Pols call for closure of Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter, but Schumer calls Malliotakis bill a ‘non-starter’

pols at floyd bennett field
Congress Member Nicole Malliotakis outside the Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter with Assembly Member Jaime Williams, Ken Spencer, Chairman of the U.S. Park Police FOP and Council Member Joann Ariola.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Malliotakis’ office

Republican Congress Member Nicole Malliotakis on Thursday led a group of bipartisan New York elected officials in renewing their calls for the cancellation of the migrant shelter lease agreement at Floyd Bennett Field.

Malliotakis, who represents Bay Ridge and Staten Island in the nation’s lower chamber, was joined Jan. 25 by New York State Assembly Member Jaime Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Queens Council Member Joann Ariola (R-Queens) outside the large-scale migrant shelter in Marine Park, saying the inclement weather-induced evacuation of the shelter last month was proof the location is not “suitable to house anybody.”

“Turning our federal parks into encampments for unvetted migrants from all over the world is unfair to surrounding communities and the taxpayers who are being forced to foot the bill while our Mayor bankrupts our city and slashes services from our citizens,” Malliotakis said, accusing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of “ignoring the reality of what’s happening here in his home city.”

migrants evacuating floyd bennett
Migrants were forced to evacuate the shelter due to a storm earlier this month. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

On Nov. 30, The U.S. House passed Malliotakis’ bill that would prohibit federal funding from being used to provide housing for migrants on federal lands. The Floyd Bennett Field shelter falls under that category as it is built on a decommissioned airfield in federal parkland that the city is leasing from the Biden administration.

However, the bill, H. R. 5283, was considered dead on arrival in the Senate after the Biden administration came out against it prior to the House vote taking place.

“The Administration opposes this legislation because it would significantly restrict the ability of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture to make decisions regarding the appropriate uses of their lands and resources, even in emergency or other situations,” The White House Office of Management and Budget said in a Nov. 27 statement.

H. R. 5283 or The Protecting our Communities from Failure to Secure the Border Act of 2023 was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Dec. 4.

Nearly three months on from its passage in the House, Malliotakis renewed her call on the Senate Majority Leader to back the bill, saying “this crisis is unsustainable, unsafe, and not good for anyone involved, including the migrants themselves.”

Earlier this month during a major coastal storm, city officials had to evacuate some 1,900 migrants from the Floyd Bennett Field shelter due to safety concerns. Council Member Ariola said Thursday that the emergency evacuation proved that the location is not suitable to house anybody.

“This is a national park, not a residential neighborhood. These tents need to be removed immediately, so that the area can revert back to its intended use as a green space for the people of Brooklyn and Queens to enjoy,” said Ariola. “Every day this migrant base camp remains in place is another day the government turns its back on the people of the outer boroughs.”

floyd bennett field shelter
Pols demanded that the shelter be “removed immediately.” File photo by Dean Moses

Likewise, state Assembly Member Williams slammed the conditions at the Marine Park shelter as “unacceptable” and called for it to be shut down “before the situation gets even worse than it already is.”

“We’ve said from day one that this was not a suitable site to house people, and now New York’s taxpayers are being forced to foot an ever growing bill to cover the government’s mistakes. As a result of the city, state, and federal governments completely ignoring what we as local officials had to say, we are now seeing costs balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Williams.

In response to Thursday’s press conference, a spokesperson from Sen. Schumer’s office told Brooklyn Paper that Malliotakis’ legislation was a “non-starter” that would take federal funds away from NYC.

“Senator Schumer is working hard right now on a larger supplemental bill and hopes Republicans don’t walk away,” the spokesperson added, in reference to the ongoing immigration reform negotiations in the Senate.