Several migrant families arrived at the newly-opened Floyd Bennett Field mega-shelter in southern Brooklyn on Sunday, only to look around and leave a few minutes later, according to a video posted online by a local pol.
In the video taken by Assembly Member Jamie Williams (D-Brooklyn), who represents the area and was on the scene, a group of migrant families piled out of an MTA bus, looked around the remote shelter site and then boarded another bus out of there shortly after. Williams is against the 2,000-bed shelter and is part of a lawsuit aiming to block it.
“Okay, they left one bus, now they’re going into another bus?” Williams can be heard saying in the video, as a group of migrant families can be seen walking from one bus to another.
“This makes no sense,” she added. “This is the craziness that we’re talking about that you don’t see on the television.”
In Williams’ video, she said the migrants “weren’t told where they were going.” She was also told by a camerawoman that one of the migrants said he lives in the Bronx and his children attend school there.
The shelter at Floyd Bennett is one of Mayor Eric Adams’ administration’s large-scale Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers (HERRCs). It is built on a decommissioned airfield in federal parkland that the city is leasing from the Biden administration.
The city refers to the site as a semi-congregate shelter, due to it being divided into small cubicles with beds and locking doors called “pods” where families will live. By contrast, other HERRCs, designed for single adults, have rows of cots in the same room without dividers.
The site has been dogged by controversy since the city inked a deal with the feds for its use in September, with critics on the right and the left citing its remote location, potential dangers of the pods for children and fire safety concerns. Furthermore, a bipartisan group, including Williams and several GOP lawmakers, filed a suit to block the shelter that is still pending in state court.
A City Hall spokesperson confirmed to amNewYork Metro that some families said they didn’t want to stay at Floyd Bennett upon arriving there Sunday. The families who chose to leave the site did so knowing there were no other shelter beds for them, according to the spokesperson, and signed release forms acknowledging they were exiting the city’s care.
The spokesperson said the migrants who left have the option to return to Floyd Bennett if they reapply at the Roosevelt Hotel intake center in Midtown Manhattan.
They echoed a familiar talking point from the mayor and his top aides: that while the administration has provided for over 139,000 new arrivals since April 2022, with 65,000 still in its care, “we have used every possible corner of New York City and are quite simply out of good options to shelter migrants.”
Several more families who arrived on another bus decided to stay, the spokesperson said.
Adams posted a video from the site to social media Sunday night, discussing what it has to offer before adding it is not the “best conditions.”
Homeless and immigrant advocates were quick to point out that families left Floyd Bennett on Sunday because of issues with the HERRC they have previously highlighted.
Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director David Giffen told amNewYork Metro he understands why the migrants did not want to stay considering the site is an “entirely inappropriate” place for families with children. He added that the shelter’s remote location, where there are little to no public transit options, makes it harder for migrant children to get to schools in most parts of the city.
“It’s a long way to get out there and as a parent, thinking of the logistics of those kids getting up in that cold, remote place and trying to get them onto whatever bus is going to be provided and you get to whatever schools they’re enrolled in, it’s unimaginable thinking of trying to do that,” Giffen said. “So, I am not surprised at all.”
Giffen made it clear that with the city’s legal mandate to provide shelter to anyone who requests it, it will still have to find placements for those families if they ask for a new shelter bed.
New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Murad Awawdeh said the city should be working to clear space in its Department of Homeless Services (DHS) run shelters, by moving more long-time homeless New Yorkers into permanent housing, so migrants do not have to live in facilities like the one at Floyd Bennett. HERRCs are run by other city agencies, like New York City Emergency Management and Health + Hospitals, and do not have to abide by the same standards as DHS shelters.
“[The city] went and created a separate and unequal system for unhoused asylum seekers and migrants outside of the Department of Homeless Services,” Awawdeh said. “We need to be utilizing the facilities that we currently have and stop doing this separate and unequal system that really is putting people in harm’s way.”