‘This Is Going To Happen Again,’ New York City Councilwoman Tells the Sun of Brooklyn High School’s Migrant Takeover

A New York City Councilwoman, Inna Vernikov, fears that other schools, as well as libraries and hospitals, across the city and the country are next.

AP/Mary Altaffer
Immigrants at Floyd Bennett Field, January 9, 2024, at New York. AP/Mary Altaffer

After the transfer of nearly 2,000 migrants into a Brooklyn high school gym during a heavy rainstorm at New York City this week, school parents and local leaders are bracing for more disruptions as the city becomes a haven for illegal immigration. 

“The parents are concerned that this is going to happen again,” a New York City Councilwoman, Inna Vernikov, tells the Sun, “because it is going to happen again.” Ms. Vernikov represents the district of James Madison High School, where migrants living at Floyd Bennett Field spent Tuesday night due to inclement weather, forcing the school’s students to stay home and attend classes remotely via Zoom. She warns that the transformation of public spaces into migrant shelters will take place in other cities across the country.

“It’s become a national story,” she says. “People are concerned that it’s going to happen in every locality because this isn’t just something that’s impacting me or my district here in Brooklyn. It’s really impacting the whole country.”

On Tuesday, the migrants, many of whom were children, slept on the floors of the school until they were removed before dawn. This disrupted the educational experience for 4,000 students who missed two days of in-person learning — they stayed home a second day even though the migrants were gone — while parents had to scramble to make arrangements to keep their kids at home. Ms. Vernikov says that “an entire district was upended because of this situation.” 

Several elected officials have warned that Floyd Bennett Field is an unsustainable living facility for migrants. The four large tents at the migrant complex, an initiative promoted by Governor Hochul, sit on Barren Island alongside gusty Jamaica Bay. They are susceptible to floods and high winds. 

When the next storm hits the city, Ms. Vernikov wonders, “where are they going to go then? Is it going to be this school again? Is it going to be other schools? Is it going to be libraries? Is it going to be hospitals?” A better solution would be a convention center, she ventures, or a space near government buildings so that nearby residents are safe.

Such temporary solutions, though, will likely be insufficient. Nearly 170,000 migrants have arrived at New York City since the spring of 2022. Rampant homelessness in the city is poised to get worse. “It’s not fair to our taxpayers, it’s not fair to New Yorkers,” says Ms. Vernikov. “We are incentivizing illegal immigration by giving them free benefits and free housing. They come here because they know that New York City won’t turn them down.” 

The city’s leaders have struggled to tame the crisis. “I think it’s because leadership here is unfortunately pandering to the radical left,” Ms. Vernikov, who is one of only six Republicans on the 51-member City Council, says. “They’re afraid of losing votes. And so, as a result, they’re actually not benefiting any group. They’re not benefiting New Yorkers, and they’re not benefiting the migrants.”

Mayor Adams defended temporarily housing the migrants at James Madison school as “the right thing.” Yet he has said the migrant crisis will “destroy” the city and has imposed a 60-day limit on shelter stays, which drove 40 migrant families out of a midtown Manhattan hotel this week. He is also trying to suspend the city’s longstanding “right to shelter” legal obligation, which the Supreme Court may soon scrutinize

Ms. Vernikov says that the city has for decades misinterpreted this “right,” which exists due to a 42-year-old court order, the only one of its kind in America. “There’s no right to shelter for foreigners,” she asserts. “The right to shelter is just for homeless New Yorkers.”

The New York Sun

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