By Katie McFadden
The migrant housing situation at Floyd Bennett Field is ever changing. This week was full of new developments with the court case and activity at the site, plus a town hall, a press conference and ongoing protests in response to the issue.
As we go to press, according to Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s office, the first group of migrants could be arriving as soon as this weekend. “Sources have confirmed to our office that the first 500 migrants set to arrive at Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) will be families. These individuals will be arriving by the end of the month,” Ariola shared on Tuesday. This comes just after the city got to work last week, quickly erecting four massive tents on Runway 19 at FBF and bringing in portable bathrooms in anticipation of welcoming the migrants.
The other latest development involves the ongoing court case saga. After a federal judge remanded the order to show cause for an injunction case back to the NYS Supreme Court in Richmond County, a hearing that is supposed to happen on November 3, the city challenged this in an attempt to have the hearing rejected entirely by taking it to the 2nd Division of the NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in Brooklyn.
In response to that move, Ariola said, “This is now the third attempt by the city to have this hearing changed. The city is clearly getting desperate here. They are doing everything they can to prevent this issue from being heard in Richmond County before Judge Ozzi, where it is supposed to be.” Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, who has been advocating on behalf of her constituents in Brooklyn added, “I am certain that, just like the previous attempt, this one will also be rejected.”
As we go to press, after a quick hearing on Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Williams and Ariola were right. Judge Joseph Maltese at the Appellate Court in Brooklyn declined to entertain the city’s request. Barring no other underhanded moves by the city, the injunction case will move forward in Richmond Country on November 3.
Meanwhile, the communities surrounding Floyd Bennett Field have been gathering for town halls, press conferences and protests in response to the matter. One was being held on the evening of Wednesday, October 25, led by Councilwoman Ariola and Assemblywoman Williams. It was one of many protests, as the local leaders put out a call for ongoing protests, having community members signing up to take on shifts to peacefully assemble outside the entrance to Floyd Bennett Field all week. On Monday, October 23, Ariola, Williams and community members also gathered for a press conference where the leaders provided the latest details up to that point.
Additionally, on Tuesday evening, October 24, 77 WABC radio hosts, local resident Sid Rosenberg, and Curtis Sliwa, called for a Rockaway Town Hall to discuss their latest plan to tackle the migrant shelter issue. The town hall came ahead of a second one set for Thursday evening in Brooklyn. On Tuesday, the Knights of Columbus on Beach 90th Street was left with standing room only as locals came out to hear more about the shelter.
Rosenberg hosted the town hall. “I have nothing against these people, these migrants, but we don’t know who they are,” Rosenberg said, going on to speak about the issues taking place among Israel and Hamas, and expressing concern that a similar terrorist attack could take place locally with unvetted people living nearby. He then introduced Tom Willis, who announced the local elected officials that were invited to the town hall from the communities surrounding Floyd Bennett Field. Willis said that Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, Senator James Sanders and Congressman Gregory Meeks all remained silent on the invitation to come or provide comment. Councilwoman Ariola sent Margaret Powers as her representative and Assemblywoman Williams sent Donald Cranston as her representative, as both were dealing with the latest news of the city taking the hearing to a court in Brooklyn. Powers, her husband, Paul King and Tom Sullivan, candidate for assembly, were all welcomed to speak before Curtis Sliwa.
Sliwa spoke for more than half an hour, leaving guests with a hint of a plan for moving forward. Sliwa expressed his beliefs that the city’s latest efforts to bring in 500 migrant families as opposed to thousands of single men will ultimately be a bait and switch, as he expects Legal Aid to step in and tell the city they can’t house families in tents in a flood zone. “The city is going to bring in, initially, some families with children as a photo opportunity. They got room for more tents. They want to bring in 7,500 single able-bodied men. That’s the plan. Eric Adams is going to say Legal Aid tied me up in knots, I have to accept single able-bodied men,” Sliwa said.
Sliwa also says he’s not optimistic about this issue being resolved in court. “I wish everyone luck in court but I’m not too hopeful,” he said. “This is going to involve civil disobedience,” he added, and referenced recent protests in other parts of the city, especially Staten Island, where residents took disruptive actions, such as making loud noise and flashing lights into migrant shelters, at rowdy protests that resulted in arrests.
But he told folks to hold off on such drastic actions. “Let’s see if there are women and children that come in, because if all of a sudden you go out of your mind, looking like crazed people screaming at women and children, you are going to set back this effort, so hold your horses. Don’t protest against women and children,” he said. “They’re going to bring in the men, and then we’re going to go to work.” He also advised to hold off on protests with small turnouts, as he says it shows the city that there isn’t much support for the effort to stop the migrant shelter.
Sliwa claims responsibility for getting eight migrant shelter across the city shut down by working with fire marshals and wardens to do inspections of these facilities, ultimately getting them closed due to fire and safety hazards. Although tents at FBF provide a different circumstance, Sliwa plans on taking a similar approach when needed. He also plans on taking action against any illegal motorbikes brought to the site since those vehicles need to be registered. Sliwa also claimed that he has “rats” or informants at City Hall that provide him intel that he uses to take action. “Politicians, stay in your lane, Lawyers, stay in your lane. Let me figure this out with the rebels. Hold your fire, let’s see what happens with this lawsuit. We hope for the best but if this gets dismissed, we gotta go to the bullpen,” Sliwa said. “We’re gonna do the work. We gotta be united in our efforts.”