The Biden administration has consented to lease the Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn as a temporary residence for 2,500 migrants, as stated by Governor Kathy Hochul.
Historically significant, this location was previously a naval air station and has since been transformed into a green space managed by the National Park Service.
Speaking about the ongoing efforts to secure this location, Governor Hochul stated, “This is something we’ve been asking about, hoping for for many, many, many months.”
Previously, the federal authorities disapproved of Governor Hochul’s idea of using the historic airfield in the Gateway National Recreation Area for emergency accommodations.
This tentative agreement has emerged after prolonged discussions with the White House regarding the airfield’s use as temporary housing.
However, the process hasn’t been without its share of hurdles. The United States Department of the Interior had expressed reservations regarding using parkland for housing, emphasizing that such land, owned by the National Parks, typically doesn’t permit the establishment of shelters.
Governor Hochul viewed the evolving federal stance as a sign of the Biden administration acknowledging the state’s pressing need for migrant housing solutions. Although the lease has been finalized, the agreement between the federal government and the state is still under review.
The need for such an arrangement arises from the influx of more than 100,000 migrants since 2022, with approximately half still housed in New York City’s shelter system, which has expanded to double its typical capacity.
Aiding these migrants, New York City continues to uphold its obligation, rooted in long-standing legal agreements, to shelter anyone within its boundaries.
The state of New York has also committed another $20 million to help over 30,000 asylum seekers apply for work permits, aiming to alleviate the strain on the already burdened shelter system.
The recently announced funds from Albany are geared towards connecting at least 30,000 migrants with caseworkers to find permanent housing and assist with asylum claims.
This $20 million pledge is a fraction of the state’s $1.5 billion commitment in the recent budget to address the migrant situation.
As this proposal edges closer to fruition, local organizations, including the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless, have voiced their hopes. They are optimistic that the state’s commitment to Floyd Bennett Field will set a precedent for more significant housing initiatives in the future.
In their statement, they expressed, “We hope this is the start of a more meaningful commitment to provide the City with funding, staffing, facilities, coordination, and more to avoid another nightmarish scenario where people are relegated to the streets and exposed to the elements.”
While grateful to Governor Hochul for undertaking the shelter’s expenses, Mayor Eric Adams continues to urge the federal government to streamline the process for asylum seekers to receive work authorizations.
As the shelter’s details are yet to be finalized, Governor Hochul anticipates that it will primarily serve single adults once operational. This would, in turn, free up hotel spaces for women, children, and families.