By Katie McFadden
Things are moving quickly at Floyd Bennett Field this week as new developments on the issue emerge.
On Tuesday, October 17 and into Wednesday, crews were seen erecting a tent structure on Floyd Bennett Field as new details have popped up this week regarding the land being used to house migrants.
A few weeks ago, Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Assemblywoman Jamie Williams and other elected officials and leaders in the area filed an injunction against Floyd Bennett Field being used as an area to house migrants. A hearing was scheduled for October 3, but the city and state sent the case to the federal court. However, on Monday, October 16, Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s office announced that Federal Judge Brian M. Cogan remanded the case back to state court after the judge ruled that the Mayor and the Governor failed to show that there was a federal question in the complaints that the plaintiffs brought.
“We are gratified that the case was sent back to the State court where it belongs,” Councilwoman Joann Ariola said. “We believe that the maneuver to push it up to the federal level was designed from the start to delay this court proceeding, which the city and Governor Hochul know they are going to lose. We can be heard far more quickly in State Supreme Court, which has already ruled against the city and state on similar complaints in the past.”
“We have said all along that the city and State entered into an illegal agreement because none of the environmental guidelines have been followed,” said Assemblywoman Jaime Williams. “We know that laws have been broken and we will prove that in State court.”
As we go to press, Councilwoman Ariola and the other plaintiffs are awaiting a new court date and are requesting that it happens as quickly as possible, especially with new developments in the mix.
As Ariola announced the latest developments with the court case, Mayor Eric Adams announced his latest plan. On Monday, October 16, Adams sent out a press release saying that Floyd Bennett Field will now house 500 families. “Floyd Bennett Field will open in the coming weeks to serve families with children seeking asylum in a semi-congregate setting. Privacy dividers with locks will be installed to provide approximately 500 families with children a place to stay.”
This was a move away from the original plan to house 2,000 single adult males at Floyd Bennett Field. This announcement came as Adams laid out the extent on the migrant crisis in New York City. “The city has made every effort to continue serving the more than 126,700 asylum seekers who have arrived in New York City since last spring, but with an average of approximately 600 people arriving daily in the last week and over 64,100 migrants still currently in the city’s care, New York City is full and past its breaking point.”
The move to house 500 families with children came after three other migrant shelters across NYC, including St. John’s Villa in Staten Island, were shut down by the FDNY due to fire code violations. It also comes as Adams announced that families with children will have 60 days to vacate the shelters they will be staying in and find alternative housing.
Councilwoman Ariola says she only found out about this change from the NY Post and wasn’t given advanced notice. In the wake of this news, not only are Ariola and the other plaintiffs awaiting a new court date, but they have also had to amend their case and resubmit it. “If there’s a worse idea than putting single males in a flood zone, it’s putting families with children in a flood zone,” Ariola said. “We were fighting this on our own, but now we’re seeing children’s advocacy groups come on board and people are waking up to Floyd Bennett Field not being a safe place for residents, whether its temporary or permanent housing. It’s not safe for single men, it’s definitely not safe for families, so our paperwork will ask for an emergency hearing on the injunction. We’ve seen them drop off cinder blocks and start to erect tents at Floyd Bennett Field now and we’re just going to keep pushing. I told the mayor’s people, you’re gonna wind up bringing lots of stuff there, it’s going to cost a lot of money to do that, and we’re going to get the injunction, and it’s going to hold.”
There may also be legal issues when it comes to housing families in a congregate setting. “According to Right to Shelter, how it reads, you have to have separate living arrangements for families, which the mayor feels if he puts up dividers with a lock, that is sufficient, but they also have to have separate bathrooms and kitchens, so he’s in violation of the current Right to Shelter law and how it’s written,” Ariola explained.
In addition to trying to expediate the injunction case, Ariola is meeting with congress on Thursday, in support of Rep. Nicole Maliotakis’ bill to prevent migrant shelters from being erected on U.S. military bases. “We’re going to continue to fight and make sure that Floyd Bennett Field is not used for any type of residential usage,” Ariola said. “We have been seeing rain every weekend and there’s been flooding there every weekend. I believe this administration has no idea what to do about this whole situation and they’re spitting out different and contradictory things every day and there’s nothing coming out of this administration that we can trust as absolute for what to do for the migrants.”
As this issue is constantly changing, Ariola recommends following her social media pages for the latest updates. “It’s changing by the moment and I’m following it by the moment, and I will post any changes that will come,” she said. The Rockaway Times will continue to provide updates on social media and in the newspaper as well.