Parents, pols to rally outside James Madison High School after Floyd Bennett Field migrant relocation forces students online

James Madison HS
City officials relocated close to 2,000 migrants from the Floyd Bennett Field shelter in Marine Park to James Madison High School in Midwood ahead of a storm on Tuesday, forcing close to 3,500 students online Wednesday for virtual learning.
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At least one local politician plans to organize with parents outside of James Madison High School Wednesday morning after city officials evacuated the mega-migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field on Tuesday and hurried asylum-seekers to the Midwood school.

Some 1,900 migrants residing at the embattled Marine Park shelter were removed from the facility amid safety concerns ahead of the arrival of a major coastal storm. As rain pounded and winds howled, migrant families set up temporary camp inside James Madison, forcing students online Wednesday for remote learning.

In a letter to parents posted on the school’s website, Principal Jodie Cohen said the decision to go virtual was “to ensure a smooth transition for families temporarily sheltering overnight in the building.”

The city’s decision to house the migrants at the school quickly drew ire from local parents and elected officials.

“This is both unacceptable and was entirely foreseeable, as Floyd Bennett Field is vulnerable to all forms of increment weather conditions and is not a sustainable housing facility,” Council Member Inna Vernikov said in a statement Tuesday. “As an elected official representing this community, I demand a full stop to using our public schools as a shelter ever again.”

Area Assembly Member Michael Novakhov issued a press release late Tuesday night detailing a planned rally at the school Wednesday morning. There, he says he will stand alongside concerned parents of students who have been displaced due to the emergency housing of migrants at the school.

“The City of New York’s decision to prioritize migrants over our communities, budget, safety, and even the education of our children has raised serious concerns,” the release reads. “The emergency rally aims to draw attention to the impact of the City’s actions on the local community and emphasize the need for immediate solutions to address the displacement of students and the disruption of their education.”

Migrants evacuated Marine Park’s Floyd Bennett Field shelter Tuesday night ahead of a coastal storm. Close to 2,000 asylum-seekers were temporarily relocated to James Madison High School in Midwood.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The move also reignited calls from advocates to reconsider the Floyd Bennett Field shelter.

The shelter at Floyd Bennett is one of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s large-scale Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs). It is built on a decommissioned airfield in federal parkland that the city is leasing from the Biden administration.

Prior to opening in November, the shelter has been dogged by controversy with critics on both sides of the aisle slamming its remote location, potential dangers of the pods for children and fire safety concerns.

The Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless issued a joint statement Tuesday asking city officials to stop placing families with children at the facility, saying that the storm-induced evacuation is a foreshadow of more problems to come.

“This last-minute evacuation further proves that Floyd Bennett Field – a facility mired in a flood zone, miles from schools and other services – has never and will never serve as an appropriate and safe place to shelter families with children,” the two organizations said. “The City has provided scant details on its plan for these families, including where exactly they will be moved and for how long and, most importantly, if those temporary locations comply with the shelter requirements for families with children as prescribed by the court and by law.”

Over 200 shelter sites have been opened in the last year by the Adams administration across the five boroughs in a bid to deal with the record number of arrivals – many of which have drawn protests by local residents and politicians, the site at Floyd Bennett among them.

The city’s Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are currently close to 3,500 students enrolled at James Madison High School, according to state Education Department data.