New York state has received a tentative contract from the Biden administration that will allow officials to open a migrant relief center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday.
For months, the state has sought permission to use the federally owned former airfield along the shores of Jamaica Bay as a site for a migrant shelter, Hochul told reporters after an unrelated news conference in the Bronx.
After spending much of Sunday night on the phone with federal officials, the governor on Monday said the state was “in receipt of the proposed lease for Floyd Bennett Field.”
What You Need To Know
- New York state has received a tentative contract from the Biden administration that will allow officials to open a migrant relief center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday
- The state has sought permission to use the federally owned former airfield along the shores of Jamaica Bay as a site for a migrant shelter for months, Hochul said
- Hochul on Monday also announced that the state would allocate $20 million in funding to speed up the casework filing process for asylum seekers looking to secure work authorization
“This is something we have been asking about, hoping for, for many, many, many months,” she said. “And we started in earnest back in May, when we realized the shelter system was absolutely taxed and overflowing — the mayor doing the very best he could with the circumstances he had — but we knew that larger-scale sites would be better.”
The Biden administration reportedly shot down Hochul’s initial requests to use the airfield to house migrants. Last week, however, the governor said she had not taken those rejections as “a hard no.”
“This is a big step, because the answer one month ago was no,” she said Monday. “So I’m viewing this as a significant development by the administration in Washington to acknowledge that we need more help.”
The news comes as New York City continues to struggle to provide services for asylum seekers arriving in the five boroughs. City officials say more than 100,000 migrants have arrived since last year.
On Sunday, the city officially opened a migrant relief center on Randall's Island. Last week, meanwhile, a new migrant shelter opened outside Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens.
Once the Floyd Bennett Field lease is finalized, the state and Mayor Eric Adams’ administration will start installing shelters at the site, which will house anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 single adult migrants, Hochul said.
The new facility will free up shelter space at hotels for migrant families with children, she said.
“I need to look at the terms of the agreement — [I was] literally just apprised of it now — but I am fully prepared, as part of our continuing efforts to help this situation, to fund the cost of the shelter,” she added.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso lauded Hochul’s announcement Monday.
“This is what happens when New York speaks up,” he tweeted. “Grateful that the federal government is doing the right thing and opening up much-needed space for shelter at Floyd Bennett Field.”
Hochul on Monday also announced that the state would allocate $20 million in funding to speed up the casework filing process for asylum seekers looking to secure work authorization.
The investment will help thousands of migrants attain legal work status and exit the city’s overburdened shelter system, she said.
“The ultimate goal is to get these people working,” she said. “They’re here, they’re here legally applying for asylum, but until they can work and support themselves, they will need to be sheltered in the city. So the way to alleviate the pressure on the system — and the city’s been managing this challenge, and they’re doing truly the best they can under these difficult circumstances — is that we get them working.”
Hochul promised the funding will be felt from the moment migrants begin arriving at the shelter that is likely to open at Floyd Bennett Field.
“One of my first steps will be, under this $20 million contract, when we start bringing people in, I want the case managers to be there on site waiting for them to help them settle, but also start filling out the paperwork,” she said.
The state is still pushing the federal government to expedite the time it takes for migrants to gain employment, “because the need is there now, by all these employers,” the governor noted.
Asked about her conversations with the White House on the topic, Hochul said discussions were ongoing.
“It’s under review,” she said.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Adams said he was “grateful that we have a tentative agreement to move forward on this site.”
“I thank Governor Hochul for her commitment to pay for this site, and I’m looking forward to more of this kind of partnership with our friends in Albany as we manage this ongoing crisis,” Adams said. “But let’s be clear: because we haven’t seen meaningful policy changes that would alter the course of this crisis, we’ve been forced to play an unsustainable game of 'whack-a-mole,' opening new site after new site as asylum seekers continue to arrive by the thousands.”
“We will continue to advocate for expedited work authorization for asylum seekers, a federal declaration of emergency, and a national and state decompression strategy, and we’re committed to making today’s announcement the beginning of a new era of enhanced partnership between our local, state, and federal governments,” he added.
In their own joint statement, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said they hoped Hochul’s announcement was “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.”
“However, the devil is in the details, and we need more information from the state, including a concrete timeline for transitioning 30,000 new arrivals out of shelter and securing those individuals work authorization, as well as information on the transportation and other critical services that will be made available to new arrivals once Floyd Bennett Field is operational,” they added.