By Katie McFadden
Things had been quiet on the potential Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter, but news came out on Tuesday that the state could be signing off on the lease to utilize the federal land that the Biden administration gave approval for in late August, any day now. Local elected officials say they’re ready to take legal action against the use of the site as soon as a lease is signed.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Joann Ariola found out via a post on X (formerly Twitter), that the lease could be signed imminently. It came after Ariola and other local elected officials had asked for a meeting with Governor Kathy Hochul’s office to answer questions about the potential use of Floyd Bennett Field, after no questions had gone answered at a previous meeting on August 23. “On Monday, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato reached out to the governor’s office because we had been seeking a follow up meeting and was told that there was no reason for follow up because nothing had changed,” Ariola told The Rockaway Times. “Only to see a Tweet that said it was happening, and when I spoke to a number of people who have knowledge of it, they confirmed that there should be a lease signed in the next couple of days.”
Ariola said this won’t end without a legal fight. Upon hearing the rumor that the lease may be signed, Ariola contacted an attorney that local elected officials have been working with to write up an injunction. According to Ariola, more than 30 plaintiffs, including bipartisan support from elected officials from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, community leaders and individuals, are part of the injunction that will be filed as soon as any lease is signed. “What the governor is doing is completely illegal. Without a federal state of emergency, you cannot use federal parks for any type of residential purposes. On that property in Floyd Bennett Field is counterterrorism, NYPD training, the aviation unit, U.S. Marines, training for DSNY, Aviator Sports Complex, the flower garden, and a very large food distribution center that people experiencing food insecurity come to, all of which would be at risk because of either 2,500 or 7,500 unvetted single illegal migrants being placed there. I believe there is going to be another Orchard Beach situation where millions of taxpayer dollars are spent to erect a base camp, only for it to be dismantled because we get a large storm.”
This came after Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jaime Williams went to Floyd Bennett Field after heavy rains on September 10, to show the flooded conditions of the runways at the site. At Tuesday’s Community Board 14 meeting. Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato spoke further on this saying, “I’m not against this process for asylum seekers but I don’t think it’s humane to put them in Floyd Bennett Field where you’re putting folks in a flood area. I view this as a federal problem and we need help,” she said, adding that she, Williams and Ariola would be holding a press conference on this matter at Floyd Bennett Field on Wednesday morning. At the press conference, each official spoke more on their concerns and the attorney they’re working with was present to discuss some of the ways they will be fighting the shelter by legal means.
As the migrant crisis affects the five boroughs, Ariola says this is much bigger than a local issue. “At the end of the day, we have to close our borders. Even if we got millions in federal dollars, what good would it be when we have open borders? We have to vet asylum seekers from legal entry points, and we have to allow ICE to do their job so those that do not have absolute asylum can be deported. At the Roosevelt Hotel, 41 migrants have been arrested so far and none of them are deported. Now we’re facing budget cuts. We have to close our borders.”
Another rally against the Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter is planned for Thursday, September 14 at 7 p.m. at the entrance to FBF.