Gateway National Recreation Area: Wikis


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Gateway National Recreation Area
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Location New York & New Jersey, USA
Nearest city New York City, New York
Area 26,607 acres (107.67 km²)
Established October 27, 1972
Visitors 8,294,353 (in 2005)
Governing body National Park Service

Gateway National Recreation Area is a 26,607 acre (107.67 km²) National Recreation Area in the New York City metropolitan area. Scattered over Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, New York and Monmouth County, New Jersey, it provides recreational opportunities that are rare for a dense urban environment, including ocean swimming, bird watching, boating, hiking and camping.[1] Ten million people visit Gateway annually.[2]

Gateway was created by the US Congress in 1972[3] to preserve and protect scarce and/or unique natural, cultural, and recreational resources with relatively convenient access by a high percentage of the nation's population.[4] It is owned by the United States government and managed by the National Park Service.

The park comprises eleven park sites in three separate units:

  • Jamaica Bay Unit in Brooklyn and Queens includes much of the shoreline and water below the Shore Parkway beginning at Plum Beach and ending at Kennedy International Airport, along with several dozen islands in Jamaica Bay, a tidal estuary. It also includes most of the western part of the Rockaway peninsula which separates Jamaica Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Among the sites in this unit are:
    Jamaica Bay Coastal Landscapes at Gateway
    • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a prime location for viewing birds and bird migrations, diamondback turtle egg-laying and horseshoe crab mating and egg laying. Its 9,155 acres include salt marsh, dunes, brackish ponds, woodland, fields and the open bay. It is the only "wildlife refuge" in the National Park System. Originally created and managed by New York City as a "wildlife refuge", the term was retained by Gateway when the site was transferred. Usually, federal "wildlife refuges" are a US Fish & Wildlife Service function.
    • Floyd Bennett Field, a historic airfield with a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, also hosts the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (H.A.R.P.) in Hangar B where volunteers are working to preserve the park's collection of historic aircraft. Hangar B is open to the public at selected times during the week.[5] Exhibits and programs on the airfield's history are available in the former control tower and terminal, since converted into the Ryan Visitor Center, named for William Fitts Ryan, (the congressman who championed Gateway's creation). The grasslands of Floyd Bennett Field are a good place for viewing falcons and kestrels.[6] Floyd Bennett Field also includes a concession housing recreational facilities including a sports arena and ice skating rink in adaptively re-used hangers. Within this unit, but still nearby, are Dead Horse Bay, which includes a marina concession, and a golf driving range concession adjacent. Bergen Beach on the north shore of Jamaica Bay (not to be confused with the bordering neighborhood of the same name) is also nearby and within the unit's boundary, supporting a riding academy concession (horses).
    • Canarsie Pier is a popular recreation pier and fishing spot on the north shore of the bay.
    • Fort Tilden, between Jacob Riis Park and Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula, has some of the city's most pristine and secluded ocean beaches, a successional maritime forest, a dune system, and a freshwater pond. Between 1917 and 1974, Fort Tilden served as part of the harbor's system of defenses, and once housed Nike antiaircraft missiles.[7] Today an observatory deck on one of the old batteries offers spectacular views of Jamaica Bay, New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline. Fort Tilden is one of the best places on New York Harbor to observe hawks during the fall migration.[8]
    • Breezy Point Tip occupies the westernmost part of the Rockaway peninsula, forming one side of the outer "gateway" to New York Harbor. Its 200 acres contain oceanfront beach, bay shoreline, dunes, marshes and coastal grasslands. Breezy Point Tip is a nesting ara for the threatened piping plover.[9]
    • Jacob Riis Park is an ocean beach with a boardwalk and historic bathhouse with art deco elements. It was built by powerful New York planner and administrator Robert Moses, and was named after journalist, photographer and reformer Jacob Riis.
  • Staten Island Unit is located on the southeastern shore of Staten Island within Lower New York Bay. It includes Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, both off-limits to visitation and managed primarily for the benefit of avian species. The unit also includes the following three sites:
    • Fort Wadsworth is a historic collection of masonry fortifications on the site of much earlier fortifications at The Narrows under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
    • Miller Field is a historic former airfield south of New Dorp with picnic areas, open areas and sports fields.
    • Great Kills Park on Great Kills Harbor includes a marina where visitors can go boating, an beach open to the lower harbor with lifeguards during the summer, and nature trails. It also serves as a nesting site for osprey.
  • Sandy Hook Unit is in Monmouth County in northern New Jersey. The barrier peninsula includes two park sites:
    • Fort Hancock served as part of the harbor's coastal defense system from 1895 until 1974 and contains 100 historic buildings and fortifications.[10]
    • Sandy Hook contains seven beaches, including Gunnison Beach, a "nude beach" by custom, as well as salt marshes and a maritime holly forest. Ferries from Manhattan are available in season. Fishing and using hand-launched vessels are popular here.

Law enforcement in Gateway is the responsibility of the United States Park Police in the New York units, and commissioned park rangers in the New Jersey unit.

See also


  1. ^ Gateway National Recreation Area (National Park Service)
  2. ^ Gateway National Recreation Area (National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy)
  3. ^ Congress of the United States. Public Law 92-592. October 27, 1972.
  4. ^ Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Establishment of Gateway National Recreation Area in the States of New York and New Jersey. United States Senate, 92nd Congress, 1st Session. Report Number 92-345 to accompany S. 1852 Ordered to be printed August 3, 1971
  5. ^ Gateway History & Culture (NPS)
  6. ^ Floyd Bennett Field (National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy)
  7. ^ Historic Fort Tilden
  8. ^ Hawking on the Harbor (National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy)
  9. ^ Breezy Point (Brooklyn Bird Club)
  10. ^ Fort Hancock (National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy)

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Gateway National Recreation Area[1] is in Metro New York. This 26,607 acre (107.67 km²) park has four separate areas located in three boroughs of New York City and on Sandy Hook in central New Jersey.


The National Park Service administers Gateway in four units:

  • Jamaica Bay Unit includes much of the coastline below Shore Parkway (also known as Belt Parkway) between Plum Beach and JFK International Airport, including Floyd Bennett Field.
  • Breezy Point Unit on the western end of Rockaway Peninsula and including Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park.
  • Staten Island Unit, Ft. Wadsworth, Miller Field and Great Kills sections on Staten Island's south shore.
  • Sandy Hook Unit, the northern end of the barrier peninsula of the same name.


Gateway was established on October 27, 1972 as the country's first urban National Park. Jamaica Bay had been developed as a wildlife refuge by the New York City Parks Department beginning in the early 1950s with the creation of two large ponds and the planting of trees, shrubs and grasses. This excellent and extensive refuge is combined in Gateway NRA with much military history:

Floyd Bennett Field is significant in the history of civil and military aviation. It was New York City's first municipal airport. Floyd Bennett Field as Naval Air Station New York defended the nation and its ships from 1941 to 1971.

Fort Tilden is the last of a long line of fortifications that stood on the Rockaway peninsula, ready to defend the United States from attack from the sea and air. The site witnessed the use of the most technologically advanced weaponry of the period including smooth-bore cannons, sixteen inch naval rifles, and anti-aircraft missiles.

Jacob Riis Park was the site of Rockaway Naval Air Station, significant for its relationship to the famous NC-4 crossing of the Atlantic. This historic crossing ultimately changed commercial aviation.

Fort Wadsworth, important military high ground since the 1600s, was the oldest continuously used military site in the country when closed in 1994. Still used by the Coast Guard today it displays remnants of old fortifications.

Miller Field gained recognition as an airfield during World War I. Today the Elm Tree Light and an airplane hangar are all that remain, but dozens of athletic fields provide recreational opportunities.

Fort Hancock's guns and missile defenses and Sandy Hook Light also had a part in defending New York Harbor.


Estuary, salt marsh and coastal upland wildlife sanctuary, ocean beaches, barrier beach peninsulas, airstrip, historical military fortifications.

Flora and fauna

As the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge area (over 9,000 acres) has been managed as a sanctuary for decades, it is teeming with wildlife. Maps, guides, trail brochures and display rooms are available in the Visitor Center. Park Rangers give interpretive talks and lead nature walks year-round. Trails, benches, blinds and gardens provide "habitat" for human visitors. In 1980 a butterfly reserve was set aside and planted with attractant plants. Native species of frogs and peepers have been reintroduced. Egrets, heron, ibis and other waterfowl abound in the salt marshes. Tree swallows, kestrels, wrens, osprey, and a large population of barn owls also have been encouraged. In all, over 325 species of birds have been recorded here. All the usual shoreline and coastline suspects such as crabs, mollusks, and turtles are found here, too.

Reed grasses, beach grasses and native meadow plants such as bayberry and milkweed are found here as well. The "Upland Trail", in particular, explores some of the bushes and trees such as the Autumn Olive, Hackberry, Japanese Black Pine, Tree of Heaven, Eastern White Pine, Black Cherry, European Alder, Gray Birch, Sassafras, Holly and others.

  • Northern coastal temperate. Temperatures range from usual highs of 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C) during the summer, to usual lows of 10 to 20°F (-7 to -12°C) in winter.
Map of Gateway National Recreation Area
Map of Gateway National Recreation Area
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Queens, [2]. Right nearby the Jamaica Bay area.
  • LaGuardia (LGA) in Queens, [3].
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, [4].

By subway or train

Directions from National Park Service website [5]:

  • Floyd Bennett Field, Jacob Rills Park/Fort Tilden: Take the (2) train, (the (5) is also an option on weekdays) to Brooklyn College-Flatbush Avenue, transfer to the Q35 bus to park. Ask driver to let you off at the main entrance.
  • Canarsie Pier: (L) train to Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway, then transfer (free) to the B42 bus to the entrance of the pier.
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge: (A) train or the Rockaway Park Shuttle to Broad Channel Station. Proceed by walking on Noel Road to Cross Bay Boulevard, turn right and walk about three quarters of a mile to the Refuge Visitor Center.
  • Miller Field Train: Take the Staten Island Railway at Staten Island Ferry Terminal to new Dorp Station, then S76 bus to Miller Field.
  • Sandy Hook Train: New Jersey Transit's (Phone: 1-800-772-2222, [6]) North Jersey Coast Line to Red Bank, then NJT Bus 834 to Highlands. Buses drop off at or near entrance to Sandy Hook - no transportation onto the hook.

By bus

Directions from National Park Service website [7]:

  • Floyd Bennett Field Connect with the Q35 on Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Nostrand, Kings Highway, Fillmore Ave. or Avenue U (Kings Plaza). Ask the drive to let you off at the main entrance.
  • Jacob Riis Park/Fort Tilden Connect with the Q35 on Flatbush Avenue at the corner of Nostrand, Kings Highway, Fillmore Ave. or Avenue U (Kings Plaza). After the bridge, ask driver to let you off at either Ft. Tilden or Riis Park. Alternate: Q21 or Q53 to Beach 116th Street, then Q22 or Q35 to the park.
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Green Bus Line Q21 from Liberty Avenue (Queens) or 116th Street (Rockaway) to the Visitors Center; or the Q53 bus from 61st Street & Roosevelt Avenue (Queens) to the Visitors Center.
  • Miller Field S76 from Staten Island Ferry Terminal to New Dorp Lane and entrance to Miller Field.
  • Great Kills Park S78 from Staten Island Ferry Terminal, X1 from Manhattan, or the S79 from 95th Street at 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, to the park entrance.
  • Fort Wadsworth S51 or S81 Limited from Staten Island Ferry Terminal to the park entrance on Bay Street. Some trips also run through park grounds, and make stops within park property.
  • Sandy Hook New Jersey Transit Bus 834 stops near the park entrance. Phone 1-800-772-2222, [8]. Academy Lines operates direct from New York City to Highlands. Phone 732-291-1300 or 1-800-242-1339 for schedule.
  • Seastreak, (1-800-BOATRIDE), [9]. Daily ferry service between Manhattan (Pier 11 & East 34th Street) and Highlands, NJ.
  • NY Waterways, phone: 1-800-53-FERRY, [10]. Summer Ferry Service on weekends only. Cruise departs from Pier 78 at West 38th St., 12th Ave., & World Financial Center. Connections from Weehawken, Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ. Once at Sandy Hook, onsite school buses take passengers to beaches.

By car

Directions from the National Park Service Site[11]:

  • Floyd Bennett Field Belt Parkway to Exit 11S; take Flatbush Avenue south to the main entrance.
  • Jacob Riis Park/Fort Tilden Belt Parkway to Exit 11S, then Flatbush Avenue south across the Marine Parkway Bridge to the park. Alternate: Woodhaven Boulevard to Cross Bay Boulevard then west on Beach Channel Drive to the park.
  • Canarsie Pier Belt Parkway to Exit 13, Rockaway Parkway.
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Belt Parkway to Exit 17, Cross Bay Boulevard. Proceed south on Cross Bay Boulevard across the north Channel Bridge. The refuge visitor center is about 1 mile past the bridge at the traffic light.
  • Miller Field Verrrazano Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn or the Goethals Bridge from New Jersey to the Staten Island Expressway (Rt. 278); take the Hylan Boulevard exit. Proceed south on Hylan Boulevard and turn east on New Dorp Lane for Miller Field.
  • Great Kills Park Verrrazano Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn or the Goethals Bridge from New Jersey to the Staten Island Expressway (Rt. 278); take the Hylan Boulevard exit. Proceed south on Hylan Boulevard to the Great Kills Park entrance.
  • Fort Wadsworth Verrazano narrows Bridge from Brooklyn: after toll, take the Bay Street exit to the park entrance; or Staten Island Expressway (Rt. 278) east to the Bay Street exit. Turn left at the light and follow this road to Bay Street and the park entrance.
  • Sandy Hook Garden State Parkway to Exit 117 then follow Route 36 east for 12 miles to park entrance.
  • Gateway has no entrance fees. However, Beach Parking Fees are charged at Sandy Hook (732-872-5970) and Jacob Riis Park (718-318-4300) during the summer. Day and annual passes are available.
  • Fishing Permit, $50 Annual fee. There are fees for parking in fishing lots at all Gateway sites. Permits are available at Gateway Visitor Centers/Ranger Stations.
  • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, Cross Bay Boulevard Queens, New York, Phone: (718) 318-4340. Year Round 8:30AM-5PM. Exhibits on the natural history of the area and an explanation of how this bird sanctuary was created in the 1950's. Bookstore, restrooms, visitor information.
  • Ryan Visitor Center at Floyd Bennett Field, Flatbush Avenue, South Brooklyn, New York, Phone: (718) 338-3799. Year Round 8:30AM-5PM. An historic airstrip showing early airport architecture. Most guided visitor program start from the Ryan Visitor Center. Special use permits are also available here. Restrooms.
  • Canarsie Pier Contact Station, Belt Parkway, Exit 13, Brooklyn, New York, Phone: (718)763-2202. Year Round 9AM-4:30PM. Restrooms, visitor information.
  • Jacob Riis Park Visitor Contact Station, Rockaway, New York, Phone: (718) 318-4300. Memorial Day to Labor Day. Restrooms, visitor information, first aid.
  • Fort Tilden

Fort Tilden Visitor Contact Station closed 2008 - Use Jacob Riis Park Visitor Contact Station.

Staten Island

This area is on the south shore of Staten Island.

  • Fort Wadsworth Visitor Center, Bay Street, Staten Island, New York, Phone: (718) 354-4500. Year Round 10AM-5PM, W-Su. Ranger-led programs start from the visitor center. Exhibits and 12-minute film on the history of New York's harbor defense system. Bookstore, restrooms, visitor information.
  • Miller Field Ranger Station,, New Dorp Lane Staten Island, New York, Phone: (718) 351-6970. Year round 8:30AM-5PM. an historic former airfield. Ranger-led programs start from the ranger station. Restrooms.
  • Great Kills Park Ranger Station, Great Kills Park, Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, Phone: (718) 987-6790. Year Round F-M 9AM-4:30PM. Some ranger-led programs start at the station. Call for details. Restrooms are not available at the ranger station, but are available throughout Great Kills Park.
  • Hoffman Island
  • Swinburne Island

Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook is extremely popular in summer with more than 5,000 visitors on beach days. Parking is $10 per car ($50 per season). Arrive early (or late) to be sure of a parking spot. Open dawn to dusk. No pets. Food concessions are available. Alcohol is allowed on this Federal park, unlike most New Jersey beaches. Clothing optional areas are marked.

  • Sandy Hook Visitor Center, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, Phone: (732) 872-5970. Year round 10AM-5PM. Exhibits on the natural history of the area, and exhibits on the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service (which later became the US Coast Guard.) Bookstore, restrooms, visitor information.
  • Fort Hancock Museum, in the former post guardhouse. Daily 1PM-5PM.
  • Sandy Hook Lighthouse the oldest continuously operating lighthouse in America (1764).
  • Gunnison Beach - A clothing optional beach.
  • Beach activities: swimming, sailing, surfing and fishing.
  • Learning about ecosystems and their relationship to city life.
  • Bird watching, beach clean-ups and nature talks.
  • Hiking and cycling.
  • Touring historic military sites.
  • Gardening, photography and poetry readings.
  • Opera, symphony, and contemporary music and cultural festivals.
  • Organized athletics: soccer, football, baseball, tennis and cricket.
  • There are concessions at Sandy Neck. Some visitor centers have picnic areas and vending. Food may not be brought into the Wildlife Refuge trails.
  • Navy Lodge at Fort Wadsworth, Phone: (800) 628-9466. (National Park Service) Lodging for Navy veterans and active duty personnel. The Navy Lodge is not open to the general public.
  • Floyd Bennett Field Campground, Phone: (718) 338-4306. Seasonal. Camping is limited to educational groups. No individual camping is permitted.
  • Sandy Hook Campground, Phone: (732) 872-5970. Camping is limited to organized groups (school groups, scouts, etc.)and is on a reservation basis only. In a wooded area.
  • There are no backcountry areas. A large section of Jamaica Bay is a wildlife refuge that is off-limits to hikers.
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