NYC school closed for migrants: James Madison goes remote, used as shelter during storm

Nearly 2,000 migrants being housed in a tent shelter in NYC were transferred to a nearby high school during Tuesday's storm, forcing students to pivot to remote learning.

The migrants being sheltered at Floyd Bennett Field in South Brooklyn spent the night at James Madison High School in Sheepshead Bay out of an "overabundance of caution" as New York City was under a flood advisory.

This decision didn't sit well with James Madison parents, who rallied outside the school Wednesday, lambasting administrators for putting migrants ahead of their children.

"Our school should not be used … it's a section there for learning. Our kids are supposed to be here, feeling safe, and be able to learn," one parent said at the rally.

In a statement, Republican Councilmember Inna Vernikov called the move "unacceptable," arguing that Floyd Bennett Field is "not a sustainable housing facility." 

"Our public schools are meant to be places of learning and growth for our children, and were never intended to be shelters or facilities for emergency housing," she said.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, a Democrat, said that placing migrants at the Floyd Bennett Field "highlights the mismanagement and waste of money that is all-too-present in City Hall’s approach to shelter and services for asylum seekers."

UNITED STATES -January 9: Migrants evacuated from Floyd Bennett Field arrive at James Madison High School on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York City during a storm on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. (Photo by Gardiner Anderson for NY Daily News via Getty

About 80 buses arrived at the school Tuesday evening. Families slept in the auditorium chairs and on the floor with blankets. By 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, they were all returned to Floyd Bennett.

The shelter operation at James Madison High School managed by [NYC Health + Hospitals] was nothing short of remarkable," said Zach Iscol, commissioner of New York City Emergency Management. "They supplied essentials like baby formula, baby bottles, hot food, snacks, water and blankets."

Yet some parents claim they were never notified of the move and were even more outraged to learn that this forced kids to attend school remotely.

Numerous hate calls and even a bomb threat were made to the school Wednesday morning.

"These actions are not only deplorable –  they're also criminal offenses," Iscol said.

Adams’ office has said that over 160,000 migrants have arrived in New York City since the middle of 2022, many sent to the city in busloads under the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Officials have said the city is overwhelmed, with Adams warning the crisis could "destroy" the city.

School will be back in session Thursday. Meanwhile, officials said they do not "foresee" using James Madison again as a shelter.

What is Floyd Bennett Field?

Back in August, the Biden administration gave New York the green light to house over 2,500 migrants and asylum seekers at Floyd Bennett Field.

Image 1 of 5

Tour of the newly erected migrant housing location. (Photo by Theodore Parisienne for NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Ever since, lawmakers and local leaders have been voicing concerns over the safety of the site.

Floyd Bennett Field was New York City's first municipal airport. It later turned into a naval base and then a park. It's named after Floyd Bennett, a Brooklyn resident and famous aviator.