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Feds Approve Migrant Shelter at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn

Local officials oppose the planned shelter, saying it is a remote place to house people.

SHARE Feds Approve Migrant Shelter at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn

A former passenger terminal, now the Ryan Visitor Center, lies near Flatbush Avenue on one edge of the large Floyd Bennett Field park property.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

State and federal government officials have reached a tentative agreement to house migrants at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn after months of negotiations.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Monday that the Biden administration gave the OK for the city to use the former airfield to open another Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Response Center, or HERRC, joining two others on the grounds of Randall’s Island in Manhattan and the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens.

Floyd Bennett Field is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, a national park, so using it as a HERRC required federal permission. It served as an airfield from 1931 to 1971.

The governor said more than 2,000 people potentially could be housed at the site as New York City continues to struggle with an influx of migrant arrivals. It’s unclear when it may open. 

“Ultimately the path out of this crisis is granting work authorization immediately, so these individuals can move out of shelter and into independent living arrangements,” Hochul said in a statement.

Mayor Adams said he was “grateful” for the tentative agreement but didn’t say when a site could open — and continued to ask the federal government for more changes to help the migrants. 

“Because we haven’t seen meaningful policy changes that would alter the course of this crisis, we’ve been forced to play an unsustainable game of ‘whack-a-mole’, opening new site after new site as asylum-seekers continue to arrive by the thousands,” he said in a statement.

“We will continue to advocate for expedited work authorization for asylum-seekers, a federal declaration of emergency, and a national and state decompression strategy, and we’re committed to making today’s announcement the beginning of a new era of enhanced partnership between our local, state, and federal governments,” Adams’ statement continued.”

Local Opposition

Floyd Bennett Field was New York’s first airport but is now used mostly for recreation, with an ice skating rink, soccer fields and football fields. There is also fishing and “glamping” at the site, which stretches from Marine Park to Jamaica Bay.

City Councilmember Mercedes Narcisse, a Brooklyn Democrat whose district includes Floyd Bennett Field, cited the area’s isolation as one reason she didn’t support the plan to put thousands of people there. It is accessible mostly by car and the Q35 bus, which travels between Rockaway Park, Queens and Flatbush, Brooklyn. 

“Housing migrants in a tent city on the outskirts of Brooklyn seems like a plan destined to fail,” Narcisse said in a statement on Monday.

“Floyd Bennett Field is two-and-a-half miles from the nearest grocery store, over three miles from the nearest public school, and five-and-a-half miles from the closest hospital. Furthermore, as I have stated previously, any proposal to house individuals at this location, where infrastructure — such as adequate plumbing, heating, and cooling — is lacking, is one I cannot endorse,” she added.

Councilmember Joann Ariola, a Queens Republican whose district includes the nearby Rockaway peninsula, also does not support the plan and said she and other officials had not been notified of an agreement with the federal government.

“Our offices will continue to work together, with the mayor’s office, and alert the district IF a lease is signed by the city/state to use the property,” Ariola said in a statement on Monday. 

A Growing Crisis

More than 101,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in New York City since last spring, with more than 58,200 people currently in the city’s care, according to the mayor’s office.

The city has opened more than 200 sites to temporarily house them, which include 15 humanitarian relief centers like those on Randall’s Island and at Creedmoor.

Mayor Adams has asked for more federal and state support, as he says there’s no more space in the hotels, gyms, church centers, empty office buildings and other facilities the city has used to provide shelter. The dire scenario was on display last month as hundreds of migrants slept on the street outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown, which has served as an intake center. 

The Adams administration also began limiting the time migrants can stay at shelters, sending 60-day notices to those who have spent the most time. The directive was aimed at single asylum-seekers, as families can stay for longer periods at shelters, according to the mayor’s office.

The move has disrupted New York’s long-standing “right to shelter” policy, which had guaranteed unhoused people in the city a right to have a sheltered place to sleep. The Adams administration has argued in court to suspend the city’s long-standing right to shelter.

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