Migrants returned to Staten Island school after court reverses ruling blocking city from using it as shelter

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NEW YORK — A Staten Island judge ordered Friday that Mayor Eric Adams’ administration cannot use an old private school in the borough as a migrant shelter — but the ruling was reversed within hours by a higher court, allowing the city to proceed with housing new arrivals at the site.

The initial decision by Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Wayne Ozzi to block the city from housing migrants at the St. John’s Villa Academy came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of local Republican politicians, including Borough President Vito Fosella, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Councilman Joe Borelli.

Their suit claimed the Adams administration would violate existing zoning restrictions, create “an unreasonable private nuisance” and “unduly burden” Staten Island by housing migrants at the school, which has been closed since 2018.

In his three-page ruling, Ozzi sided with the Republicans, writing that they are “likely to succeed on the merits of the case.” On that note, the judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the city from housing any migrants at the site at least until Sept. 6, when he scheduled a hearing for the parties to meet in court.

But within a few hours, Brooklyn Supreme Court Appellate Division Justice Carl Landicino overturned Ozzi’s decision, said Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak.

Landicino’s ruling was not immediately available on the court docket, but Mamelak said it was issued during an emergency hearing.

Soon after Ozzi’s ruling, city personnel started moving a group of migrants out of the school, video posted on social media by a PIX11 reporter showed.

But Adams’ office said city workers quickly returned the migrants to the site after Landicino’s ruling.

Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak said the city’s opting to use unconventional sites like St. John’s because it’s completely out of space in traditional shelter systems.

“We have opened 206 sites, including 15 large-scale humanitarian relief centers, and are constantly searching for new places to provide asylum seekers with the shelter they are asking for,” Mamelak said. “But let’s be clear: The sites we are now finding are the only options left. This situation demands a broader state and national solution.”

It’s unclear if the lawmakers plan to appeal.

The Staten Island legal developments come as the Adams administration scrambles to find room to house the tens of thousands of mostly Latin American migrants who have arrived in New York City since last spring.

According to the latest data, there are more than 59,000 migrants in city shelters, with hundreds more arriving every week.