By Katie McFadden
On Friday, May 12, word spread as folks in Rockaway caught wind of a letter Governor Kathy Hochul penned to President Joe Biden, specifically requesting permission to utilize Floyd Bennett Field, across the Marine Parkway Bridge in Brooklyn, as a place to house migrants as the country, and New York City feels the effects of Title 42 being lifted last week.
In her letter, Hochul said, “In anticipation of several thousand asylum seekers arriving in New York City every week, I am submitting this request for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to direct the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Park Service (NPS) to provide New York State assistance through the immediate construction and operation of temporary shelters on federal lands and property to house individuals seeking political asylum. The use of a portion of Floyd Bennett Field within the Gateway National Recreation Area and other spaces on military installations, including naval resources, in and across the Northeast is necessary to utilize all available space to maintain critical and essential public services, specifically sheltering and housing.”
The letter came a day after Mayor Eric Adams had mentioned federal Floyd Bennett Field as a potential location to use, while he also considers as many as 20 school gymnasiums around the city as a place to house the nearly 65,000 migrants that have arrived in NYC over the past year, and the anticipated 100,000 to arrive after Title 42 was lifted and the southern border was inundated by folks claiming to seek asylum. As New York State and City are self-designated as “sanctuaries” for asylum seekers, migrants have flocked to the area over the past year. Reports hit NY newspapers this week that the city is already spending $8 million a day on the migrants that have arrived in the city. To put things in perspective, according to Councilwoman Joann Ariola, the city’s Department of Veterans Services only receives about $5 million a year in the fiscal year budget. “Our city is going to go bankrupt,” Ariola said at Tuesday’s Belle Harbor Property Owners Association (BHPOA) meeting.
Immediately after word spread about Hochul’s letter, Ariola released a statement saying, “Opening additional migrant shelters within the five boroughs – even if they are placed on federal land using federal resources – will undoubtedly add to the strain that our city is already experiencing as a result of this wave of newcomers. Unless the governor intends for the federal government to also build a completely new, federally funded transportation network in the area, as well as federal schools and medical facilities, then this is something that will add undue burden to an already struggling system. Our schools and hospitals are already stressed to the breaking point as it is, and placing thousands of newcomers into the area will exacerbate this problem.”
She went on to cite Floyd Bennett Field’s lack of resources such as transportation as reasons for why it’s a bad location. “As concerned citizens, we must demand thoughtful and comprehensive solutions to the challenges posed by migration – solutions that prioritize the well-being of both American citizens and those seeking a better life within our borders. Placing additional newcomers in this portion of Brooklyn is not the solution we need. Not by any means. Instead, we should press for a more equitable dispersion of newcomers throughout the state, so no one area is overly laden with the weight of this issue. Floyd Bennett Field is not the answer to our migration problems,” she said, ending by asking Hochul to reconsider.
As we go to press, the Biden administration has not responded to Hochul’s request, and no further details have been released about what operations would look like at Floyd Bennett Field if migrants were housed there. However, locals are bracing for what could come. The topic became the main agenda item for Tuesday’s BHPOA meeting, and arguments got heated. The general consensus from the meeting was that a migrant facility at Floyd Bennett Field or any other local federal land is not desired.
The Rockaway Republican Club also released a statement addressing the matter saying, “If Governor Hochul has her way, illegal aliens who have not been vetted, will be in our National Park, a place with insufficient infrastructure and no support resources. Just as we have seen in Texas, it will be a humanitarian crisis… except here, migrants can walk out of Gateway and bring that crisis to Neponsit, Roxbury, Marine Park and other neighboring communities. It is a shortsighted, lose-lose proposition.
“It is past time for Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams and other leaders to find the courage to say, ‘Enough!’ No more exporting the federal government’s border failures into our cities and communities. The federal government must do its job at the border. Our leaders must not allow any more migrant buses to arrive in New York City. We understand that the vast majority of these migrants are not bad people. However, immigration must be done legally. The Rockaway Republican Club asks every elected official in southern Brooklyn and Queens to stand against Governor Hochul’s request for a migrant camp in Floyd Bennett Field.”
Throughout the week, radio personality Curtis Sliwa announced on his show that Fort Tilden was going to be used to house migrants. Councilwoman Joann Ariola was inundated with calls regarding this. She says she immediately went to Mayor Eric Adams to ask if it was true, to which she was told, “Nothing is off the table.” However, Senator Joe Addabbo reached out to Governor Hochul directly to ask about Fort Tilden, and he told Ariola, “I made inquiry and there’s no plan for Fort Tilden or any property in District 32.” A deputy chief of staff for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato also said at Tuesday’s BHPOA meeting, “Stacey doesn’t agree with this. She got on the phone with the governor’s office about Fort Tilden, and while it wasn’t mentioned, it is off the table.” The Rockaway Times reached out to NPS for information about Fort Tilden, including recent land surveying activities, but did not receive a response by press time.
Rumors had also spread about the NYPD training facility located across from Roxbury, which recently had new fencing put up. A representative for Ariola who lives in Roxbury said she spoke with NYPD, and the property is still part of the NYPD and they put fencing up as it is being used as a training facility for the Counterterrorism Bureau.
No matter what happens, Ariola said, “I’m not going down without a fight.” She advised all to inundate elected officials with calls and letters to let them know how they feel about this issue. Ariola can be reached at District32@nyc.council.gov or 718-318-6441. Senator James Sanders: Sanders@nysenate.gov or 718-523-3069. Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato: firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-945-9550. Congressman Gregory Meeks: email@example.com or 347-230-4032. The Mayor’s Office: firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-788-2781. The Governor’s Office: 212-681-4580 or 518-402-2292.