Brooklyn News Review

City to relocates migrants from Coney Island public school grounds following borough-wide protests

The city will stop housing migrants in a Coney Island school gym after locals opposed sheltering asylum-seekers on the elementary school’s campus.

According to Council Member Kagan, Zachary Iscol, commissioner with the Office of Emergency Management, announced all migrants would be removed from P.S. 188 by the end of the day on May 17.

The announcement came after concerned parents and students stood outside their southern Brooklyn learning center on May 16, pleading with Mayor Eric Adams to relocate the migrants.

On the morning of May 17, parents at another school temporarily hosting migrants, P.S. 172 in Park Slope, joined the cacophony of protests. 

Following the city's decision to use public school gyms as temporary emergency shelters, parents and students protest outside the facility.Following the city’s decision to use public school gyms as temporary emergency shelters, parents and students protest outside the facility.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Sheldon Austin, co-president of the parent-teacher association P.S. 172, called for more clarity and communication as the politicians respond to the growing migrant crisis. 

“Our children are being used as pawns,” Austin said. “We have no issue with their people bettering themselves and their lives. We just want to know for how long, why not use a hotel, gymnasiums are not sanitary. This is also a gym designed for elementary school kids and not grown adult males.” 

Samantha Clark, president of the PTA at P.S. 172, said she wants the city to prioritize children’s safety.

“It has been a crazy couple of days. We will not stand for our schools being turned into shelters,” Clark said. 

A look into the shelter shows pop up beds spread out in the public school gym.A look into the shelter shows pop up beds spread out in the public school gym. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Several public school gyms in Brooklyn have been turned into temporary processing facilities for migrants in recent days as the city struggles to find adequate housing for an influx of asylum-seekers.

Parents of a Williamsburg school were informed hours before the migrants arrived. 

Lucia Gutierrez, president of the PTA for P.S. 17 and treasurer for M.S. 577,  called the decision“a slap in the face” at a rally on May 16 outside the Williamsburg elementary school.

“We’re out here because we were literally given a slap in the face. We were not informed. We were not even asked if we wanted this in our community. I get it, things are hard and there’s no room but this is not the place for these people,” Gutierrez told Brooklyn Paper. “It’s not fair.”

Other schools temporarily housing migrants in their gyms include P.S. 189 in Crown Heights, and P.S. 132, and P.S. 18 in Williamsburg, as reported by The City. 

A spokesperson with City Hall says the decision to relocate the migrants was not spurred by the recent protests rather these sites were always intended for short-term use.

“Our plan has always been to have emergency respite sites only serve migrants for a very short period of time and only when the influx into our city is overwhelming. Migrants flow in and out of these sites as other more suitable space becomes available, and they have and will continue to be used as a last resort,” the spokesperson said. “As the mayor has continued to say, everything is on the table when it comes to placement of asylum seekers, and, sadly, every city service will be affected.”

migrant protest at public schoolHousing migrants in schools was always meant to be a short-term relief measure, city officials said Wednesday. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

At a May 17 press conference, Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said more than 4,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City in the last week. The city is currently caring for 41,500 migrants in total, she said.

“We have exhausted options for traditional shelter sites for the migrants,” Williams-Isom said. “We are now turning to temporary alternative options like gyms and large open spaces for some relief. Let me be clear, this is not our preference for shelter, but it is the only option that we have.”

Schools are meant to be short-term respite sites, not long-term shelters, she added.

The commissioner did not clarify if the Coney Island school could be used as an emergency shelter in the future, according to Council Member Kagan. 

Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell

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