WAVERLY, N.Y. (WETM) – The new managers of the historic O’Brien’s Inn & Restaurant say an unverified and incorrect report from a different news outlet that alleged migrants were being housed there, has triggered a wave of harassment and even death threats. 18 News confirmed no migrants were housed there.
The new managers took over the property after the Chemung County Health Department shut down O’Brien’s in May due to several code violations that were issued under previous management. The new managers told 18 News they did not want to appear on camera and asked us to not publish their names, because they fear for their safety and the safety of their staff.
The new managers, who are in the process of purchasing the property, say it all started with a desire to help their community while they renovate the historic landmark overlooking the Chemung River Valley. They accepted to provide temporary housing for 8 people placed by the Chemung County Department of Social Services. They say most of them were either elderly, handicapped, or had developmental disabilities, and had been staying at O’Brien’s for about two weeks.
On Friday, the unverified report about migrants was published. The managers say people started driving by the hotel, revving their engines and yelling profanities at guests who they mistakenly thought were migrants. The managers say some people also drove through the parking lot, making tires screech and driving through puddles to splash guests who were sitting outside. The managers say the guests were left terrified and also feared for their safety. They say threats were also made on social media to burn the hotel down. They also suspect some broken vending machines and other equipment have been vandalized.
The managers say O’Brien’s is now closed and empty until further notice as it undergoes renovations.
Chemung County Executive Chris Moss told 18 News he was not aware of any threats being made against O’Brien’s. Mr. Moss says the remaining homeless people who were housed there were moved to another location Monday, but for different safety reasons.
“Can we just confirm for the record that migrants are or are not being housed at this location?” asked 18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina.
“There are no migrants, to my knowledge, being housed there,” said Moss. “I think that would probably be the last place they would be housed. Look, it is not the perfect location. Once I found out that the homeless that are being housed there were placed there, I had several questions for the Department of Social Services. I’ve directed that we get those folks move to a better location in Horseheads or Elmira. Here’s the problem. It’s a safety issue. We have folks, handicapped folks using wheelchairs in the middle of the roadway, either to get to Waverly or to get to the other end to the golf course down the road. It has become very dangerous with people walking up and down the road. There are no streetlights. It’s just not a good location. Why the Department of Social Services select that location, I’m not sure but we’re trying to rectify the issue right now.”
“So that’s not something you would sign off on, specific locations as to where folks are housed, that’s a Department of Social Services decision?” asked Dubina.
“Look. I’m in charge of the Department of Social Services at the end of the day,” said Moss. “I was not aware of it being utilized. It was brought to my attention by a business owner in the area, and we’ve been looking into it for a couple of weeks. Since that time, we’ve been trying to relocate those families to a motel that’s better suited, near stores and places you can walk to, and not have to be in the middle of the roadway.”
Mr. Moss also told 18 News he was aware of two registered sex offenders who were placed at O’Brien’s Inn. The new managers told 18 News they were not aware a registered sex offender was placed at the property.
In May, Chemung County and 30 other counties across New York State declared states of emergency in response to the overwhelming number of migrants arriving in New York City. The emergency orders prohibited hotels and businesses from housing or transporting migrants without prior approval from the County and imposed fines for doing so. All 31 counties were later sued by New York City. The emergency order in Chemung County has expired. County Executive Moss says he is watching the migrant crisis in New York City, but there are currently no plans to renew the emergency order.