Local elected officials held a press conference at the entrance to Floyd Bennett Field on Wednesday, September 13th, to give residents an update on the status of Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to shelter 7,500 migrant men in a “tent city” at the former airfield, which is now a national park – located in a flood zone and near an emergency evacuation route. Invited representatives from the governor’s office were a no-show as they reportedly “had nothing to add” and did not see the need for a meeting.
Perhaps it’s because Gov. Hochul recently announced that they could be signing a lease agreement within a few days to place the “asylum seekers” in Floyd Bennett Field.
Hochul may want a migrant camp placed on a federal site, which is illegal, but three local elected officials are doing everything in their power to fight the plan, which the majority of their constituents are not in favor of either.
Assemblywoman Jaime Williams (D-59th Assembly District) was joined by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-23rd Assembly District) and Councilwoman Joann Ariola (R-32nd Council District) at the press conference, along with John Ciampoli, a lawyer they hired to file an injunction should the plan go forward.
Williams has reached out to Hochul requesting an environmental study on the site but never heard back. “Two nights ago, there was heavy rain on 9/11. Guess what happened? Flooding, water everywhere,” she said. Referring to Superstorm Sandy in 2012, she said that some of the people in the Rockaways and Gerritsen Beach have not been made whole. An additional 7,500 people would make evacuation in case of another storm a safety issue. “Right in front of us is Flatbush Avenue – the artery and evacuation route for higher lands.”
“We are here to stand as a community with our attorney, John Ciampoli, because once that lease is signed, we will go to court and fight this.”
A few days earlier, Mayor Eric Adams said that the migrant issue will “destroy our city.” Williams agrees, expressing concerns for the services that will be cut and affect our quality of life – services like sanitation, the fire and police departments, libraries, etc.
Williams is also calling on President Biden to close our borders, stating asylum seekers need to be vetted properly before entering the U.S.
Although Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato and Councilwoman Ariola represent Queens, the elected officials have collaborated as their districts share Jamaica Bay.
Pheffer Amato, who district covers all of the Rockaways, Howard Beach and Ozone Park, is concerned about an evacuation route for her constituents. “When we exit Rockaway, when there is a storm, we drive past this place. Are we going before or after the persons sheltered here?”
Ariola covers the western portion of the Rockaways, a stone’s throw from Floyd Bennett Field. She recalled that after Superstorm Sandy the site was used as a staging area for the military to help people that were put out of their homes.
“Floyd Bennett is in one of the lowest floodplains,” Ariola said. It’s at sea level. Those areas where they want to put a migrant base camp are flood zones, so it’s not safe. There are no residents here, and there is a reason why there are no residents here. So why put up a migrant base camp that would house 7,500 single men?”
The councilwoman is also concerned that the migrants are not vetted. “We don’t know who these people are. Are they asylum seekers, are they here illegally? They are not vetted; we don’t know their background or their country of origin. They are entering through Mexico and see flyers that say, ‘Come to New York – You’ll get free housing, food, education, free healthcare.’ Why wouldn’t they come? We need to stop that!”
Ciampoli explained that the constitution of New York State makes it an obligation of the state to care for the needy. “The needy of New York State, the citizens of New York State who are needy, not the citizens of Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.”
With hurricane season here, he said that the facility is integral to emergency management plans, including flying in relief supplies. “If we get hit by a hurricane on the airstrips here, you can’t land a plane on top of a tent city!”
“No tent city. This is federal parkland – you can’t use it for non-park purposes. This place is not zoned for residential purposes. It’s illegal. We will go to court to prevent it from being used for residential purposes.”
“Ask the mayor and governor – don’t sign that lease. It’s an illegal act. You should not be doing it. We will confront you in court if you do,” Ciampoli concluded.