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Parents protest plan to house asylum seekers in Brooklyn gymnasium

By Elijah Westbrook

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    NEW YORK (WCBS) — Emotions are running high at P.S. 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where parents are protesting the city’s plan to house asylum seekers there.

Some parents starting gathering 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.

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.

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.

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.

Two other Brooklyn schools are dealing with the same concerns — P.S. 189 in Crown Heights and P.S. 188 in Coney Island, which is now home to 75 asylum seekers.

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