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Floyd Bennett Field Says Mayor Hasn’t Reached Out About His Migrant Housing Proposal There

While advocates threaten to sue over a mayoral order that allows barracks shelters, City Hall proposes sites that are news — even to officials who control them.

SHARE Floyd Bennett Field Says Mayor Hasn’t Reached Out About His Migrant Housing Proposal There

Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn is part of Gateway National Recreation Area, part of the National Park Service.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Mayor Eric Adams is facing blowback for moving to loosen the city’s decades-old right to shelter protections in anticipation of a new surge of migrants arriving from the U.S.-Mexico border.

Adams is meanwhile scrambling for shelter options, throwing out locations from a large public park in southernmost Brooklyn to a psychiatric hospital on the edge of Queens.

“We have to just use spaces,” the mayor said Thursday. “Floyd Bennett Field, Creedmoor, wherever. Everything is on the table.”

But at least one of those locations — Floyd Bennett Field in southern Brooklyn, which is federally owned and part of the National Park Service under the Gateway National Recreation Area — told THE CITY that the mayor has yet to reach out to them.

Daphne Yun, a spokesperson for Gateway, told THE CITY that the National Park Service has not yet received any calls from City Hall on possibly using any of their facilities to house migrants.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she was working closely with Adams to identify state properties. Hochul spokesperson Avi Small declined to say whether Creedmoor was under consideration specifically.  

Adams’ Emergency Executive Order published Wednesday evening waives the city’s obligation to “provide a bathroom, a refrigerator and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area” to homeless families — a move that has raised red flags for homeless advocates. 

Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for The Legal Aid Society, warned that waiving those protections could allow the city to place families with young kids in dangerous congregate settings where they are more susceptible to infectious diseases and sexual assault and abuse. The Legal Aid Society represents the Coalition for the Homeless in its decades-old legal case against the city that established minimum standards in 1981. 

“This order could potentially lead to the City regularly placing homeless families with children in congregate settings, a dangerous and widely condemned practice of the distant past,” Haskins said. “Mayor Adams is heading down a dangerous road.”

Haskins said Legal Aid is considering its options, including potentially a lawsuit.

Immigrant advocates greet migrants arriving at Port Authority from Texas, Dec. 19, 2022.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Adams issued his executive order just a day before the looming expiration Thursday at midnight of border restrictions known as Title 42. His administration has been on a frantic hunt for shelter space, moving so fast that the mayor is publicly announcing possible sites that came as surprises to local authorities.

Adams also said another possibility is using the former Creedmoor Psychiatric Facility in eastern Queens — a state-run, 55-acre campus that has been underutilized for decades and is currently the subject of a state search for proposed new uses.  

Asked about the rollback to the city’s right to shelter protections Thursday morning, the mayor defended the executive order, saying the city is facing an unprecedented logistical challenge, with 4,200 newly arrived migrants just last week, even 

“Our desire is not to put children and families in dormitory settings,” Adams said, adding that New York City’s response is better than in places like Chicago, where migrants are sleeping in police stations, or on the border, where they’re sleeping on the streets of El Paso. “Our desire is to manage a humanitarian crisis.”

For months, Adams has argued that right to shelter provisions don’t apply to his so-called Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, which are run by the public Health and Hospitals Corporation and not the city Department of Social Services.

In some of those facilities, like the ones that popped up on Randalls Island and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, conditions were already running contrary to longstanding shelter practices: beds were not spaced at the required three feet apart from one another, and there were more than 200 beds located at a single site. 

But with Title 42 expiring, Adams has argued his administration needs even more leeway to accommodate the expected surge in arrivals. So far however, Legal Aid had refrained from suing the city, opting instead to monitor the facilities closely, working with the city to recommend changes to improve conditions and to address legal deficiencies along the way. 

The mayor said city Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol called him last Sunday to say the city had run out of hotel space for asylum seekers. More than 37,500 are staying in 122 city emergency shelters, accounting for almost half of the city’s current homeless population, according to City Hall. 

“We have to pivot and shift,” Adams said. “So if we could use a hangar, we could use a warehouse space that could convert.”

They Will Come, Then Build It

In recent days, the Adams administration put out urgent calls to city agencies and nonprofits for large open-layout spaces like gymnasiums to house people. Officials have considered parks, airplane hangars and the notion of hastily constructed tiny homes. 

Over the weekend city officials sent migrant families with young children to sleep on cots at the Police Academy gymnasium in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park, the type of large congregate setting that most concerns advocates. Children had since been moved out of the facility, officials said. 

An Adams spokesperson said one city-sponsored bus brought a few dozen asylum seekers to a hotel in the town of Orange Lake, in Orange County, New York, on Thursday morning. 

Adams defended the transport as both needed and ethical.

“We’re paying for it, we’re only taking volunteers, we are communicating with the officials up there on what we’re doing,” he said.

“Now, some may not like it, but people can’t say we’re not communicating.”

At a press conference outside City Hall Thursday morning, immigrant activists and elected officials criticized the mayor and the federal government’s handling of a foreseeable situation that’s been coming down the pipeline for months with Title 42’s expiration.

“Why, after a year, are they scrambling to figure out what housing looks like?” asked City Councilmember Shahana Hanif. “We need a long-term solution that has yet to be presented.”

Others pointed to the dearth in funding of legal services for migrants and child care — both of which would help new arrivals get on their feet and rely less on the city’s support going forward. 

“Every single wave of immigration, Irish folks, Italians, Jews, Dominicans, Chinese folks, Bangladeshis, every single one of them was looked upon as a crisis when they arrived,” said city Comptroller Brad Lander. “They became the laborers and the caregivers and the small business owners and the entrepreneurs and the political leaders of the next generation. They became the New Yorkers of tomorrow.”

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