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New York lawmakers sue to block migrants from Floyd Bennett Field


A dozen New York lawmakers — including four Democrats and a Republican lawmaker — rushed to court Tuesday to try to stop Mayor Eric Adams from opening an emergency shelter for up to 2,000 migrants at the Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court on Staten Island, lawmakers accused Mr. Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul of circumventing state and federal laws meant to protect the national park when they reached an agreement last week to lease it to the Biden administration. They asked the court for an immediate injunction and said they were preparing another federal lawsuit.

“Clearly, Defendant Governor and Defendant Mayor seek to establish this migrant colony on protected federal lands, without the light of day revealing the illegal and improper aspects of their plans,” the plaintiffs wrote.

The lawsuit opens a new front in a growing political battle over how New York should handle the flood of migrants arriving from the southwest border. More than 110,000 asylum seekers have entered the city over the past year, straining its existing network of homeless shelters and its finances.

Mr. Adams and Ms. Hochul, both Democrats, have called for more help from the Biden administration to try to stem the flow and move migrants out of shelters and into jobs more quickly. But because of a decades-old mandate to house the homeless, they say they have no choice but to open a network of emergency shelters across the city.

Republicans fiercely opposed it. Joann Ariola, a Republican Queens city councilwoman who was one of the driving forces behind Tuesday’s trial, recently called on her Republican colleagues to “wage war fully” on Ms. Hochul and President Biden on their immigration policies. A growing number of Democrats have joined them in protest, while substituting concerns about shelters’ effects on local services for Republicans’ more sweeping condemnations.

Responding Tuesday, Mr. Adams said lawmakers had the right to sue, but he argued there were few better sites than Floyd Bennett Field, located on Jamaica Bay, southeast of Brooklyn , “far from homes”, communities and school. The city finalized a lease on the site Friday, after months of negotiations with the Biden administration.

“We try to be as non-intrusive as possible to everyday New Yorkers; at the same time, be as humane as possible, because we need to show that level of humanitarian aspect of this city,” Mr. Adams told reporters at an event in Manhattan.

He added: “If they don’t want it there, then they can’t get upset when it comes into their neighborhood and blocks.”

Avi Small, a spokesman for Ms. Hochul, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit describes the site in very different terms, citing concerns about flood risk, environmental degradation and potential impacts on nearby hospitals and emergency services.

It was introduced by a mix of city council members, state lawmakers, local residents and a Republican lawmaker, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. Among the Democrats were City Council members Robert Holden of Queens and Kalman Yeger or Brooklyn, as well as Assembly members Jaime R. Williams of Brooklyn and Stacey Pheffer Amato of Queens.

“It is undoubtedly unacceptable, inhumane and cruel to build a shelter and house migrants in a flood zone known as Floyd Bennett Field,” Pheffer Amato said in a statement. She said the site “lacks basic infrastructure” and would strain her district’s resources.

Although the site is in Brooklyn, the suit was filed in the same Staten Island court where a judge in August granted a temporary restraining order blocking the city from housing migrants at a former school, the St. John Villa Academy. The decision was later reversed.

Ms. Malliotakis also opposes such shelters and has introduced legislation in Washington prohibiting the use of federal funds to create shelters on U.S. military bases or federal parks, including Foy Bennett Field and Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth.