Federal judge sends Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter case back to state court

floyd bennett field sign
A federal judge sent a lawsuit seeking to stop the construction of a migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field back to the state court on Friday.
Photo courtesy of Kai Brinker/Wikimedia Commons

A suit filed by local lawmakers to stop the city from erecting a mega-migrant shelter at Floyd Bennett Field was sent back to state court Friday by a federal judge.

The suit was filed against the city of New York, Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul last month by a group of lawmakers, largely Republicans, after the Adams administration finalized a deal with the White House to use part of the federally-owned parkland to house asylum-seekers. Earlier this month, the case was moved from Staten Island Supreme Court to federal court at the request of lawyers representing New York City, who said the issues addressed in the complaint related to federal law. 

But on Friday, Oct. 13, federal judge Brian M. Cogan ruled the case was not within federal jurisdiction, stating the city and state failed to show that there was a “sufficient” federal question in the complaint that the plaintiffs brought — and sent it back down to the state. 

“We are gratified that the case was sent back to the state court where it belongs,” said Council Member Joann Ariola of Queens, one of the pols who filed the suit. “We believe that the maneuver to push it up to the federal level was designed from the start to delay this court proceeding, which the city and Governor Hochul know they are going to lose.”

Ariola — alongside a host of other elected officials and local residents, including Democratic Assembly Member Jamie Williams of Brooklyn — filed the suit in an attempt to stop the migrant shelter from opening at Floyd Bennett.  Officials plan to construct a large shelter on the grounds of the federally-owned former naval airfield in order to help accommodate the over 100,000 asylum-seekers who have been steadily arriving in the city since last year.

floyd bennett protest
Locals protested the move to use the field as a shelter in August.File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The case 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 — claiming 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.

“We have said all along that the city and state entered into an illegal agreement because none of the environmental guidelines have been followed,” said Williams, whose district includes Floyd Bennett Field as well as Canarsie, Marine Park, Flatlands, Bergen Beach, and Gerritsen Beach. “We know that laws have been broken and we will prove that in state court.”

Ariola and Williams said they eagerly await their day in court. 

“We maintain that the case should have been heard in federal court, but we are prepared to proceed in state court and are confident that we will prevail,” a spokesperson for the city’s law department said in a statement. 

Some 208 shelter sites have been opened in the last year by the Adams administration across the five boroughs – many of which have drawn protests by local residents and politicians, the proposed site a Floyd Bennett among them.

— Additional reporting by Ethan Stark-Miller