Published: May. 16, 2023, 7:00 a.m.

By Paul Liotta |

Asylum seekers  arrive at the vacant Richard H. Hungerford School in Clifton on Sunday, May 14, 2023. (Courtesy/ C.T. Lowney)Courtesy/ C.T. Lowney

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It appears part of a new strategy from Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to deal with the large influx of migrants coming into New York City is to use vacant Department of Education properties as temporary housing.

The former Richard H. Hungerford School on Tompkins Avenue in Clifton saw its first wave of migrant arrivals Sunday evening as the city searches for options to house new arrivals in the five boroughs.

In addition, an unused gymnasium at PS 188 in Coney Island, Brooklyn has been set up as an overflow facility to temporarily house migrants, according to City Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn). And Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) said a third school facility at PS 132 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has been set up as a site for migrants.

But local elected officials say vacant public school buildings are not a solution for migrants housing.

“This is an evolving situation, but let me be clear. The safety of our community is my top priority. I expect clear timelines on when the migrants will arrive, when they will depart, and a mitigation plan to avoid as much disruption to our community as possible,” said City Councilwoman Kamillah Hanks (D-North Shore), whose district includes the Staten Island site. “That said, it is clear that we need a long-term plan to address this situation, and I call upon our partners in the state and federal government to stop playing politics with this situation and come up with real, concrete solutions.”

Hanks said she expects city officials to keep her updated about the former school’s use, but the real solution to the ongoing migrant crisis lies with higher levels of government.


A reader shared photos of people exiting a school bus on Sunday and entering the former Hungerford School where about 140 people will be housed, according to city officials. The school was relocated to the Michael J. Petrides Campus in Sunnyside last year.

Assemblyman Sam Pirrozzolo (R-Mid-Island) first brought the use of the school to the attention of the Advance/ Friday night.

The reader who shared the photos said she took the pictures around 8 p.m. when a busload of males were dropped off at the site.

Hungerford school
Cots seen set up inside the school’s gymnasium (Courtesy of Assemblyman Sam Pirozzolo)

City officials have set up at least four emergency shelters in Staten Island hotels to help house the migrants, many who have come seeking asylum.

“The sites currently being used or even considered for future use to house asylum seekers are not sustainable in the long-term for both these migrant populations and the communities that they are being placed in,” State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, who represents the district where the former Hungerford site is, said. “It is critical that the federal government step up to address this crisis.”


City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli (R-South Shore) and City Councilman David Carr (R-Mid-Island), both said they were unaware of any similar migrant centers for their districts, but that more needs to be done to address the ongoing crisis.

“This has to be the last straw for anyone still on the fence. This is some woke experiment gone off-the-wall,” Borelli said. “Migrants get more attention and resources than any other group in the city, and we are just turning New York into the world’s refugee camp.”

Carr referenced the city’s right-to-shelter policy, which Adams rolled back last week allowing for set-ups like the one in Clifton that doesn’t provide the same services seen in the city’s traditional shelter system.

A 1979 lawsuit and subsequent legal action made New York City one of three U.S. municipalities that has a “right to shelter” for all homeless people, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

A Coalition co-founder, attorney Robert Hayes, brought the suit in 1979 on behalf of Robert Callahan, a homeless man suffering from alcoholism who Hayes discovered sleeping on the street in Manhattan, according to the Coalition.

In a settlement, the city and state agreed to provide shelter and board to all homeless men who met the need standard for welfare or who were homeless “by reason of physical, mental or social dysfunction.” Women and children were added later, according to the Coalition.

Carr became the latest conservative elected official Monday to accuse the Adams administration of misinterpreting the right to shelter.

“Until the influx of migrants is halted at the border, we are going to continue to see them take advantage of New York City’s ridiculous ‘right-to-shelter’ policy,” he said. “The city has to limit this policy to exclude those who have never had any connection to our city because Staten Island, Brooklyn and indeed every borough is overwhelmed with migrant shelters.”

Adams has become a target of criticism for other strategies from his administration aimed at dealing with the influx of migrants, 4,200 of whom arrived in the five boroughs just last week. Many are being bused from Texas.

Local officials in Rockland and Orange counties have criticized New York City’s mayor for the city busing migrants to hotels in their jurisdictions.Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/South Brooklyn), Borough President Vito Fossella, and Pirozzolo have spoken out against the city’s migrant strategy.