CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — There are more than 500 asylum seekers in Cheektowaga being housed at three different hotels in the area.
Tuesday, the Cheektowaga Town Board said it is concerned these hotels are operating as shelters, which is a violation of both the zoning laws and the town codes.
“I think we have room in our hearts and our wallets to help asylum seekers, I just don’t think we can be the only community,” said Gary Borek of Cheektowaga.
Cheektowaga residents are upset and say their town leaders haven’t done enough to address the asylum seeker crisis.
The town board approved a resolution Tuesday night — which will kickstart an investigation into if the hotels housing asylum seekers are operating legally under town codes.
“We’re concerned they’ve changed over to homeless shelters, now that the asylum seekers are there for over 30 days,” said Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski. “According to our town code, it is still not a hotel then. It might be a homeless shelter.”
Then, the town can pursue legal action after the building inspectors report back to the board. This includes putting in an injunction or temporary restraining order to restrict more asylum seekers from coming to Cheektowaga.
“Has anybody heard one thing from our big people in New York [City]?” said Joe Ciura of Cheektowaga.
“I have been in communication with Mark Poloncarz somewhat. But I am surprised, now that you mentioned it, that I haven’t heard from other leaders, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has been a good friend of mine for years,” said Supervisor Benczkowski.
It was a fiery meeting with many residents voicing their concerns about asylum seekers across the town. Some residents say asylum seekers have approached them at their homes near the Dingens Street Best Western. Others are concerned about who is footing the bill.
“We have 22 kids who don’t speak English coming to Maryvale,” said Rev. Rick Masiano. “Who’s paying for them? Who’s paying for them? Us again?”
“The strain for the school system is going to get worse. I haven’t heard anyone say anything about translators,” said Robert Darby of Cheektowaga.
“We don’t need this here,” said Vicky Leader of Cheektowaga. “We are not the sanctuary city. That’s New York. Turn them around and let them stay there.”
“Did they bring a check for the school lunches? No. Who pays for that? Me. Did they bring a check for the auxiliary costs? Everything Mr. Gould talked about that he had to respond and address to, came from my checkbook,” said Cheektowaga resident Wally Carriero.
Supervisor Benczkowski says the inspectors report is due Aug. 18. After that, the town board will review it and consider taking legal action to limit more asylum seekers from arriving.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.