Watch CBS News

Legal Aid Society slams Floyd Bennett Field asylum seeker shelter as "not safe, not humane" for children

Mayor Adams heading to Washington, D.C., to discuss asylum seeker crisis
Mayor Adams heading to Washington, D.C., to discuss asylum seeker crisis 02:00

NEW YORK -- Advocates are calling on the city to abandon its plan to shelter migrant families at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn after a tour of the facility was given.

"We really don't think that families with children should be there. It's just not safe. It's not humane," said Stephanie Rudolph, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society.

One day after touring Floyd Bennett Field, a new family shelter set to open for migrant families, the Legal Aid Society is calling on the city to ditch the plan.

"It's an extremely isolated site. It has bathrooms that are outdoors and very difficult to access. And the sleeping areas are extremely, extremely tight with absolutely no storage space at all for clothing, personal belongings, formula, diapers, anything," Rudolph said.

Advocates say it's not safe or sanitary for pregnant moms, children and asylum seekers with disabilities.

Watch Jennifer Bisram's report

Advocates say Floyd Bennett Field shelter is unsafe for children 02:43

"Families are living in tents with essentially locked cubicles with no windows and basically no covering over them, so they're open, but the walls are about 8 feet," Rudolph said. "It would be quite difficult, I think, for a young child to use the bathroom, for a pregnant person."

During the walkthrough, attorneys with the Legal Aid Society also found unsafe restroom setups, lack of sanitary facilities for children, a lack of a healthy sleeping environment, isolation and education difficulties, and privacy and safety concerns.

This comes as the mayor says asylum seekers continue to arrive in the area -- more than 130,000 since last spring -- with thousands arriving just in October.

The city is struggling to find emergency housing and money to pay for it.

A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said in part:

"Since the start of this humanitarian crisis, we have put the health and safety of asylum seekers -- and most importantly children seeking asylum -- above all else. For months, the city and state requested the use of Floyd Bennett Field from the federal government and were not given any valid reasons not to pursue use of the site ... 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."

"Children need to nap throughout the day. There's absolutely no way to create a healthy nap environment. You can't darken the space, you can't quiet the space," Rudolph said.

The intake site at Floyd Bennett Field is expected to hold up to 2,000 migrants, including children.

Advocates are now asking the city to use the shelter space for single adults only.

Mayor Eric Adams -- with the mayors of Chicago, Denver, Houston and Los Angeles -- heads to Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Over the weekend, the group of mayors sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking for $5 billion to cover expenses the cities have already incurred and new arrivals.

The letter also asks to "coordinate geographic movement of recent arrivals" at the southern border and "dramatically increase access to work authorization," saying more than 75% of people in shelters don't qualify for the temporary protected status the president made for Venezuelan immigrants in September.

A White House spokesperson said in part, "We have asked Congress for $1.4 billion ... to support local communities and ... Since last month, DHS has taken steps to reduce the average processing time for work permits for certain migrants to just 30 days."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.