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In New York, migrants welcomed in tents on the edge of the city

Photo: Charly Triballeau Agence France-Presse C’est au Floyd Bennett Field, sur cette zone de pistes, routes et hangars, isolée sur une baie à la pointe sud de Brooklyn, que les migrants reprennent leur vie à zéro.

Gusts of wind whip the runways of a former New York airport where families with children walk. “In the middle of nowhere”, the land urgently accommodates some 1,800 migrants, symbolizing the reception crisis which is shaking the American megalopolis.

It is in this area of ​​runways, roads and hangars, isolated on a bay at the southern tip of Brooklyn, that we “restart our lives from scratch”, as some people tell AFP asylum seekers from Latin American countries, West Africa, but also from China and Russia, who ended up at Floyd Bennett Field.

Under large tents, in addition to collective places for meals and administrative procedures, up to 500 families can sleep in individual spaces next to each other.

“It’s a bit complicated,” underlines David Fernandez, a 32-year-old Ecuadorian, referring to the cold, the noise and the distance from the city. On the horizon, we can see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, more than an hour away by transport. In the surrounding area: no shops or services.

But “we shouldn't complain, because they help us […] We have a roof to rest on, blankets,” puts David into perspective, whose children aged 11 and 7 have found a place in a school in Brooklyn.

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“Humanitarian Crisis”

In November, he left his country with his wife and children, which was prey to the violence of drug traffickers. After a ten-day journey through Central America, then two and a half days by bus from Texas, the family landed in New York, then tried their luck in Ohio, before returning.

“I have to stay in the camp, until I can find a job and a house,” he adds.

Far from the US-Mexico border, crossed by thousands of migrants every day, and subject of political blockage between Democrats and Republicans, the long white tents of Floyd Bennett Field, inaccessible to journalists behind long fences , embody what New York Mayor Eric Adams calls a “humanitarian crisis.”

A gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States in the 20th century, New York also has a legal obligation to leave no homeless person on the streets. Since spring 2022, the city has provided emergency accommodation for more than 180,000 people who left Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, but also Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Russia and Haiti in particular.

Currently, nearly 65,000 are still housed in more than 210 sites such as hotels and gymnasiums, and “humanitarian centers” like the former airport.


“Many arrived without having a friend or neighbor to help them,” notes Victoria Marin, a resident of Brooklyn, who organizes car convoys to bring blankets and warm clothes to those sleeping here.

“Every time we came, we had 40 to 50 people running to the car and asking for blankets, coats, shoes, food, strollers, suitcases,” she describes.

The choice of site has been criticized. “Floyd Bennett Field is not at all an appropriate place to house homeless families with children. The families are really in the middle of nowhere […] there is no privacy […] the showers and toilets are in separate tents,” laments Dave Giffen, director of the Coalition for the Homeless association. shelters.

In January, because of a storm, the authorities had to evacuate all the occupants and rehouse them for one night in a Brooklyn high school, where the students were unable to attend classes the next day, provoking the anger of parents and teachers. 'elected.

According to Dave Giffen, the city, “left alone” by the federal government and the State of New York in dealing with the problem, “wants to discourage migrants from coming to New York.”

“A safe country”

The town hall argues that the guests are fed, receive medical care and are helped by social workers in all their procedures for asylum, training and job search, or to send their children to school . A bus service operates to facilitate travel.

“We have no more space,” Eric Adams has also been saying for months. The Democrat attacks Joe Biden by calling for federal aid and the acceleration of work authorization processes for asylum seekers.

“My goal here is to work, study, emancipate myself [from aid] from the government, and fight for my children,” says Maricruz Figueroa, a 30-year-old Venezuelan who walking on the roads of the old airfield, red “Brooklyn” sports jersey on his back.

“The most important thing,” adds Luis Moreno, from Ecuador, is that “this is a safe country. A country of opportunities, where there is no delinquency like in the third world country where I come from.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116