Several New York City lawmakers filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, September 19th to halt the housing of over 2,000 migrants at Floyd Bennett Field, shortly after the city had inked a usage agreement for the site.
The lawsuit, lodged in the Richmond County Supreme Court on Staten Island, suggests that the use of federal property in Brooklyn violates state and city laws.
The lawsuit, championed by Democratic state Assemblywoman Jaime Williams and Republican city Councilwoman Joann Ariola, posits that the area is designated as “protected” and that any development or lease on these federal parklands is legally prohibited.
The lawsuit further articulates concerns about potential negative environmental impacts and the degradation of the protected lands due to the establishment of infrastructure for migrants.
The lawsuit states, “One would have had to have just fallen from the sky to believe that the erection of structures, development of support infrastructure to assure that the new migrant population was fed, showered, provided with medical care, social services, sanitary facilities, etc., would not have a deleterious effect on the environment and the protected lands.”
This stance resonates with the objections expressed by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman and 21 other Republican legislators who recently argued that using national parkland for such purposes contradicts its intended mission.
The city has forged an agreement with the federal government to set up tent-style shelters on the 1,300-acre ex-naval air station, situated within the Gateway National Recreation Area, at a monthly expense of $1.7 million, a cost the state intends to bear.
Assemblywoman Williams has been vocal in her criticism of the Biden administration, particularly after parents using the Aviator Sports and Event Center in the park relayed their apprehensions to her.
In response to questions about the lawsuit, Mayor Eric Adams acknowledged the public’s frustration over the migrant crisis but defended the selection of Floyd Bennett Field as a suitable location due to its isolation from residential areas and schools.
He also hinted that if this plan faces opposition, alternatives would need to be considered, stating, “But if we’re not putting it in Floyd Bennett Field, we’re going to put it somewhere. I don’t want to hear them later saying, ‘Don’t put it on my block.'”
Throughout this ongoing saga, the city has consistently appealed to the White House to allocate federal lands to address the surging migrant population.
At present, New York City shoulders the responsibility of caring for nearly 60,000 migrants out of the 125,000 who have arrived between April 2022 and July of this year.