Housing migrants at a Brooklyn facility managed by the National Park Service is incompatible with the mission of the agency, Republican lawmakers argued Friday in a letter to Biden administration officials.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and 21 other GOP legislators demanded that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Park Service Director Charles Sams explain why Floyd Bennett Field is being leased to New York City to house unsheltered migrants.
“Regardless of personal or political beliefs on immigration or migrant policy, there is common ground in keeping our national parks — some of America’s most treasured spaces — out of this debate,” the lawmakers wrote.
“All national parks, whether in rural or urban areas, exist for visitors to experience wonder, to recreate and find joy, or to simply learn more about the great history of our nation.”
“National parks are not, however, a place to temporarily or permanently encamp persons experiencing a lack of housing options,” the letter went on.
“The Governor of New York has gone on the record about the DOI’s reluctance to accommodate the request, due to statutory restraints. We agree that the use of NPS lands to house unsheltered migrants is outside of the NPS statutory authority.”
City officials formally entered into a lease agreement with the federal government on Friday that allows the use of Floyd Bennett Field as an emergency site to shelter some of the more than 113,000 migrants that have flocked to New York since last spring and overwhelmed city resources, including shelters.
The 1,300-acre site, a former naval air station housed in the Gateway National Recreation Area, will be used to house some 2,500 migrants.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has agreed to fully reimburse the city for the leasing of Floyd Bennett Field.
The lawmakers note that NPS’ “mission is to ‘preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.’”
“More specifically, with reference to the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, the Secretary is directed to ‘administer and protect the islands and waters within the Jamaica Bay Unit with the primary aim of conserving the natural resources, fish, and wildlife located therein and shall permit no development or use of this area which is incompatible with this purpose,’” they add.
Westerman told The Post on Friday that he was deeply troubled by the lease deal and accused New York City of “desecrating” national park land.
“It’s deeply troubling to see this announcement today and learn that NYC is committed to desecrating our national parks by building migrant shelters,” Westerman said in a statement.
“Biden’s failed border policies have gotten us into this mess, and the burden should not be on the National Park Service to get us out. Under my watch as Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I’m not going to stand by and let this Administration turn one of America’s best ideas into camps for illegal immigrants.”
The lawmakers are demanding documents and communications related to the leasing of Floyd Bennett Field, as well as information on the economic impact that converting that area of park land into a migrant shelter will have.
The committee has set a Sept. 29 deadline for the Interior Department to hand over the info.
“We will continue,” Westerman added, “to fight for America’s most treasured spaces.”