In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, over 5,200 people on Staten Island have applied for temporary homes from FEMA, and so far, only about two dozen have actually been placed. To ease the housing pain, and keep as many people warm and under a roof, the state is looking to an unconventional place: the Arthur Kills Correctional Facility, a recently shuttered prison, which officials said could feed and sleep as many as 900 people.
Unsurprisingly, the idea is a controversial one. Some residents, like Rob Conigatti, don’t see a problem. “It’s empty. They might as well use it,” said the 39-year old, who lost his home to the storm. “At least they have the right facilities. You can’t keep them in schools. The kids gotta go to school.” Others, like Wally Martinez, who also lost his house, aren’t so sure. “I lost everything, but I still have my pride. We don’t have to stay in a prison,” he said. “My brother was once in that very prison, and my mother used to visit him regularly. She used to tell me how miserable he looked and how filthy and disgusting that prison was.”
The idea has the support of Republican Councilman James Oddo, who says “it shouldn’t be taken off the table because of a quote unquote stigma,” but borough president James Molinaro is “firmly opposed to using the prison,” according to the New York Post.