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Dem-controlled NYC backs off plan to house migrants at school gyms

By Sarah May
May 19, 2023

In a dramatic reversal, school buildings in New York City are -- at least for now -- no longer slated for use as temporary shelters for recently arrived migrants, as Fox News reports, a development spurred by angry protests from concerned parents and community members.

The parental backlash ensued when plans from the Democrat-controlled city government emerged to house migrants in school gymnasiums in multiple locations, a scenario which would have necessitated the cancellation of physical education programming and, in some cases, outdoor recess and recreational opportunities for students.

Housing Plan Draws Backlash

As the New York Post noted, a number of Brooklyn schools were chosen to host the new arrivals, including buildings located in Williamsburg, Sunset Park, Coney Island, and Staten Island.

With the majority of the schools serving students as young as pre-K, parents swiftly began voicing their concerns about the influx of potentially unvetted individuals – single males among them – who would be packed into small spaces for extended periods of time.

Virginia Vu, a parent at M.S. 577 explained, “To bus people to our school and expect the community to absorb them is just insane. We care about asylum-seekers, and we're proud our city is a 'sanctuary city' – but housing asylum-seekers on school grounds is absolutely unacceptable.”

At schools such as the one Vu's children attend, the gym's proximity to the playground meant that students would not be permitted to use the outdoor facilities, and she said, “[t]he school will be under lockdown all day. The students will be trapped inside and will not be able to go outside for recess or physical education, which will be a huge detriment to their well-being. These kids just came through COVID, and now they're being locked inside the classroom.”

Protest in Sunset Park

As CBS News reported, parental anger reached a boiling point on Tuesday in Sunset Park, where plans to house migrants at P.S. 172 sparked significant protests.

Community activist Ray Denaro declared, “We have a crisis that has been brought to our country, our state, our city, and now it's in our schools. How soon until it is in our homes? These children deserve better.”

Arguing that the plan was not in the best interest of the migrants either was parent Valerie Caraballo, who said, “It's inhumane. It's not good living conditions for them, either. They need to be properly placed, and the safety of our children.”

Samantha Clark, co-president of the school's PTA opined, “We have a very small space to work with. To have children moving around and also asylum-seekers moving around, the likelihood that there will be contact between the two parties is guaranteed,” and parent Laura Tapia concluded, “I guess if the migrants are gonna stay here, I think it's safer for my child to be home.”

“Nothing Against Migrants”

Many of the protesting parents were at pains to emphasize that their opposition to the housing plans was not borne out of antipathy to migrants, but rather their practical concerns for child safety.

That was evidenced by some of the signs carried by parent protestors on Tuesday, which contained slogans such as, “Nothing against migrants, but our children are our priority.”

Another demonstrator said bluntly, “We are sorry you're displaced, but our school is not your space. I feel like there should be an alternative for them to go.”

Protest leader Miguel Chico told Fox News' Harris Faulkner, “We have nothing against the immigrants. I come from immigrant families. The community is full of Hispanics. We just believe that a school gymnasium isn't a place to put these people in.”

City Backs Down

As the Post reported separately, amid the fierce pushback from parents and community leaders, city officials are now backing off from the controversial migrant housing plans, already removing arrivals from school buildings and deconstructing the rows of cots already present in gymnasiums.

After learning about the course correction initiated by New York City Emergency Management, City Councilman Ari Kagan informed the outlet that “[t]he plan is to make sure school gyms are not used as shelters.”

Councilman Justin Brannan offered additional evidence of the change, taking to Twitter to state that migrant housing plans at P.S. 188 were being scuttled as well, writing, “Plan is to no longer use this site for temporary shelter. Our schools should not be used for this purpose.”

Given the tremendous opposition raised to the city's attempt to manage an influx of arrivals that shows no sign of abating, the current pause on the use of school buildings as temporary housing is an undeniable victory for the aforementioned parents, but whether it is a durable one, only time will tell.