By Katie McFadden
On Sunday, November 12, migrant families began to arrive at the tent shelter facility at Floyd Bennett Field, only for a majority to turn around and get right back on the bus, finding what was provided to be subpar. But according to the city, that’s all we have left to offer.
The city of New York has seen 142,000 migrants come here since the migrant crisis began last year. Of those, roughly 65,000 remain in the city’s care, within its shelter system. As the crisis continues, Mayor Eric Adams and other city officials have run out of options and are now telling migrant families that Floyd Bennett Field is their only option, otherwise they’re on their own.
As two buses of migrant families arrived on Sunday, many decided they’d rather be on their own after seeing the facility at Floyd Bennett Field. Migrants who were interviewed by various media outlets explained that they came from the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan and were not told where they were going. On the bus ride to Brooklyn, they got to see just how isolated Floyd Bennett Field was. One man, who found work in the Bronx and whose children have been attending school in the Bronx, told the New York Post that it wouldn’t work for them because of the commute. They, and most of the families dropped off on Sunday, decided to leave. They were asked to sign releases saying they would no longer be in the city’s care. They were then taken by a shuttle bus to the Stillwell Avenue train station in Coney Island to go wherever they wanted.
Some families opted to stay. According to other city media outlets, as many as 10 to 13 families are living in the shelter that can fit up to 2,000 people. One mother who spent the night told NY1 Noticias that the facility was very cold, they were sleeping on cots and mentioned having to take her children outside to use the bathroom facilities. She also expressed concerns over the location, as she’s trying to find work.
As of now, newly arriving migrant families are being told Floyd Bennett Field is their only option. But many have already been warned by returning families to avoid the facility altogether. In an interview with the New York Post, one 23-year-old Venezuelan father who arrived from Texas, said they refused to go to Floyd Bennett Field after being warned. “We saw people returned with children. They say it’s not suitable there. There is nothing there … not even a television,” he told the Post.
Local elected officials like Councilwoman Joann Ariola and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jaime Williams have been trying to sound the alarm on the poor conditions of the Floyd Bennett Field shelter before it opened. But even Ariola says she was surprised by a majority rejecting the offer. “I could not have predicted it. I knew how bad it was, how dangerous, how ill-suited it is, but I was quite surprised that right on sight, the migrants realized this was no place for their families due to the lack of transportation, the lack of places for their kids to go to school and facilities that are semi-congregate living arrangements. When they saw that, they realized it was no place for them and they preferred to get back on the bus and live with uncertainty rather than stay there,” Ariola said.
There also seems to be some uncertainty with the legal battle against the shelter, mainly, when the next court date will be. A hearing for injunction case was supposed to occur on Friday, November 9 at the Richmond County Supreme Court in front of Judge Wayne Ozzi. However, this case was consolidated with the St. John Villa case in Staten Island, and last Friday, according to Ariola, when the judge took the bench, he went out of order on the calendar, taking the St. John Villa Case first. Being that the St. John Villa shelter is no longer running after being shut down by the FDNY, all parties involved decided to dismiss that case, leaving the Floyd Bennett case on its own. “Now we don’t have any case to consolidate to,” Ariola said.
In order to avoid any more delays with the court case, Ariola, Williams and the other plaintiffs agreed to have the case moved back to Brooklyn where Floyd Bennett Field is located, in front of Judge Peter Sweeney at Kings County Supreme Court. As we go to press, a date for that hearing has not been determined. However, Ariola remains hopeful about the Brooklyn hearing. “Judge Ozzi had already set precedents in his early decision on the St. John Villa case, that are the centerpiece of our case,” Ariola said. She hopes those precedents will set the stage for a desirable outcome in the Brooklyn hearing.