carrying immigrants into New York City back to where they came from.
“The bus is coming in. They’re at the Port Authority. Make it easy for them…we’re going to send them back to your papi chulo, the one who invited you,” he said, using Spanish slang for “papi chulo,” which goes straight to Translates to “Pimp Daddy”.
A protester who grew up on the island took part in a protest in support of her former neighbor.
“I’m fighting for Staten Island. I’m fighting for my country,” Colleen Mahoney told The Washington Post. “We’re not saying don’t come into the country. We’re just saying use the front door.”