Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Unexpected Wilds of New York City

Did you know that a portion of New York City contains a National Park Recreation Center?
 The Gateway National Recreation Center is located in sections of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey in areas that are shaded in green in the map below. (All photos will enlarge when double clicked on)


The National Park's website states:  "Gateway covers more than 40 square miles in New York and New Jersey. That’s an area nearly twice the size of the island of Manhattan. The park attracts over 9 million visitors a year—making it the third most visited National Park in America  The woods, waters and beaches at Gateway are the perfect place for ocean swimming, nature walks, sailing, bicycling, bird watching, camping, astronomy and fishing. In the middle of these natural areas, you can stroll through an historic aircraft hangar or tour forts that reveal important stories in our nation’s history."

In Brooklyn, Floyd Bennett Field is part of Gateway.  This historic airfield opened in 1931 as New York's first municipal airport and was named for naval aviator and Brooklyn resident Floyd Bennett, who was the first person to fly over the North Pole. In the early days of aviation it was a point of departure for record-breaking flights of famous aviators, including Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes.
After serving as the city's municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field was converted to a Naval Air Station in 1941. It was the most active airport in the United States during World War II, and it has an important place in the history of military aviation. In 1971, the U.S. Navy deactivated the Field. Soon thereafter, the National Park Service made the location part of Gateway National Recreation Area. .

The historic control tower and terminal at Floyd Bennett Field had been converted into the site's visitor's center and is now undergoing extensive renovation.  Volunteers are working on the park's collection of historic aircraft in Hanger B for future display. If you'd like to learn more about the history of Floyd Bennett Field as a municipal airport you can read a National Park's Service brochure on PDF at this link, and for a PDF on its history as a Naval airport click on this link.

One of the special places I like to visit in Gateway are the community gardens. The gardens at Floyd Bennett Field are probably the city’s largest, and currently hold more than 400 garden plots. The community gardens program offers a picnic area, a "Champions of Courage Garden" with wheelchair access, and a "Children’s Garden."

Garden plots are available to residents of all the boroughs of New York City through an application, although there is a long waiting list for new members at present.

Most of the community plots are well maintained and neatly gardened.

One of my favorite garden plots was the one in this photo collage. This gardener obviously spent a lot of time making brick pathways along their neat vegetable beds and they even made a shady nook for their picnic table.

Some more scenes from the community garden.

I liked the varied and creative ways each gardener enclosed his plot. One of the gates (top middle in the photo collage) was a recycled wooden side of a baby's crib!

I took a hike this weekend on one of the Gateway park paths that leads to Dead Horse Bay.
Why is the area called such a grusome name? According to the New York Times, "From the 1850's until the 1930's, the carcasses of dead horses and other animals from New York City streets were used to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products at the site. The chopped-up, boiled bones were later dumped into the water. The squalid bay, then accessible only by boat, was reviled for the putrid fumes that hung overhead.

The number of horse carcasses in Dead Horse Bay dwindled as the automobile grew in popularity, and by the 1920's only one rendering plant remained. Sand, coal and garbage were used as landfill to connect Barren Island to the Brooklyn mainland in the 1920's, and the Barren Island Airport, later renamed Floyd Bennett Field."

The bay now looks reclaimed by nature, except when you begin to walk along the shore where you'll see hundreds of old bottles washed to shore, some that are over a hundred years old, from the city garbage that was once dumped here and from the garbage used as part of the landfill to fill in the marshlands and islands to form Floyd Bennett Field.

It is a sobering reminder of the permanent impact garbage makes on the environment, and I'm happy that New York City now recycles glass, plastics and paper.  Scavengers, collectors and the curious often visit Dead Horse Bay at low tide looking for antique and rare bottles.

Another sight often seen on the beaches around Gateway are the very unusual looking horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus).  As a species, horseshoe crabs are estimated to be at least 300 million years old. They are most closely related to trilobites that existed 544 million years ago. Horseshoe crabs are often called "Living Fossils" for this reason.

This is another wild protected beach of Gateway National Recreation Area on the Rockaway inlet. The Marine Park - Gild Hodges Memorial Bridge connects Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn with Fort Tilden in the Rockaways in the borough of Queens. Both areas, along with Jacob Riis Park on the Rockaway Peninsula, are now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. This bridge is a popular route for NYC bike clubs and other cyclists to get to the Rockaway beaches in the summer.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a little of the little known wild areas that exist around New York City.

Today we will be having heat and humidity in NYC that will climb into 100 degrees!  I'll be trying to stay cool and hope the power grid will keep working in our community and all of NYC. It's always a challenge to keep all the air conditioners going in such a large, populated city.

I'm linking this post to Diane's " Second Time Around" event on her blog A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, and  Susan's "Outdoor Wednesday" on her blog A Southern Daydreamer. Please visit Susan tomorrow to see many blog links with wonderful outdoor posts

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grey like snuffie said...

Wonderful post. That is so cool that there are places to have community gardens....big city living is often a mystery to me with our wide open spaces here in the Midwest. Hope your stay cool!

Debbie said...

Those where really cool gardens...I like how they all had a different look. Really scary to know all those bottles are in there, washing ashore...Recycling is a great thing, not only in NYC but everywhere! Thanks for the outstanding photos, and awesome history.

Jackie said...

It was great to learn more about NYC and I love the name Community Gardens. Here they are allotments but they don't look as attractive as the ones in your photographs. Jackie in UK.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to believe all the surprises that are tucked into such a small area with such a high population!!
Have a Cool Week!!

Lucy said...

I think that is neat. I could live right there. I'll even keep the weeds out. :)

Grace said...

Beautiful well kept gardens. Love your pictures all the time...just so sad to see all those bottle washed ashore! I wish people would clean up after themselves and not dump! Oh well. Try to keep cool sweetie..scorcher and Con Ed is warning us that we might lose power tonight when people leave to go home...I say I am staying here at work! lol Grace xoxo

Lily Hydrangea said...

wow! another informative post Pat! thanks for this, so fascinating. I'd love to go to that beach and collect some of those bottles.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

What a fascinating post, Pat! I enjoyed this so much, and I think it's neat that the city leases those garden plots. Loved the crib as a gate, too!

I love old bottles, so I would be interested to see what comes ashore at Dead Horse Bay. And I didn't know that about Horseshoe Crabs! Fascinating info!

Thanks for the tour and the history lesson. I enjoyed it thoroughly.


Sheila :-)

black eyed susans kitchen said...

I loved seeing the community gardens and got some new ideas for ours. I think that maybe, the gardeners don't have to remove everything at the end of the season like we do in ours. It is so wonderful to see areas of the city set aside for recreation and nature. Once again Pat, this was a terrific history lesson.
♥, Susan

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Pat - You always post the most interesting things about New York City. My husband and I loved looking at the great gardens.

CatHerder said...

Pretty gardens..enjoying the heat Pat?

GrandmaK said...

Really very interesting!!! I didn't know this. Have a grand day! Cathy

Betsy from Tennessee said...

How interesting, Pat.. I had no idea all of those places were around NYC... I didn't even know about the old air field... That would be so interesting to visit...I'm not sure I'd want to visit the old garbage dump area --but I'm sure that people do find some 'treasures' there.

Thanks so much for sharing all of this--especially for people like me who have never been there. I'd love the gardens --and I enjoyed seeing all of the individual garden areas...Quite creative!!!

steviewren said...

I am amazed by the dedication of these gardeners. Some of them must have to really travel to get to their plots. I love that baby bed gate. How clever.

Hope you are able to stay cool today. We enjoyed some really nice temps here over the weekend. We've had low 90s and low humidity. It made going outside a pleasure...and there hasn't been much of that this summer. It was miserable all of June.

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

You never run out of interesting places to visit over there! Who would have thought such a park existed in New York? The community gardens are such a neat idea.

Enjoy the heat! We are finally seeing the first warm sunshine of the summer...and loving it.

Carmie, the Single Nester said...

I've never been here. Thanks for the introduction.

Old Kitty said...

I love the allotments in such a historical setting! I love that they are well maintained and cared for lovingly!

What an amazing hidden gem of NYC! Thanks for the info!

And the Floyd Bennet Field airport has such a history. I love that the Administration Building - it's art deco with a twist - it looks almost georgian in architecture!!!

Gosh it is very sobering when seeing all these bottles washed up on the shore! I like to think that glass bottles are a million times "better" than plastic - but it's still sad that human rubbish continues to be washed ashore ( no matter now valuable)!

Oh but I do love that crab - its so prehistoric! Amazing.

Thanks again for sharing! And I hope you stay cool!! Looks like it's really heating up where you are! It's gotten cooler here.

take care

Junie Moon said...

Nope, I didn't know NYC had a national recreation area at all, but I'm so glad you do. My husband and I love these sorts of places and maybe some day in the future I can visit yours. Thanks for sharing this.

mbkatc230 said...

What a fascinating post Pat. I love the community gardens, they are really beautiful and I love all the gates. But the brick walkway really is my favorite, such loving care shown for their space. The history of Dead Horse Bay was really interesting. It's so beautiful now, but I imagine the smell used to be unbearable. Love the shot of the path leading to it. Wonderful post and beautiful photography as always :) Kat

Regina said...

Hello Pat. Wow such interesting find Thank you for the info and tour.
Great outdoor post.
R e g i n a

Donna said...

What a great post, Pat, so informative! I love the community gardens. It's amazing how nice they look.


Oliag said...

This is a part of NY that I probably will never get to but it has been wonderful to learn about it! Those gardens look wonderful.

diane said...

Very interesting. One doesn't associate wild places with NYC. It will be a great place for an aviation museum. The gardens were very healthy looking.

Sheila said...

A Community garden does so much for an urban community. It must be so enjoyable for apartment or condo dwellers to spend time in the sunshine growing things. Our vegetable garden is so much a part of our summer.

The Paint Splash said...

The community gardens really reminded me of the years we spent living in Germany. This was very normal for almost every town because land was so scarce. Have a great week and come by for a visit when you can. Debbie

Gracie said...

I can't believe this is really NYC!!! What a nice surprise, thank you very much.

The Muse said...

I recall how shocked I was as a youngster...to get to NY state and not have the NY city right on the state line welcoming me with skyscrapers! LOL...
There is much more to see in all the state's than we know...

Loved this jaunt...a truly Wild Excursion :)

Cathy~Mille Fleur said...

I love all of the community gardens!

What a wonderful and informative post!


supplies overflowing! said...

Hi Pat!
This is another wonderful post- full of great info. and photos.
Have you ever been to Sandy Hook? Is that where you went once with your son/d-i-l, and Leo? Suddenly I can't remember, but that too is filled with history, and is a great place to visit. There may be a fee at this time of year, but after Labor Day, you can just drive out, or ride bikes, and explore.
Take care,

Marina Capano said...

Hi Pat! wow! very interesting! OMG! what a strange animal! is awesome!


Anonymous said...


Those are some good looking garden plots!

Oh, I wish I could keep Bo for you! Miss Piggy would love your kitty!

Renee said...

Great post. I love all the garden plots and the fact that people can make them "their own". So sad about all the garbage still washing up.

At least some of it is taken away by collectors.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I love this post and seeing the map helps me to visualize where we are on this adventure! Thank you! Stay cool! ♥

Ann Best said...

I found you tonight through "Old Kitty." What stunning photographs. I'm following. I'll be back.

H said...

I ended up here from tomorrow's post on Alphabe-Thursday.

This is weird; my head has always known that New York City is on the coast, but these two posts took me totally by surprise! I had never joined up the dots!

Thank you for such an interesting pair of posts! I was fascinated :)

CatHerder said...

gosh pat..i am right across the water at the other half of gateway! I spend a huge amount of time at Gunnison and Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook!