NYC Mayor Eric Adams defends housing migrants at high school amid backlash

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(NEW YORK) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended temporarily housing migrants in a Brooklyn high school ahead of a winter storm this week, amid backlash over the administration’s handling of the migrant crisis.

City officials relocated hundreds of migrants from a shelter at Floyd Bennett Field, a former airfield, to James Madison High School Tuesday night due to concerns over the strong winds associated with the storm. The high school pivoted to remote learning the following day.

The move has been met with broad criticism, with parents denouncing the temporary closure of the school and elected officials from across the political spectrum calling on the city to find a more sustainable solution to housing migrants, particularly during the winter.

Homeless rights advocates at the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless called the last-minute evacuation “traumatic and disruptive” for migrant families.

Among more extreme reactions, the school received several hate calls and a bomb threat, city officials said.

In an interview with “GMA3” on Thursday, Adams said the city “did the right thing” by relocating the migrants to the high school and said the city’s schools have been used in emergency situations before, citing floods and fires.

“We’re not going to say in the city that when we have an emergency that impacts migrants, we’re not going to use our school buildings,” Adams said. “Because no matter what people say, if you look closely, these are still children, and adults should not ever put anything that’s going to endanger children. Not one child or family sleeps on the streets of the city of New York because of what my team has done.”

“Those parents who [have] stated that we can’t inconvenience someone for one day because of other children, that’s not acceptable, and I’m not going to put children in harm’s way,” he added.

Asked about the move to remote learning during a press briefing on Thursday, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he hadn’t been fully briefed on the matter but that it’s important to ensure “access to educational opportunity to all New York City students without disruption moving forward.”

At a briefing on Wednesday, Zachary Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner, said the city doesn’t foresee using James Madison High School again to house migrants. He also acknowledged that Floyd Bennett Field is “not an ideal place” to house families but that is what state and federal officials offered.

More than 168,000 asylum-seekers have come through the city’s intake system since spring 2023, with nearly 70,000 currently in its care, according to the mayor. The city has called the situation an “unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”

Last week, Adams announced a lawsuit against 17 bus and transportation companies helping to send asylum-seekers to the city as it deals with major budget issues surrounding the crisis. The city is seeking $708 million in the lawsuit to cover costs for caring for migrants.

“Cities — El Paso, Brownsville, Chicago, New York — cities should not be handling a national crisis of this magnitude,” Adams told “GMA3.”

Adams also addressed criticism over the implementation this week of a 60-day shelter rule for migrant families while calling on the federal government to intervene.

“This is a national problem. The national government needs to resolve this, not New Yorkers,” Adams told “GMA3.” “We have been humane. We’ve led from the front. But you don’t want a child to have a permanent shelter residency. That is unacceptable and we’re not going to tolerate that.”

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander said his office is launching an investigation into the 60-day shelter rule for migrant families, calling the policy “one of the cruelest policies we’ve seen in generations.”

ABC News’ Arthur Jones II and Alyssa Acquavella contributed to this report.

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