Officials Gather at Floyd Bennett to Demand Schumer Move Legislation Forward

 Officials Gather at Floyd Bennett to Demand Schumer Move Legislation Forward

By Katie McFadden

On a rainy Thursday, January 25, elected officials and a union representative for the U.S. Park Police held a press conference in front of the migrant tents at Floyd Bennett Field to speak on some of the issues taking place there, in an effort to urge Senator Charles Schumer to bring legislation that could curb the border crisis or revoke the lease for Floyd Bennett Field, to a vote in the senate.

Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis, who oversees parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, was joined by local Councilwoman Joann Ariola and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jaime Williams at Floyd Bennett Field to show bipartisan support for moving the bills forward. In late November, with bipartisan support, the House passed Malliotakis’ bill, the Protecting our Communities from Failure to Secure the Border Act of 2023 (H.R.5283), that would prohibit federal funding from being used to provide housing for migrants on federal land, including national parks. If passed, this bill would immediately revoke the lease for Floyd Bennett Field. However, it still hasn’t been brought to the senate for a vote. Meanwhile, H.R. 2, the Secure Our Border Act, passed the House in May and also hasn’t been brought to the Senate for a vote. Malliotakis, Ariola and Williams explained why they hope to see these bills move forward.

All three women expressed that they have been saying from the start why housing migrants at Floyd Bennett Field would be a bad idea. “We said from the very beginning that we had concerns about Floyd Bennett Field or any of our federal parks being used as migrant encampments,” Malliotakis said. “As we’re seeing the weather and the ponding, from day one we called it that this place was a flood zone, an unsuitable place for any man, woman or child to live,” Williams said.

As a federal representative, Malliotakis explained how the border crisis is impacting the country. “What we’re facing is completely unsustainable. President Biden issued dozens of executive orders and policy changes that completely opened our border and allowed for this immigration,” Malliotakis said. “Every person that’s coming through our southern border is paying thousands of dollars to the drug cartels to be smuggled here. That to me is unconscionable. We’ve always been a generous nation. We’ve always been one that has welcomed immigrants, my parents included. But there needs to be a process, there needs to be order, it needs to be sustainable, and we certainly as United States government, should not be encouraging people to take a dangerous, treacherous journey where they are being exploited.”

Speaking on New York’s handling of the crisis, Malliotakis said she believes the city’s right to shelter law is being misinterpreted. “It was intended for homeless New Yorkers. Right to shelter does not extend to citizens of other countries. There are eight billion people on the planet, if they all came to New York City, they would be entitled to free housing? How does that make any sense?” she said. “As the mayor said himself, this is destroying New York City. It’s certainly bankrupting NYC. To make matters worse, we’re seeing individuals at some of these sites even committing crime, where the city is refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There’s been robberies and shoplifting, there have been many assaults, there have been police officers assaulted, there have been unlicensed and drunk driving, there has been domestic violence at this particular location, we’ve seen a murder at another migrant encampment on Roosevelt Island, we’ve seen multiple stabbings. This is just unacceptable by anyone that has any common sense.”

Ariola explained how the encampment has impacted her constituents. “We have complaints from the adjacent community that I represent, in Belle Harbor, Neponsit and Broad Channel, where there has been crime and illegal scooters and mopeds on sidewalks and potential break-ins at homes and begging at doors. We can no longer go on like this, our city cannot sustain it,” she said. “It is destroying our national park. There has been garbage and clothing strewn all over and it’s unfair that the National Park Service and the City of New York and their essential services have to be burdened.”

Williams, the assemblywoman whose district encompasses Floyd Bennett Field and an immigrant herself, explained how the wider crisis is impacting her area and the country as a whole “We have a federal government that has chosen to turn a blind eye to a national crisis. We’re seeing that the government in New York has taken it upon themselves to throw money at a federal issue. Our governor has outlined 2.4 billion dollars for the migrant services. Every taxpayer in New York state should be appalled. We have to make sensible, common-sense decisions, and it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at this, if the border isn’t closed, it is not going to stop,” she said. She went on to speak about how James Madison High School being used as a last-minute evacuation center for FBF migrants, impacted her own child who is a student there. But this crisis has not just impacted her own family. “For our residents, there has been a factor of lawlessness that we’re seeing from panhandling to shoplifting, from children being kept away from school to beg on the street,” she said. “You ask yourself, is that the American Dream?”

Kent Spencer, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union for the U.S. Park Police, was also on hand to explain how the shelter has strained his officers. He explained that only two officers oversee the entire area of Floyd Bennett Field to Riis Park and the federal beaches. “Our patrol has been diverted from taking care of what we’re supposed to be taking care of,” he said, explaining some of the incidents that have occurred since the tents opened in November. “We had a bomb threat against the tent itself, that didn’t come to anything. We’ve had unpermitted events, 200 to 300 people setting up makeshift marketplaces and selling things illegally, parties, loud music,” Spencer said. “You can also see all the trash that’s come about since this tent has popped up and we’ve had warrants in that tent where the NYPD warrant squad was supposed to take someone out of here that had a warrant for their arrest, and they were denied entry by the contracted security guards. This is U.S. Park Police federal jurisdiction and we’ve been denied entry. We had a child that swallowed bleach and they delayed our entry in there because they didn’t want our officers to gain access to that facility, so these are huge concerns that we have. The spring and summer months are coming, and this place gets really busy at that time, especially the beaches. Once it starts getting warmer, these incidents are going to increase.”

All agreed that something must be done as soon as possible to address these issues. “We wait for Chuck Schumer to pass our border security act or his own bill. If he doesn’t like our bill, pass your own bill so we can reconcile the differences. We can’t negotiate with nothing,” Malliotakis said.

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