A group of lawmakers, largely comprised of Republicans, have filed a suit to stop the city from erecting a new mega-migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field, after the Adams administration finalized a lease with the White House last week to use part of the federally-owned parkland in Brooklyn to house migrants.
The legal action was brought by Republican City Council Member Joann Ariola (Queens) and Democratic Assembly Member Jamie Williams (Brooklyn) — whose district includes Floyd Bennett, along with 37 other pols, local leaders and residents. It charges that the city and state’s agreement with the federal government to use the decommissioned airfield for sheltering upwards of 2,000 migrants violates federal, state and local law. The agreement was finalized Friday.
Ariola, in a statement, said the injunction aims to draw a line in the sand to stop the Big Apple from providing shelter for any more new arrivals. She noted that over 113,000 have come over the past year.
The lawmakers filed suit Tuesday in Richmond County Supreme Court against the city, state, Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul to make sure the facility does not open.
“Today’s injunction sends a clear message to all those seeking to turn Floyd Bennett Field into a migrant base camp: we will not sit idly by and allow you to destroy our city. We will fight,” Ariola said. “New York City has had more than its fair share from this migrant crisis. More than 100,000 people have passed through this city in the last year alone, and unless something is done, another 100,000 are sure to follow. It’s time for our government to close the border and end this crisis. Until then, we will make it clear that our national parkland is not to be used as a shelter space.”
The suit also seeks to block the use of other lands in the Gateway National Recreation Area like Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, which has been floated by the city as another potential shelter site.
The lawmakers are seeking the injunction to block a shelter from opening at Floyd Bennett arguing that Adams and Hochul are in violation of the law. They claim that the Gateway National Recreation Area is federally protected federal land where housing isn’t permitted; that the city and state have failed to conduct the required environmental review process; that the site isn’t zoned for housing; and that the shelter’s construction would “deprive” surrounding communities of essential services.
Further they argue the shelter would violate the state constitution because it wasn’t established through legislation passed by Albany lawmakers and the state isn’t obligated to take care of those who aren’t state residents or U.S. citizens — the migrants.
“The placement of a migrant base camp at Floyd Bennett Field is illegal, and skirts around all of the protocols meant to keep this place a national park,” Williams said in a statement. “This is land set aside for public recreation, not for housing, and I am confident that our injunction will right this wrong and ensure that Floyd Bennett Field remains as it was meant to be – a park space for people to enjoy, and not an illegal shelter space.”
The lawsuit was filed on Staten Island, as opposed to Brooklyn, on the basis that several of the plaintiffs are Staten Island residents, such as GOP City Council Members Joe Borelli and David Carr. The Staten Island court is likely to be a more friendly legal venue.
The lawsuit comes at a time when the administration has already opened 208 shelter sites across the five boroughs. Nearly 60,000 of those newcomers are still in the city’s homeless and emergency shelter systems and thousands more are arriving each week.
The mayor responded to the suit during an unrelated press conference on Sept. 19, when asked about it by a reporter. He said that he understands many people are upset about the ongoing migrant crisis and the lack of aid from the state and federal government, but warned that if the city is blocked from placing a shelter at Floyd Bennett, it will have to open one elsewhere.
That includes the communities of the lawmakers who brought the suit, he said.
“If they want to go to court and sue to stop us from doing the Floyd Bennett Field, they have the right to do so,” Adams told reporters. “But if we’re not putting it in Floyd Bennett Field, we’re gonna put it somewhere. And so if they saying ‘don’t put it in Floyd Bennett Field,’ don’t want hear them later saying ‘don’t put it on my block.'”
Ariola and her Republican colleagues, along with some Democrats like Williams, have taken part in a bevy of protests in recent weeks against proposed or already established shelter sites in the outer boroughs. Floyd Bennett alone has drawn several demonstrations, as well as another mega-shelter at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Eastern Queens and a smaller site at Saint John Villa Academy on Staten Island.
Hochul’s office didn’t immediately provide comment by publication time.