Storm Forces Floyd Bennett Field Migrants to Evacuate

By Katie McFadden

The migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field reached national headlines, including a mention by Elon Musk on X this week, as the migrants were forced to be evacuated on Tuesday evening, January 9, due to high winds and rains, and as an emergency option, James Madison High School was utilized for the night to house the migrants in its auditorium, gym and cafeteria.

This move came after complaints during last month’s high-wind storm, in which many of the migrants expressed fears over the tent shelters set up at Floyd Bennett Field not being stable enough. As Tuesday’s storm rolled in, the New York City Office of Emergency Management (NYCEM) put their precautionary evacuation plan into place. Seemingly last minute, details came out that NYCEM would be transporting the roughly 1,900 occupants of the tents to nearby James Madison High School, with as many as 40 Department of Education (DOE) buses.

As a result, the DOE sent out notices saying that Madison High School would need to resort to online learning on Wednesday, January 10, since the building was occupied on Tuesday night and the storm conditions continued into the early morning hours of Wednesday. The goal was to move the migrants out of Madison by 5 a.m. on Wednesday, to transport them back to Floyd Bennett Field, where the migrant children get buses to their own schools. By 4:30 a.m., the school was clear, but Madison students could not occupy the building. Outraged parents and elected officials called for a rally outside of the school at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Elected officials who have been saying from the start that Floyd Bennett Field is an unsuitable shelter, especially local Councilwoman Joann Ariola and Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, said this was predictable. “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so,” Councilwoman Ariola said. “This whole thing was so easily avoidable if the mayor and his administration had just listened to us from the beginning. Floyd Bennett Field is not the right location for a tent shelter like this for so many reasons – chief among them, the propensity for flooding and high winds. Now we are spending hard earned tax dollars to bus nearly 2,000 people into a high school for safety. This is unacceptable, and we need to end both this tent shelter, and this failed sanctuary city project immediately. Enough is enough.”

The migrants started moving into the Floyd Bennett Field shelter in mid-November, with many initially rejecting it due to the unsuitable conditions and remote location. However, as the migrant crisis worsens and more people arrive in New York City, options are running out. Many ultimately returned to Floyd Bennett Field and there is believed to be at least 1,900 people living in the tents, all families with children.

In addition to the emergency use of a nearby high school for the migrants on Tuesday, neighbors have reported other issues with the shelter residents allegedly impacting nearby residents. On Friday night, Assemblywoman Williams called U.S. Park Police as at least five unregistered vehicles without license plates were found parked on a grass area near the tents in Floyd Bennett Field. A few migrants from the tents came out as their vehicles were being towed to present titles for the vehicles, but they were removed regardless. Incidents of migrants knocking on doors from Marine Park, Brooklyn to Belle Harbor and Neponsit in Rockaway, asking for money, have also been on the rise.

However, seeing the humanitarian side of this crisis, many locals and organizations have stepped up to hold collections of clothing, toys, gift cards and other supplies to deliver directly to the migrants in need at Floyd Bennett Field.

The court hearing regarding this case will be held on Thursday, January 18 at the Kings County Supreme Court, when it is expected arguments will finally be heard. Meanwhile on Thursday, January 11 at 3 p.m., radio personality Curtis Sliwa is leading a protest against the shelter outside of Kings Plaza Mall in Brooklyn.

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