NEW YORK — On the heels of touring New York City’s soon-to-open migrant shelter at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, homeless advocates are pleading with Mayor Eric Adams’ administration to reconsider housing children at the site, calling it a “patently dangerous” plan due to insufficient bathroom access, lack of privacy and other concerns.
Hundreds of migrant families with kids are expected in the coming days to start being housed in sprawling tents erected at the former U.S. military airstrip in southern Brooklyn. It’s the latest large-scale emergency facility built by Adams’ administration to accommodate the more than 65,000 mostly Latin American migrants currently in the city’s care.
Ahead of its opening, lawyers and representatives for the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless went on a tour of the site Tuesday.
Josh Goldfein, a Legal Aid attorney who’s fighting the Adams administration in court over its attempt to suspend the city’s right-to-shelter mandate, told the Daily News on Wednesday he was aghast over what he saw during the tour.
“In other cases, we’ve always given them recommendations about what could work better at a site,” Goldfein said, referencing tours his group has been given of other city-run migrant shelters. “This was a whole different level.”
One of the most concerning aspects of the Floyd Bennett site is the structure of the “pods” where families will sleep inside of the main tent, Goldfein said.
The pods don’t have ceilings, and are made up of four walls about 10 feet high that someone could scale, Goldfein said.
Under state regulations, homeless kids are not supposed to be housed in congregate, barrack-style shelters due to a heightened risk of abuse, and Goldfein said the way the pods are built raises concern about whether those rules are being followed.
“I don’t think anyone would be comfortable spending the night there with their children. You’re not going to be able to sleep, you’re going to be worried about your children’s safety,” he said.
Goldfein, whose group listed off their concerns with the Floyd Bennett facility in an email to the administration late Tuesday, said other causes for alarm include spotty bathroom access — toilets and showers are located in a facility separate from the sleeping quarters — and a lack of storage for families to put baby supplies, clothing and other belongings in.
The airfield is in a very remote area near Jamaica Bay. The city will provide a shuttle bus service for shelter residents, but it will only run every 90 minutes, making it tough for parents to get their kids to school, Goldfein argued.
There also are no designated places to change diapers or dispose of them in a sanitary manner, and no communal trash solution, all of which Goldfein said are risk factors for spread of communicable diseases, especially given that young children will be housed there.
The Adams administration has repeatedly argued it’s being forced to place migrants in unconventional places like Floyd Bennett Field as more than 65,600 of them and nearly as many homeless New Yorkers continue to sleep in the city’s shelter systems on any given night.
Asked for comment on the issues referenced by Legal Aid, Adams spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak said the city is “quite simply out of good options to shelter migrants” and urged the advocates to spend more time and energy on pressing federal and state governments for help with managing the crisis.
“Unless those now criticizing the use of Floyd Bennett Field have a legitimate alternative to suggest, we ask that they instead join us in calling for meaningful help and a decompression strategy from our state and federal partners,” Mamelak said. “As we have repeatedly said, a city cannot continue to manage a national crisis almost entirely on its own.”
Goldfein sympathized with the difficulties the administration’s facing, but questioned why it’s not housing single adult migrants at the Floyd Bennett site so families with kids could be placed in more appropriate settings.
“That’s what they’ve used the previous [tent-style shelters] for,” Goldfein said, referring to similar mega shelters on Randalls Island and in the parking lot of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens.
“The City must abandon its misguided effort to use Floyd Bennett Field as an option to shelter families with children, and we fear the worst should City Hall continue with this fraught, cruel and patently dangerous plan,” added Adriene Holder, the attorney in charge of Legal Aid’s civil practice.