Construction of a tent shelter for asylum seekers at Floyd Bennett Field, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, began last week despite public outcry and the fact that federal parkland is not zoned for residential purposes.
A spokesperson for the National Parks Service (NPS) confirmed that “NPS and officials from New York state and city governments have finalized a lease for portions of Floyd Bennett Field.”
Mayor Eric Adams announced on October 16th that Floyd Bennett Field will open in the coming weeks. Originally planned to house 2,000 single men, the mayor said the site will provide 500 families with children seeking asylum a place to stay in a semi-congregate setting. Privacy dividers with locks will be installed for safety.
Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D59), Councilwoman Joann Ariola (D32) and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D23) formed a bipartisan coalition to halt the placement of the migrant shelter on a federal site. Court papers were filed with Richmond County Court on September 18th, but the lawsuit was moved to federal court when lawyers said the case related to federal law. On October 13th, a federal judge sent the case back to state court. On Tuesday night, the assemblywoman learned that the legal team for the city served papers to bring the case before the Appellate Division in Brooklyn.
Floyd Bennett Field is located in a flood zone, and recent heavy rainfall dumped over six inches of rain at the site. In addition, an environmental study was never conducted, and proper infrastructure is not in place at the former aviation field. Asylum seekers could arrive as early as this Sunday.
Assemblywoman Jaime Williams told the Canarsie Courier, “There is much confusion regarding what is currently happening in Floyd Bennett Field. Originally we were told there would be 2,500 single men. Then we were told that number might increase to 7,500 single men. Now some news outlets are reporting that 500 families will be placed there instead! My position has not changed – THIS IS AN UNSAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR ANY ADULT, AND IT’S ESPECIALLY UNSAFE FOR CHILDREN!”
In spite of the plea from elected officials and several protests by residents of southeast Brooklyn and the Rockaways, construction is underway. Crews have already erected four large structures within a fenced-in area at the rear of Runway 19. National Water Main Cleaning Co. has been hired to “flush out the manholes, concrete reinforce them and fix the channels down below so it [water] flows nicely,” a health and safety specialist for the company told the Canarsie Courier.
When asked about the future of Floyd Bennett Field as a recreation site, the NPS spokesperson said that “Floyd Bennett Field will remain accessible to the public while the lease is in place and the Floyd Bennett Field Reveal Initiative is still moving forward.”
Assemblywoman Williams remains confident that her court case will be won and the lease will be revoked. She is calling on her constituents to peacefully protest at the site 24/7 to make their voices loud and clear that a migrant shelter does not belong on our beloved parkland. Demonstrations kicked off on Monday, October 23rd, starting at 4 p.m. To register, visit: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSebjVJFLYhm5550s1z4fv-gqBmMh8f946dwyKsINdRK2XSjHg/viewform
Photos by Loretta Chin and Charles Jones