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Parents protest plan to house asylum seekers in gymnasiums at Brooklyn schools

Parents continue to protest housing asylum seekers in schools
Parents continue to protest housing asylum seekers in schools 03:25

NEW YORK -- Emotions are running high at some New York City public schools where parents are protesting the city's plan to house asylum seekers there. 

Some parents started gathering at P.S. 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, with signs and banners as early as 3:30 a.m. Tuesday. They're calling on the mayor to "protect the kids" and find another solution. 

Watch Ali Bauman's report

Families voice frustrations with NYC housing asylum seekers in schools 02:31

From Williamsburg to Sunset Park, parents, children and community leaders are making it clear they do not want asylum seekers inside school buildings. 

"We have a crisis that has been brought to our country, our state, our city, and now it's in our schools. How soon until it is in our homes? These children deserve better," community advocate Ray Denaro said. 

"It's inhumane. It's not good living conditions for them, either. They need to be properly placed, and the safety of our children," said parent Valerie Caraballo. 

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Dozens of cots have been set up inside the school gymnasium ahead of the asylum seekers' arrival.

The city says it has opened more than 150 emergency shelters and eight large-scale humanitarian relief centers to serve more than 65,000 asylum seekers, and it continues to look for additional spaces.

Those voicing their concerns say the lack of space, bathroom facilities and construction at P.S. 172 could pose a big problem. 

"We have a very small space to work with. To have children moving around and also asylum seekers moving around, the likelihood that there will be contact between the two parties is guaranteed," PTA co-president Samantha Clark said. 

"They did this on their own, especially our mayor. This has nothing to do with the migrant issue. This has to do more with safety issues for our kids," said one parent. 

"It's not the fact that we are against immigration. It just wasn't planned out correctly," parent Aramis Rosa said.

"We want them here the right way, not this way," said grandmother Myrna Negron.

Parents packed into the school Tuesday night to voice their frustrations.

"We work, and we pay taxes, and our taxes are going to people that we don't even know," said Carmen Lorenzo, a grandmother from Sunset Park.

Fifth grader Daniel Argueta brought a sign reading, "It's a learning environment, not a shelter."

"It's really dangerous for us to be near strangers," he said.

"I guess if the migrants are gonna stay here, I think it's safer for my child to be home," parent Laura Tapia said.

Tapia feels housing people in the gym isn't fair to the students or the asylum seekers.

"I come from immigrant parents ... A bigger space, a safer space would be better for them, as well," she said.

Watch Elijah Westbrook's report

Parents, students push back on plan to house asylum seekers in gyms 03:03

Parents were also protesting the city's plans to house asylum seekers outside P.S. 188 in Coney Island, which is now home to 75 asylum seekers.

At dismissal Tuesday, dozens of parents showed up with signs saying things like "Nothing against migrants but our children are our priority." They say they wish there was more notice and more transparency, and that the city would explore other unused properties instead of impacting their children.

"We are sorry you're displaced, but our school is not your space. I feel like there should be an alternative for them to go, even for their benefits," one protester said.

Parents at P.S. 188 say it came as a total surprise when they learned their children's gymnasium was being transformed to house asylum seekers.

"They didn't let nobody know anything," one protester said. "Our children are being deprived of their gym, and it's not fair."

Beyond concerns about their children missing out on sports and physical education, parents are worried about illness and safety.

"We don't know "We don't know anything about them. We don't know their background. We don't know where they're from," a protester named Norine said.

Some say they just want more information from leaders, but even local council member Ari Kagan is looking for answers.

"I talked to commissioner of Office of Emergency Management, and he told me that he can't give me any timeframe. He said that probably very soon they will leave. It's not going to be permanent shelter ... He never gave me days or weeks or years," he said.

CBS2's Natalie Duddridge met up with Coney Island Community Board 13 Chairwoman Lucy Mujica Diaz at a vacant building; she says that is unused space is a way better solution, with bathrooms and options for showers.

"If you look across the street, this is a city-owned building. It used to be an HRA building. This facility can be used for that purpose, and not put our children in a situation that they have placed them in now," she said.

Several other schools are being used as overflow.

Watch Natalie Duddridge's report

Parents protest NYC's plans to house asylum seekers at some schools 02:49

Earlier Friday, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso toured P.S. 17 in Williamsburg to see what the conditions are like.

"Cots lined up, about 71 cots, with small toiletries available to anyone that gets there. It's a brand new facility that just finished being built last year, so it has adequate bathrooms," he said.

Mayor Eric Adams responded to parents' frustration Tuesday, saying the city is looking into other options, such as school gyms that aren't directly connected to the buildings. 

"These are 20 self-standing gyms that currently [are] on our list of potential locations. We have not identified that this is going to happen. This is not every school gym in our city. These are the self-standing gyms that are not inside the school buildings," he said. "They are one of the areas that we are looking at. We are not there yet to state that this is going to be happening... But we have to create a list of locations, because the flow has not stopped, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop."

The mayor added the city expects 15 additional busloads of asylum seekers by the end of the week.

One other Brooklyn school is dealing with the same concerns -- P.S. 189 in Crown Heights.

City Hall says it's already spent $1 billion on the asylum seeker crisis since last July and estimate spending $4.3 billion by June of 2024.

"The city owns various buildings across the city, leases millions of square feet, and we also have enormous amount of commercial space that's currently available for rent," said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "So if we really wanted to put our heads together and move this forward, schools would be the last choice here, and I don't think we're at a place like that at this moment."

Officials are calling on the state and federal government for help.

With more asylum seekers expected to come this week, the mayor also extended an executive order loosening requirements in the city's right-to-shelter law that allows the city to put homeless families with children up in group settings, instead of their own rooms.

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