Marine Park

Floyd Bennett Field to house asylum seekers

August 21, 2023 Raanan Geberer
Floyd Bennett Field. AP Photo/Chris Hawley, File
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MARINE PARK — Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, in its 92-year history has contained many things: A commercial airport, a staging point for many record-breaking solo flights, a U.S. Navy air base, a police helicopter base, a museum where historic aircraft are restored and displayed, and a space where enthusiasts fly their remote-controlled model planes. 

And as if that weren’t enough, it’s also home to one of the city’s largest community gardens. Now it will have one more use — a shelter for asylum seekers, according to an announcement made on Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“After months of negotiations, the Biden Administration has provided us with a tentative contract that would allow New York to utilize Floyd Bennett Field as a shelter for asylum seekers,” she said.

Once the final agreement is signed, we will work with Mayor Adams and his team to set up a Humanitarian Emergency Relief and Response Center at Floyd Bennett Field with the capacity to shelter more than 2,000 asylum seekers. We are grateful to President Biden for his support of this initiative and committed to continuing our advocacy on behalf of the people of New York,” the governor added.

There had been rumors that a shelter for migrants was coming to Floyd Bennett Field for months. 

It was unclear exactly where the asylum seekers would be housed. While some historic hangars have been restored (notably, several that now contain the heavily-used Aviator Sports Center), others are still underused and deteriorating. The former 1930s-era airline terminal building is now Floyd Bennett’s administration building and contains a small exhibit about the former airfield’s history.

Mayor Adams said, approvingly, “For months, Governor Hochul and I have been urging the federal government to allow us to use Floyd Bennett Field to help house some of the more than 100,000 asylum seekers who have sought our care here in New York City, and I’m grateful that we have a tentative agreement to move forward on this site. I thank Governor Hochul for her commitment to pay for this site, and I’m looking forward to more of this kind of partnership with our friends in Albany as we manage this ongoing crisis.”

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams added, in part:

“I am glad to see the governor commit this location and funding to provide shelter for the ever-increasing number of new and aspiring New Yorkers arriving in our city. The site is not ideal, but we continue to be left to choose the best of bad options, and I will work to ensure that shelters meet the necessary standards, including security precautions, resource ability, and transportation access to and from the site for migrants and community organizations alike.”

Since the mid-1970s, shortly after the Navy deactivated it as a military base, Floyd Bennett Field has been administered by the National Parks Service and is considered part of Gateway National Park. 

By all accounts, it didn’t succeed as a commercial airport in the 1930s because of its distance from Manhattan, in particular the Manhattan General Post Office. The Belt Parkway hadn’t been constructed yet and Flatbush Avenue was still a two-lane road.

Even today, the only way to reach Floyd Bennett by public transportation is the Q-35 bus, which riders catch either at the “junction” of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues in Brooklyn or in Rockaway, Queens.

According to WABC, the proposed lease for Floyd Bennett Field has been sent to the state, but has not been signed yet.

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