Residents of Brooklyn and Queens are up in arms, after learning that state government intends to construct and operate temporary shelters for illegal immigrants at Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) in coming weeks.
Those who attended the May 16th meeting of the Marine Park Community Association were given a copy of a letter written by Governor Kathy Hochul to President Joe Biden, in which the governor requests federal support through FEMA, DOD (Department of Defense) and NPS (National Park Service). She writes that “assistance in constructing and operating temporary housing on military installations and at FBF is necessary” and that “with Title 42 officially rescinded, and the anticipated weeks-long construction process,” that she would like her request approved “immediately.”
In her letter, Hochul states a number of concerning facts: that she “anticipates several thousand asylum seekers [will arrive] in New York City every week” and that the New York City shelter system has already exceeded its capacity “with 36,700 migrants at 120 locations…which have occupied more than 40% of mid-level hotel stock in NYC,” the sheer magnitude of people and the high financial burden on the backs of taxpayers being major points of contention with many of those in opposition to the plan.
At the meeting, (see “Marine Park Community Association Talks Migrants and Nature Center at May Meeting, page 4”) there was strong opposition from residents and local elected officials alike for a myriad of reasons. Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse declared the idea unsuitable, that “we don’t need no tent city,” and a representative for Assemblywoman Jaime Williams agreed that it was not a place for a migrant center, “that they would fight, fight, fight this.”
Since the meeting, the plan for FBF has continued to spark conversation and garner further opposition. Just as parents united in opposition to having migrants housed in the gym at P.S. 188 in Coney Island, and were successful, these residents intend to make their voices heard in order to prevent the same thing from happening so close to the Aviator Sports Center, where, they argue, children participate in ice skating and rock climbing. “I go jogging by there every morning,” said one resident, who wished to remain anonymous. “As a woman, I already don’t feel safe with the homeless sleeping in the fields; this is just too much.”
“Nearby Rockaway residents are not happy with the proposed plan either, and some Brooklyn and Queens residents say they plan to attend the Broad Channel Civic Association’s upcoming meeting. Residents from Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach and Canarsie have said they will participate if a protest is organized and hope elected officials will lead the way. “I hope this doesn’t make things worse in Kings Plaza,” said a resident in opposition. “Crime is bad enough, and with desperate people without money to be roaming around in the mall, nothing good can come of it.”
“I feel like we’ve been bulldozed,” said another resident. “There should have been a meeting where they asked for input from the community, but they just bypassed that step and went right around us.” Others have suggested alternative sites, from the Coast Guard barracks on Governors Island to defunct prisons and shuttered hotels, as well as former COVID-19 emergency facilities like the Navy Hospital Ship USNS Comfort (max capacity 500 people) and the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan (max capacity 2,500 people), which do not require additional taxpayer dollars for infrastructure and construction efforts.
“From what I gauged, the community is not for it,” said Bergen Beach Civic Association President Sal Calise, explaining that FBF has been described as isolated, antiquated, dilapidated and generally unsuitable as a place to live. Calise shared some of the feedback he has received from members of the community, saying that “they all believe something should be done to help migrants, but that it should be done in a well-planned, systematic and orderly fashion. The whole thing is a bad idea – for the migrants and the city. The Administration made NYC a sanctuary city, with no plan in place.”
While the fate of FBF still remains to be seen, it is clear that the state government will be up against quite a force if they intend to move forward with their controversial plan.