Elementary school gym turned into migrant shelter despite community outrage — ‘No timeframe’ regarding when building will be returned to children
A Coney Island elementary school gym has been converted into a “temporary” shelter for at least 75 migrants, despite outrage from local residents.
Two days prior to the migrants’ arrival, parents were informed by PS 188 Principal Leslie King that the school’s gym was chosen as one of the “emergency, temporary sites to house individuals and families who are seeking asylum.”
King’s letter to parents noted that “several families will be utilizing the stand-alone gym at your school on a short-term basis.”
Republican New York City Council member Ari Kagan called the city’s notification process “totally unacceptable” and noted that “no timeframe” regarding when the facility would be returned to the school was given.
Migrants at school gym ? Community deserves answers! pic.twitter.com/KCjAWwmA7T
— Council Member Ari Kagan (@CMAriKagan47) May 12, 2023
The school-district community board torched city officials for failing to give advanced notice.
“The [Community Board] 13 office staff has been struggling all day to get the most basic information from various agencies regarding how many people will be housed there, for what length of time, whether the individuals have been screened for communicable diseases, what measures are in place to provide services, etc.,” the board wrote in a statement.
Kagan accused Democratic Mayor Eric Adams’ administration of intentionally keeping residents in the dark.
“This is why they didn’t notify people, because they knew the community would be against it,” he stated.
Democratic City Council member Justin Brannan called the location “puzzling” and noted on Sunday that it is still “unclear how long they will need to stay.”
The New York Post reported that on Sunday evening, migrants could be seen hanging out around the stand-alone gym located adjacent to the elementary school.
A Coney Island resident told the Post, “Why a school? That’s the part I don’t get. There’s always other options. A lot of the buildings around here, they have fallout shelters that are spacious and used for emergencies.”
Antuan, a 21-year-old Venezuelan migrant, told the news outlet that officials informed him that he would be staying in the school gym only until Monday.
“They put us here because they don’t want us out on the streets,” he stated. “They’re processing us, giving us our paperwork, and then we leave.”
The school’s safety agents expressed concern about the decision.
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesperson for the Local 237 Teamsters labor union, told the Post, “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 told the news outlet Sunday night that the city is opening emergency shelters to house migrants, “but we are out of space.”