Frustrated, angry and anxious Marine Park residents, eager to discuss the threat of plans to house thousands of migrants at Floyd Bennett Field (FBF), packed the Carmine Carro Community Center at 3000 Fillmore Avenue on the evening of Tuesday, September 19th, for the first meeting of the Marine Park Community Association (MPCA) after the summer hiatus.
MPCA President Rob Mazzuchin stated, “There is no mistaking the fact that the majority of the Community is against the migrant camp at Floyd Bennett,” in their monthly community newsletter describing what had occurred over the summer. “We’re fighting this every way we can and we need you to fight it every way you can,” he said.
After receiving word in August of plans to house 2,500 single adult male migrants at FBF and three bipartisan protest rallies citing issues related to the illegal use of national park land for a migrant camp; violation of the NYS Constitution and state, federal and local laws; security; public health; the lack of an environmental study and proper infrastructure to safely house migrants in a flood zone; improper vetting; and more, city officials received notice on the eve of Rosh Hashanah that a one-year lease between the city and the federal government to house migrants at FBF was effective as of September 15th.
The initial lease allows for the use of four parcels of land totaling about 30 acres, including a portion of runway 19, a portion of Hangar B/Seaplane Parking Lot and two Campground areas at a monthly rental rate of $1,733,750, and a Management and Oversight Rent in the amount of $7,000,000 annually to temporarily shelter and provide services to a maximum of 2,000 migrants. Officials fear that the number is subject to change and may swell to as many as 7,500.
D59 Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, D32 Councilwoman Joann Ariola and D23 Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato formed a bipartisan coalition that has led the fight, with others, to halt the placement of a migrant camp base at FBF from the beginning.
Williams announced that court papers had been filed the evening before and signed by a judge; she also plans to testify before Congress on Wednesday, September 27th. A court date is set for October 3rdat the Richmond County Supreme Court. The lawsuit includes 39 plaintiffs consisting of a bipartisan group of elected officials, civic presidents, community leaders and residents.
“This is going to impact every single person in this state financially,” Williams said, citing the over $20 million annual cost to house the migrants. “Where is that coming from?” she asked and then pointed to everyone and said, “You, the taxpayers,’” stating that it was an abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Residents expressed concern about their safety and that of their children. They were worried about how it would affect the values of their homes and the stability of their neighborhood. Others said that priorities should be placed on helping those already in the U.S. who are homeless, struggling with housing or who have paid their dues by entering the country legally and need help too.
“They have all these different pronouns to describe the illegal migrants. ‘No, they’re not illegal, they’re seeking asylum.’ Do you think 100,000 plus will be granted asylum? I don’t think so, but at the end of the day, you want to put them in our backyard in a residential community,” Williams said.
Williams described how migrants placed in a location with few transportation options and no place to go could end up wandering through nearby neighborhoods, major shopping area parking lots and street medians, causing a strain on the police and other essential services, affecting the quality of life in the area.
Another concern was for the people and children who use FBF, which is a very active site with a multitude of activities serving the community. Others suggested using the Jacob Javits Center or Central Park as alternative sites.
“It’s citizens over politics,” Williams said. Many agreed that it was not about politics, but a bipartisan issue affecting the majority of citizens in the community.
Other than State Senator Simcha Felder who introduced himself earlier as their representative due to redistricting, residents wanted to know where their elected officials stood on the matter and why they were not present at the meeting, vowing to confront them at the Community Board 18 meeting the following evening. A petition was circulated and voter registration cards were distributed as constituents were urged to use the power of their votes at the next election.
The day after the meeting, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that after meeting with President Biden, White House officials announced that eligible individuals from Venezuela, who have continuously resided in the United States on or before July 31, 2023, will be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status. This would allow the state to expedite work authorizations for eligible migrants and assist them out of the shelter system.
The Canarsie Courier reached out to the Mayor’s press office for information and received this statement on September 20th: “Floyd Bennett will host [approximately] 2,000 people and open in the coming weeks,” a representative said, but that remains to be seen in light of the recently filed injunction, announcement by Gov. Hochul and plans to file an injunction on the federal level.