Six more NYC school gyms will house migrants, parents furious

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 15: Newly arrived asylum seekers wait in a holding area at the Port Authority bus terminal before being sent off to area shelters and hotels on May 15, 2023 in New York City.(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
4:28 PM – Monday, May 15, 2023

At least six more schools in New York are about to start temporarily housing incoming migrants in their gyms, setting off a Monday riot among parents terrified for their children’s safety and worried about potential disruptions to their education.


“To bus people to our school and expect the community to absorb them is just insane,” said Virginia Vu, a PTA member and parent at a middle school in Brooklyn.

She mentioned that some parents had already even threatened to temporarily or permanently remove their children from the school for safety reasons.

“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,” Vu asserted.

According to other parents who spoke to the press, schools MS 577 and PS 17 share a gym, making it one of five Brooklyn elementary schools that may soon house asylum seekers in their gymnasiums as New York City attempts to deal with the escalating migrant problem.

The other primary schools that are being utilized include PS 172 in Sunset Park, PS 189 close to Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, PS 18 and PS 132, both in Williamsburg. PS 189 serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade, while PS 17, 18, 132, and 172 all serve students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Parents reported that schools PS 17 and MS 577 were getting ready to take in busloads of migrants, many of which are single adult males, as early as Tuesday.

As city officials attempted to organize the new migrant sites on Monday, cots had already been set up within the gymnasiums of MS 577 and PS 17.

The changes occurred only a few days after adult migrants began relocating into PS 188’s gym in Brooklyn’s Coney Island. The gym has now been converted into an emergency intake location for asylum seekers transported by bus to the pre-K to fifth-grade school.

According to several parents, the fact that migrants have arrived at the MS 577 and PS 17 campus means that their children will now be practically “trapped inside,” since the gym backs onto the outside playground.

“The school will be under lockdown all day,” Vu said, also mentioning how there was a likely chance that outdoor after-school activities would be axed altogether.

“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 wellbeing… These kids just came through COVID, and now they’re being locked inside the classroom,” she said.

Another parent named Damaris Fernandez who has kids that attend both of the affected schools, said the inclusion of incoming migrants “is a security issue as well.”

“Schools are kept secure for a reason. Parents have to sign in and provide ID when they go into school, now there’s migrants in the playground… My phone has been going crazy with angry parents. Nobody agrees with what’s happened,” Fernandez said.

MS 577 Principal Maria Masullo emphasized that the impact of migrant living on school grounds would be limited in a letter to parents sent on Sunday.

“This should not impact school operations, nor will families have access to any other part of the school where students and staff are,” the principal wrote.

Some parents at PS 172 stated that they are considering pulling their children out of the school because they do not trust anyone who claims that the arrival of migrants will not have any sort of impact on their children or that there are no real safety concerns.

“No f**king way, I’m not bringing [my kids] back until I’m sure there won’t be grown men in their gym,” said Lillian, a mom who only gave her first name.

She mentioned that she has kids in kindergarten and second grade at PS 172.

“That makes no sense. Why would I bring my child to a school where there is grown adult men in their gym? You won’t let a stranger come into the school with no ID, but you’ll let them live in your school gym?”

Other PS 172 parents criticized Mayor Eric Adams for allowing municipal schools to accept asylum seekers in the first place, noting that one of the Big Apple’s several migrant shelters had already been established in a hotel directly across the street from the school.

“Mayor Adams is scrambling to solve a problem that is not solved by risking the safety of not only the students but also migrant families,” said mother and PTA co-President Samantha Clarke.

“What kind of solution is the mayor really offering?” she asked, mentioning how the school gym only had one adult toilet and no showers.

The street behind PS 132 will now serve as the location for recess, according to a neon-green notice posted on cars outside the school on Monday. The notice also stated that the vehicles must leave the area by Tuesday because it will be closed “Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.”

Several parents at PS 172 and MS 577 have stated that they plan to demonstrate in front of their respective schools on Tuesday morning. A mother with an 11-year-old student attending MS 577 told the press she had been posting fliers around the area to advertise an upcoming rally against the influx of migrants being housed in school gyms.

A City Hall spokesperson made a statement on Monday.

“As we’ve been saying for months, we are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, having opened approximately 150 emergency sites, including eight large-scale humanitarian relief centers, to serve more than 65,000 asylum seekers… As the mayor has said, nothing is off the table as we work to fill our moral mandate, but we should all expect this crisis to affect every city service. We will continue to communicate with local elected officials as we open more emergency sites.”

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