Floyd Bennett Field shelter site opens in Brooklyn, but many migrants stay away

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By Dan Sears

Too remote. Too far from schools. Unsatisfactory accommodations.

Those are just some of the reasons cited by migrants refusing to stay in newly opened shelter space at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, according to Council Member Joann Ariola and Assemblyperson Jaime R. Williams.

Some two dozen families totaling 100 people were expected to be brought to the shelter site on Sunday, according to a statement from Williams and Ariola, who represent the area. An untold number declined the accommodations in large temporary tents, for the cited reasons and others.

“It’s proven over this weekend that the migrants could see upon arrival that this was not a good place to house individuals,” Ariola, a Republican, said Monday.

The planned 2,000-bed shelter at the former naval air station site and National Park Service greenspace has been decried by Ariola and Williams, who along with other elected officials are suing the city and state to block migrants from being housed there. The windswept former airfield is in the Marine Park section of southeast Brooklyn, along the shore of Jamaica Bay.

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Lawyers for the shelter foes are expected to ask a state Supreme Court judge to expedite a hearing on their request to block the city from using the property to house migrants, Ariola told Gothamist.

City Hall on Monday did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Floyd Bennett site is among 200 emergency shelters the city has set up to house an influx of new migrants that began arriving in New York City in spring 2022.

In a statement on Sunday, City Hall spokesperson Kayla Mamelak noted that 140,000 migrants have passed through the city’s intake system since then, and over 65,000 currently reside in city shelters.

“We have used every possible corner of New York City and are quite simply out of good options to shelter migrants,” Mamelak said in the statement.

Williams, a Democrat, posted live videos of the scene on her Facebook page on Sunday afternoon, showing families transported to Floyd Bennett returning to MTA buses, with adults rolling suitcases, lugging trash bags and tote bags, joined by children in strollers and on their backs.

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By Williams’ count, as yet unconfirmed by City Hall, two buses of migrants arrived at the site on Sunday, and the majority of newcomers refused to stay.

“Let them know that this is not the place for you guys to be, in an isolated area,” Williams told them. “Not the place for our families. They deserve better.”

The city leases 30 acres of land at Floyd Bennett Field, paying $1.73 million a month rent to the federal government, to be reimbursed by the state, for a total of $20.8 million annual rent.

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