New York City evacuated on Tuesday about 500 families with children — nearly 2,000 people in total — from a massive tent shelter set up on a desolate former airplane runway in southern Brooklyn ahead of heavy rains and wind expected to hit the area.
More than a dozen buses lined up to take the migrants to James Madison High School, a few miles away, to spend the night. One family, wearing ponchos as rain began pelting down, described the scene inside the tent structure as chaotic, and said they would stay with a friend instead of going to the school.
Edison Chavez, 38, and Valeria Lopez, 36, evacuated to the school with their two sons, 10-year-old Alan and 5-year-old Iker. They came to New York from Ecuador and have lived at Floyd Bennett Field since arriving a month ago.
“They told me we had to evacuate because the tents might not have resisted the winds,” Mr. Chavez wrote in a text message in Spanish. “The last storm, we were scared because it seemed like the tents could’ve been blown away.”
“They were really loud, the metal in the tents,” he added.
Mayor Eric Adams, speaking to reporters in Albany earlier in the day, said that migrants had been temporarily relocated “out of an overabundance of caution.”
“We want to make sure that people are safe,” he said.
At a news conference in Manhattan, Zachary Iscol, the city’s emergency management commissioner, explained that the main reason for the evacuation was the wind, although the agency was also “concerned about flooding in and around Jamaica Bay.”
Mr. Iscol said that because the Floyd Bennett airplane runway is a historic site, constructing the tents using stakes in the ground was not allowed. He noted that the tents are in a coastal area that is especially prone to wind gusts.
Mr. Chavez said the migrants were told they would be sleeping on the floor at the high school, where staff members would hand out blankets. He and his wife hurriedly packed their immigration paperwork, jackets and clothing for their children, he said.
“Our kids are asking us why they brought us here, and we tell them because they have to repair the tents,” he said. “The life of a migrant is hard.”
The city has resorted to the use of tent structures to house an influx of migrants during the last two years. About 70,000 people are currently staying in homeless shelters, including tents and dozens of hotels. On Tuesday, the city evicted about 40 migrant families with children living in a Manhattan hotel, after placing a 60-day time limit on shelter stays late last year.
The city is legally required to shelter anyone who asks for a bed, and the families who were evicted can reapply for spots.
The migrant families living at Floyd Bennett Field do not face eviction yet, according to officials. They were moved to James Madison High School when after-school programming at the school ended, a spokeswoman for the Education Department said.
The migrants are scheduled to leave before classes begin in the morning, but the high school will operate remotely on Wednesday, the spokeswoman added, a move that has drawn backlash from some parents and conservative politicians.
Luisbeli Mendoza, 24, was staying at the school with her husband, Carlos Quiroz, and their two children, ages 8 and 5. They arrived in the city a month ago after traveling from their home in Venezuela. She said they would be sleeping in seats in the school auditorium and would be taken back to the tent shelter at 5 a.m. on Wednesday. She added that during a previous storm, water got into the tent and the family got wet.
“We’re newly arrived and we’re scared. We don’t know anything,” she said in a text message.
Wesley Parnell, Claire Fahy and Troy Closson contributed reporting.