NYC Using Public Schools As Migrant Shelters

A growing uproar is brewing in New York City’s Coney Island community over the conversion of PS 188’s gym into a temporary shelter for illegal migrants, a move that has left parents, community members, and local officials questioning the city’s leadership.

Despite strong objections from locals, at least 75 migrants are temporarily taking refuge in the gym adjacent to the elementary school. This move was implemented with little warning, leaving many wondering why a school was the chosen site for this emergency shelter.

The city’s notification process, according to Republican NYC Council member Ari Kagan, was “totally unacceptable.” He emphasized that “no timeframe” was given for the return of the facility to the school. Kagan accused Democratic Mayor Eric Adams’ administration of purposefully leaving residents uninformed, stating, “This is why they didn’t notify people because they knew the community would be against it.”

Democratic City Council member Justin Brannan also expressed confusion over the choice of location, noting it was “puzzling” and pointing out the lack of clarity around how long migrants would stay at the gym. Despite these concerns, migrants were seen hanging around the gym on Sunday evening, causing further distress for residents.

This situation raises several questions about the city’s preparedness and transparency. As one Coney Island resident pointed out, “Why a school? There are always other options. A lot of the buildings around here, they have fallout shelters that are spacious and used for emergencies.”

Among the most worried are the school’s safety agents. Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the Local 237 Teamsters labor union, was clear in his concern: “School Safety Agents are trained to protect children, not migrants. National Guard and federal assistance are needed. We protect City school children. That’s our responsibility. Not migrants.”

City Hall press secretary Fabien Levy countered these worries, stating the city is opening emergency shelters to house migrants but is running out of space. Yet, this argument fails to address the concerns raised by community members who feel their children’s educational spaces are being compromised.

Adams has admitted the city is running out of options as more migrants are expected to arrive following the end of a Trump-era policy, Title 42, that facilitated the quick expulsion of some border crossers due to COVID-19 concerns. The policy ended last week.

However, the city’s plan to bus migrants to hotels in upstate Rockland and Orange counties is also meeting resistance, as lawsuits have been filed to halt the housing of migrants in local hotels.

All the while, parents of PS 172 students are left wondering where their children will have gym classes. One parent expressed his frustration, saying, “Put them in the people who are elected who put them in place, put them in their backyards because you’ve dumped on us long enough.”