Brooklyn high school receives bomb threat after sheltering migrants during storm

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By Dan Sears

A Brooklyn high school that housed nearly 2,000 migrants for one night during a powerful rainstorm received a bomb threat and multiple “hate calls,” the city’s top emergency management official said Wednesday.

The threats came amid a wave of outrage among some residents, Republican politicians and even the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, over the decision to house the migrants at James Madison High School in Marine Park after they were evacuated Tuesday afternoon from a nearby tent shelter at Floyd Bennett Field.

“These actions are not only deplorable, they are also criminal offenses,” said Zach Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner, during a virtual briefing. “This administration stands united against any hate or intimidation.”

He did not provide further details about the nature of the threats.

The migrants were back at the shelter at the former federal airfield by 4:15 a.m. Nevertheless, the school operated via remote learning Wednesday, fueling anger among some elected officials and parents who said the migrant crisis was coming at the expense of students.

“Let’s be clear about one thing: Remote learning equals no learning,” City Councilmember Vicki Paladino said in a statement.

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State Assemblymember Michael Novakhov of Brooklyn promoted a protest outside the school slamming the city’s “decision to prioritize migrants over our communities, budget, safety, and even the education of our children.”

Videos posted to social media captured an ugly scene at James Madison on Tuesday evening as the city bused migrants to the school.

“How does it feel that you kicked all the kids out of school tomorrow?” a woman who identified herself as “an aggravated mother” yelled at migrant families.

Elon Musk, who owns the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, and is worth $245 billion, also weighed in.

“This is what happens when you run out of hotel rooms,” he wrote on the platform. “Soon, cities will run out of schools to vacate. Then they will come for your homes.”

Iscol said police were investigating the bomb threat, along with the other menacing calls.

Mayor Eric Adams did not attend Iscol’s briefing but was at the school Tuesday night and commended officials for “doing a great job keeping asylum seekers safe and dry.”

Inside the high school, many migrant adults and children slept on the floor of an auditorium, despite city officials’ pledge to supply cots. Others opted to sleep in seats.

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“Some families stayed up all night,” migrant Yenifer Vargas, 29, told Gothamist in Spanish.

She said she’s been staying at Floyd Bennett Field for a month since arriving from Venezuela with her husband and three children, ages 4, 7 and 10.

At James Madison, she said, they slept on the floor.

“When we got there, my kids asked me ‘where are the beds?’” said Vargas, adding her children were too exhausted and achy to go to school Wednesday morning. “My kids were crying because they were uncomfortable.”

City officials acknowledged conditions at the high school were less than ideal but said schools are often used in emergency circumstances. They added that around 70,000 migrants have strained the city’s shelter system beyond capacity, with thousands of new arrivals coming each week.

Iscol said he did not foresee the city using James Madison as an emergency shelter again, amid forecasts of additional storms later this week.

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Adams has faced criticism from both ends of the political spectrum for housing families at Floyd Bennett Field, a far-flung former airfield in Jamaica Bay that is prone to flooding.

“No family, no kid should be here, this is not a place for families,” Vargas said.

Karen Yi and Jessica Gould contributed reporting to this story.

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