As city and state officials scramble to find space to house the growing number of asylum seekers in the five boroughs, one promising potential location has remained off-limits: Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.
The decommissioned airfield in the Marine Park neighborhood of southern Brooklyn is overseen by the National Park Service, giving jurisdiction over the 1,300-acre waterfront space to the federal government — which has, thus far, barred New York from using it as temporary housing for migrants.
With plenty of land, and a low-density of people, Floyd Bennett Field could potentially provide significant suitable land for housing asylum seekers, as the number of migrants arriving in the city since last spring nears 100,000.
City officials have developed plans to erect tents in greenspaces around the Big Apple, including in Central Park and Randalls Island.
But the administration of President Joe Biden has refused to allow New York to utilize Floyd Bennett Field, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul, who had been pushing the feds to greenlight the idea.
“Getting the federal government to change its position and tell an agency — the Department of the Interior — that they now have to accept migrants has been a complicated journey,” Hochul said. “It’s an evolving process.”
The state’s chief executive specifically asked about Floyd Bennett Field, but was met with questions about legal and logistical concerns — though, she added that she was optimistic they could eventually allow usage of the former military airfield.
“It’s an evolving process,” she said. “But I did not take away from that a hard ‘no.’”
“Floyd Bennett Field could literally house 2,000 people,” she added in an interview on NY1 on Aug. 8.
The National Parks Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Another potential location, Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth, is also under consideration for migrant shelters, and the city is currently in talks with the Department of Homeland Security about a potential agreement to open that space.
As refugees continue arriving in the five boroughs, Mayor Eric Adams predicted that New York City could be forced to spend around $12 billion over the next three years on the migrant crisis.
Currently, nearly 60,000 people are living in nearly 200 emergency shelters set up around the Big Apple, according to New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol.
In addition to pleading with the federal government to allow usage of federally-managed land, Adams has also called for providing work authorizations for migrants, which would allow them to seek work — and potentially exit the shelter system entirely.
“I have heard it directly from all the asylum seekers I’ve spoken with, they want to work. There’s nothing more anti-American than not letting people work,” Hizzoner said. “Imagine the boost to our nation’s economy if we were to fill the hundreds of thousands of jobs that need workers right now. It’s the right thing to do, and it is smart economics.”