Marine Park

Mayor defends migrant shelter conditions at Floyd Bennett Field

November 16, 2023 Ryan Schwach
Floyd Bennett Field. AP Photo/Chris Hawley, File
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MARINE PARK — Mayor Eric Adams seemingly had one message for migrants who decided to leave shortly after arriving at a newly-opened shelter at Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park: I warned you. 

At the administration’s scheduled off-topic press briefing Tuesday, Adams and other officials said that the migrant families who arrived over the weekend and demanded to be taken elsewhere should know that there aren’t many other options available to them. 

The mayor said that warning asylum seekers about the poor conditions for migrants in New York City was one of the main purposes of his recent trip to South America. 

“I was trying to share that we were pushing back on those who were constantly telling the asylum seekers down in South America that if you come to New York, you are automatically given a job, you are automatically going to be in a five star hotel,” he said. “I wanted to go on those local networks and say here the realities that are playing out in the city.” 

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Adams’ remarks come after the Floyd Bennett Field shelter designed to house migrant families in semi-congregate settings opened its doors on Sunday. Shortly after some of its first new residents arrived, a handful of migrant families who saw the conditions of the shelter as well as its isolation, chose not to stay there and instead got back on the city buses that brought them to Brooklyn. 

“I’m grateful for what they’ve given me, but I can’t stay here,” one migrant mother told ABC news, adding that her kids go to school in Manhattan and The Bronx.

Specifically referring to Floyd Bennett Field, Adams said that he wants migrants to “manage their expectations.” 

“Some people were disappointed in that, some people wanted to find their own way instead of being at Floyd Bennett Field,” he said

Mayor Eric Adams and other officials have addressed issues with the Floyd Bennett Field shelter after some migrants refused to check into the shelter. Eagle photo by Ryan Schwach

City Hall told the Eagle on Tuesday that there are 50 individuals currently at Floyd Bennett Field, with more slated to arrive in the coming days.  

Other administration officials didn’t seem to disagree with the migrants’ assertions that Floyd Bennett Field’s conditions and isolation were less than ideal – an argument also being made by lawmakers currently suing the city over the shelter’s creation. 

“It looks stark – you’ll get a feeling like, ‘This is where we really are,’ and, ‘Is this the best that we can do as a nation?’” Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom said. “We think that we can do better as a nation but this is a national issue, and the federal government needs to step in to really help and to finish the job of what they’ve done.”  

Adams’ Chief of Staff, Camille Joseph Varlack, claimed that the administration was “out of good options,” and specified that the intention is for Floyd Bennett Field to be for new arrivals, in order to avoid the issues that arose for the migrant mother and her family who were moved to a location far from her child’s new school. 

“A part of the reason that we wanted it to be for new arrivals is so that we avoid the issue where you have students that are already enrolled in a school at one location,” Varlack said. “As with any new site where we open it, sometimes there are bumps and fits in the road, and so there was a family that showed up on Sunday, where they had been staying in a hotel and the child was already enrolled in school in The Bronx. The family decided that they did not want to stay there and they checked themselves out of the facility.” 

Mayor Eric Adams told reporters that migrants should “manage their expectations” about what services will be provided to them. Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography office

Varlack added that the administration is working with the Department of Education to provide shuttle buses for those staying at the shelter. 

However, the migrants refusing to be housed at Floyd Bennett Field plays right into the arguments of local officials who have been openly challenging the shelter in court. 

Brooklyn Assemblymember Jaime Williams and Queens Councilmember Joann Ariola have both been leading a lawsuit against the city over the shelter, and migrants refusing to stay there fits within their arguments about the shelter’s validity – or lack thereof – as a shelter. 

“These are some of the many reasons we have been noting that Floyd Bennett Field is an ill-conceived location for a migrant base camp,” Ariola said in a tweet.  

The elected officials; lawsuit, which has bounced from Richmond County court to federal court then back to Richmond again, remains ongoing. 

The case is awaiting a new trial date in the courtroom of Kings County Supreme Court Judge Peter Sweeney. 

A Brooklyn venue for the case was the goal for the city’s lawyers, and in a comment on Thursday, Ariola and Williams said they agreed to the new venue to “avoid continued delaying tactics by the city and the state.” 

“We are going to ask the court to accelerate its scheduled hearing date so that the matter can be heard expeditiously,” the elected officials said. “The questions should be when, not if, the mayor and the governor will lose this case.” 

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