Floyd Bennett, Beach Issues & More at the BHPOA Meeting

By Katie McFadden

The latest Belle Harbor Property Owners Association (BHPOA) meeting on Tuesday, September 19 at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club was packed with neighbors eager to hear more about the migrant shelter situation at Floyd Bennett Field, beach construction updates and other concerns going on in the neighborhood.

President Paul King kicked off the meeting with some quick tidbits. First up was the matter of spotted lantern flies. As swarms of the invaders take over the peninsula, King warned that the time to take action against them is now, as they start to lay their eggs. He suggested scraping the eggs off of trees, putting them in a Ziploc bag with sanitizer and throwing them away.  He also spoke of the new businesses on Beach 129th Street including event space Jade Events, the new Panino Rustico/ Baya Bar, the new home for East Meets West and convenience store and deli, Healthy Eats, which had raised some alarms due to some concerning things the deli owner had posted on his social media accounts. The owner is trying to recover from that rocky introduction to the neighborhood, saying he has since experienced discrimination and vandalism, but the owner has allegedly not attempted to work with community partners to discuss ways to move forward, but instead went to City Hall to file a complaint against the neighborhood.

King also brought up the issue of the fate of the mosaic at Tribute Park and asked people to speak with him after the meeting about what position the civic should take on the matter.

Lastly, King addressed an issue regarding a longtime concern over a homeowner on Beach 134th Street that is allegedly living in horrendous conditions, including living with no water or electricity and allowing his home to deteriorate. The issue has worsened over years and elected officials are working on ways to help the man, including finding him a guardian and helping him to find an apartment to live in.

After the lightning round, King got to the matter of the migrant shelter lease being signed for Floyd Bennett Field. King provided a general summary of the one-year lease that would house up to 2,000 single males for $28 million in annual rent. Part of the lease calls for the city to make improvements to FBF, including upgrades to the campgrounds, money toward the school planned for the site, fixing the roads and more.  However, King cited issues taking place near other migrant shelters across the city, as neighbors have seen a decrease in quality of life around these areas. “I’m not saying I know anything about these specific people coming here, but real life problems are proving to be reality and everyone around this park has banded against it. Ultimately, the only way to stop this is in court,” King said. The city would be reimbursed by the state for the operation.

He then introduced Councilwoman Joann Ariola who spoke more about the injunction she and 38 other plaintiffs signed and filed in Richmond County Court on Tuesday. “This is absolutely illegal what they’re trying to do. We filed at 1:07 a.m. and that was subsequent to a meeting that we had with a congressional delegation that we will testify before next week to get help in making sure this doesn’t happen. The federal government has abandoned this and said we can make money on this and get improvements on the park, but where is Hochul getting the money from? She needs it from taxpayers,” Ariola said.

She went on to explain the ways in which this process was done illegally, including there being no environmental review, outreach to neighboring communities and above all, that Gateway National Recreation area was created for recreational use and was never meant to be used for residential purposes.

She also explained her concerns about the lease being potentially expanded. “Why do they need 30 acres when the lease is only for 2,000 migrants? We know the mayor’s chief of staff said they want 7,500 on TV. Why do they need 30 acres? Because they’re going to increase that number. We have 5,000 migrants coming into the city per week. They will amend the lease,” she said. She also brought up that the NYPD would be tasked with covering this area with the city being the lessee. “We don’t have enough patrols on our block as is. Then the mayor is saying 15% budget cuts will come in April, which means no overtime. Without overtime, how are we patrolling?”

She also gave more details on the injunction, saying they submitted an order to show cause. It was assigned to Justice Colon in Staten Island. “She signed an order for a hearing. We’re waiting on a date for the hearing where our lawyer will present the case. We served the state attorney general’s office and the court council. Court council has responded saying they would like to be heard. Nothing from Kathy Hochul’s attorney general or their office. We’re fighting it. If the injunction is signed, it will hold it all off. If it doesn’t, we’ll appeal it. It doesn’t stop them from starting to build it, so we have to work quickly. We’ll continue to fight this.” A representative for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato was also on hand to reiterate that the assemblywoman is also fighting this issue and is part of the injunction.

After the migrant issue was the latest update on the beaches. King shared some good news that Belle Harbor will have a normal summer next year as all Army Corps work on the groins and dunes will be complete. Unfortunately, the equipment will be moved to Beach 116th Street, which will continue to be used as a staging area for work being conducted on the east end. The only concern now for uptown is how residents will traverse the taller, reinforced dunes, as mobimats have already proven to create issues, with sand covering them or them shifting. Options are being discussed to make them more secure. There have been no updates to the designs of the few ADA ramps that will be built as crossovers. “We’re gonna be working at this for years to get something acceptable,” King said regarding sensible crossovers.

The meeting ended with old and new business. John Signorelli provided an update on the school construction on Beach 135th, saying the new school is complete and the SCA is at the stage of building a playground. Someone brought up an issue over the recent road improvement on that block, that didn’t take into account the construction trailer in the street, so the road was repaved around it and will need to be fixed once the trailer is gone. Another concern that was brought up was a potential recycling war, after a recent incident in which people using a van to collect bottles and cans, broke out a bat and threatened some of the longtime can collectors around the neighborhood. People were advised to call 911 if they see such threats. People were also advised to call 911 when they see people illegally parked to fish along the bay wall, an issue that has been increasing.

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