Migrants moved from school gym in Brooklyn amid protests and backlash

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Thursday, May 18, 2023
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SUNSET PARK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- New York City officials have moved migrants out of a school gym in Brooklyn amid growing backlash from parents over the city's housing plan.

After receiving criticism over the plan to house asylum seekers in city schools, asylum seekers were moved Wednesday from the gym at P.S. 188 in Coney Island to a location once used by Touro College on West 31st street across from the Moynihan Train Hall.

More buses arrived Wednesday. The latest arrivals are in addition to 4,300 migrants arriving in the last week according to the city as it scrambles to find more temporary shelters.

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom said during a press conference that using school gyms was always a short term plan, and insisted it is not a reversal in strategy.

The mayor says half of city hotel rooms are filled with migrants as housing asylum seekers in school gyms continues to draw criticism. Marcus Solis has the story.

"I'm not reversing strategy, the strategy was to have short term sites for emergency respite," Williams-Isom said. "We always meant that people would move to another site when that became available, we are very consistent with our strategy and our planning and continue to do that so I can assure that nobody sleeps on the streets of NYC."

She said the city will continue to have emergency sites.

Watch the full press conference here:

Meanwhile NYC Mayor Eric Adams said 50% of city hotel rooms are currently filled by asylum seekers -- and the city is having a hard time finding any other room at hotels for them.

"Almost 50% of those hotel rooms are being taken up by migrant asylum seekers, that we're paying for," Adams said. "So instead of money coming from people who are visiting us and spending and our tourism and our Broadway plays, instead of them using those hotels, we are using those hotels."

He said the city has reached out to hotels and many say they don't want to get into the shelter business.

"Many of them are going to price points that is just too high for tax payers to pay," Adams said. "Many of them are not suitable for housing or migrants."

It was also asked at the Wednesday afternoon press conference if counties other than Orange and Rockland had been eyed for sending asylum seekers.

"We're looking at every single county," she said when pressed why Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk counties hadn't yet had migrants bused to them.

Dr. Ted Long was also in attendance and detailed the experience that migrants have when coming into New York's humanitarian relief centers. A ninth just opened at the Roosevelt Hotel.

The press conference comes after more than 200 parents and New York City school officials held an "emergency meeting" Tuesday night to voice their concerns and protest against the city's migrant housing plan.

The city was eyeing up to 20 schools with standalone gyms to house migrants.

Protesting parents and students said their conversations with school officials at the meeting did little to quell their safety concerns for students and asylum seekers.

WATCH: NYC officials call on White House for help with migrant placement

Brooklyn Borough President Anthony Reynoso and other NYC officials call on White House and state officials to address the influx of migrants.

Officials say 65,000 asylum seekers have come through the city so far, including 4,200 last week alone. Adams said the city expects as many as 15 buses this weekend.

NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks reassured parents that the migrants won't disrupt schools.

"This is a crisis, it's fluid," Banks said. "We don't have enough time to get out to every community and do the level of engagement that we would do under most circumstances."

Parents said while it remains a complicated issue, they think there needs to be more help from the federal government so the city doesn't have to resort to measures like this.

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