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Federal government approves New York’s plan to house migrants at former airfield

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(The Center Square) — The federal government has given New York the green light to use a former airfield in Brooklyn to house up to 2,000 migrants as the city struggles to provide shelter for waves of asylum-seekers.

On Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the Biden administration has tentatively agreed to lease space at Floyd Bennett Field to the state to use as a humanitarian center. The state won’t have to pay a lease fee, and the state will cover the costs of maintaining the site, she said.

Hochul argues the new center will be “critical” for New York City to provide humanitarian aid to migrants arriving in the city and pledged to work with Mayor Eric Adams “to get people on the path to asylum-seeker status and legal work.”

“Ultimately the path out of this crisis is granting work authorization immediately, so these individuals can move out of shelter and into independent living arrangements,” she said in a statement.

Adams thanked Hochul for brokering the lease but reiterated his calls for the federal government to fast-track work authorization for migrants.

“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,” he said in a statement.

The Legal Aid Society and Coalition for the Homeless issued a joint statement praising the move as a “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.”

But the groups said the “devil is in the details” and called for more details from the state, including a concrete timeline for moving 30,000 new arrivals out of shelters and providing those individuals with work authorization and information on the transportation and other critical services.

New York City has seen an influx of more than 100,000 asylum-seekers over the past year and a surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. The surge coincided with the end of the pandemic-era Title 42 policy that required migrants to stay in Mexico while requesting asylum, which expired in May.

The Adams administration has opened more than 200 emergency shelters in city-owned buildings, hotels and other locations and more than a dozen processing centers for new arrivals.

Adams has also been relocating migrants to upstate counties, but the effort is embroiled in legal challenges amid pushback from county officials.

Currently, the state is funding four migrant shelter sites in New York, including a facility on Randall’s Island capable of housing up to 2,000 men.

Hochul said the “humanitarian” centers, which provide shelter, food and other necessities, are costing the state’s taxpayers $20 million a month to operate.

Adams estimates the cost of providing for asylum-seekers could rise to $12 billion in coming years without additional state or federal assistance.

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