New York City‘s Republican mayoral candidate said he wants to reopen a massive, dilapidated upstate workcamp to solve the city’s homeless problem.
Curtis Sliwa, head of the Guardian Angels, said he wants to restart Camp LaGuardia, a 258-acre, 1,000 bed compound built in Chester in 1934 by then Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to combat the homelessness crisis caused by The Great Depression.
‘There is so much empty space up there,’ Sliwa told the New York Post. ‘They can breathe fresh air, have good food, clothes, and it gives them a chance to get back on track.’
Much like La Guardia, Sliwa said the camp, which closed in 2007, could serve as a ‘human repair shop’ where there are ‘very few temptations.’
NYC GOP Candidate Curtis Sliwa, pictured on October 8, said he wanted to reopen a camp in upstate New York to solve the city’s homeless problem
The camp, located in Chester, New York, first opened in 1934 under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to combat the homelessness crisis caused by The Great Depression
The building, pictured just as it closed in 2007, could house up to 1,000 people
Tackling the city’s homeless problem has been a cornerstone of Sliwa’s campaign.
Back in August, Sliwa comforted a homeless man who interrupted his speech and cried that he did not want to take advantage of the city.
‘You’re not taking advantage of us,’ Sliwa told the man. ‘This is our responsibility.’
The Coalition for the Homeless, an nonprofit advocacy group, estimates that there were nearly 48,000 homeless people living in the city’s shelter system every night, including more than 14,000 children.
Curtis Sliwa comforted a homeless man who disrupted his speech in August. Sliwa said it was the city’s responsibility to solve its homelessness problem
New York City men travelled to the camp for four decades, where they were encouraged to find work at local farms or as day laborers.
It now stands as a deteriorated building filled with graffiti, broken lights and dilapidated interiors.
The building is also overrun with plant-life that has reclaimed the abandoned site, which was sold to Orange County for $8.5 million in 2007 by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was looking to cut back on the city’s expenses.
While Sliwa recalled the site as a positive asset for the city and homeless population, a former manager at the facility told the NY Post that it was not a popular place to be at for the city’s homeless.
‘[They] didn’t like it because they had connections in the city. It was 90 miles up there,’ said Meribeth Seaman. ‘A lot of them didn’t want to be up there. Some appreciated being up in the country but it was inconvenient.’
The site also saw its share of problems despite Sliwa’s claim that there were ‘few temptations.’
In 1996, 12 residents at the camp were arrested for running a crack cocaine delivery service in Chester. That same year, local police made more than 98 busts on charges that ranged from assault to shoplifting by the camp.
Edward Diana, the former county executive of Orange County who purchased the camp from the NYC, said the days when the city could export its problems were over.
‘The jurisdiction that has a problem should handle the problem within their own jurisdiction and not put their problems in other jurisdictions,’ he said.
Sliwa said that if he could not reach a deal with Orange County over Camp LaGuardia, he would look to more economically depressed areas in Central New York who could benefit from the city’s tax dollars.
He suggested Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Moreau as one possible alternative.
Sliwa faces Democratic nominee Eric Adams this November to see who replaces Mayor Bill de Blasio.