‘Who is being held accountable?’: Parents, pols protest outside Midwood school used to house migrants overnight

protestors at james madison high school used as migrantshelter
Assembly Member Jamie Williams addressed parents outside James Madison High School during a rally on Wednesday morning.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Outraged parents and elected officials held a protest outside James Madison High School Wednesday morning after the city placed some 1,900 migrants there overnight to ride out a storm.

City officials evacuated the mega-migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field on Tuesday and hurried asylum-seekers to the Midwood school — amid safety concerns that the embattled shelter wouldn’t be able to withstand the heavy rains and strong winds that battered New York City on Tuesday night. The migrants were bussed to the school at about 4 p.m. on Jan. 9 and were transported back to Floyd Bennett Field at about 4:15 a.m. on Jan. 10, after the rain had subsided, city officials said. 

james madison high school migrant protest
Parents and locals rallied outside James Madison High School on Wednesday, demanding accountability from the city. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Prior to the arrival of the migrants, James Madison High School told students that classes would be held online Wednesday and that its Winter Wonderland dance, due to be held Wednesday evening, had been postponed until further notice.

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.”

One parent who showed up to James Madison High School on Tuesday evening as the buses of migrants arrived for the overnight stay described herself as an “aggravated mother” in a now viral video.

“How does it feel that you’ve kicked all the kids out of school tomorrow,” the woman is heard yelling at migrant families as they enter the school.

The anger toward the situation spilled over into Wednesday morning with a rally organized by area Assembly Member Michael Novakhov outside the high school.

james madison high school
Classes at the school were remote on Wednesday. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

One protester, Mike Minovoff, was sympathetic toward the migrants who had taken shelter in the school.

“Our children have an extra day off, they should show up,” he said. “I feel bad, this isn’t acceptable at all. The city has no plan for these people.”

Assembly Member Jamie Williams, who has a child who attends James Madison, also criticized the way the city handled the incident.

“What’s going to happen on Monday? What’s going to happen next week? Who is being held accountable?” Williams asked the crowd. “Is this the American dream to be shuffled from shelter to shelter, from shelter to school and back?”

Midwood resident Angela Ping said the city’s politicians are to blame for the situation.

james madison high school midwood migrant rally
Some protestors supported migrants, and criticized the treatment they received from the city. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“All of this is filled with empty promises, the migrants are being toyed with, the mayor and governor should let them work and as quickly as possible,” she said. 

State sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton issued a statement following the rally, saying she feels for the 4,000 students “being forced into remote learning.” Scarcella-Spanton advocated for the passage of legislation she introduced last year that would prohibit the city from using schools and daycare centers as migrant shelters.

“It’s more important than ever to pass this crucial legislation so that these shortsighted decisions can be prevented. As this generation of children has already had their education interrupted during the pandemic, we must do everything possible to ensure that it Never happens again to to situations like this one,” she said.