Gateway National Recreation Area

Jamaica Bay, Sandy Hook, Breezy Point, Staten Island
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The four units of Gateway offer many opportunities for active and leisurely recreation, such as exploring the natural world and visiting historic sites. The National Park Service continuously changes and expands its programs to meet the needs of its vast audience. Because programs and schedules change frequently, be sure to contact the unit headquarters before setting out to attend any particular event.

Jamaica Bay Unit
One of Jamaica Bay's major attractions is the wildlife refuge, open year round, which may be reached by subway and a hike of one mile. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge provides fulltime or seasonal habitat for more than 300 species of birds, including Canada geese in winter, and egrets and glossy ibis in warm weather months. The teeming marine life of the bay offers exceptional fishing at the North Channel Bridge and Canarsie Pier. Various programs are offered at Breezy Point, Floyd Bennett Field, and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is most exciting during the spring nesting season and the fall migration when thousands of ducks and geese on the Atlantic Flyway stop over on the two refuge ponds. During these seasons, the refuge provides programs for school classes on weekday mornings and for the public in the evenings and on weekends. Dead Horse Bay provides school groups and the public with a living laboratory for exploring the natural environment.

One of the largest segments of the Jamaica Bay Unit is Floyd Bennett Field, which was New York's first municipal airport. Although it did not succeed commercially, it contributed to the development of aviation as the takeoff point for many record-breaking flights by such pilots as Wiley Post, Howard Hughes, Laura Ingalls, Col. Roscoe Turner, Wrongway Corrigan, and John Glenn. Today, the field offers recreation programs for organized groups, community gardening, and educational programs for teachers and children through the Gateway Environmental Study Center, which is run cooperatively with the New York City Board of Education.

Getting There:
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Mass Transit: Take IND A or CC subway to Broad Channel Station; walk west to Cross Bay Blvd., then north three-fourths of a mile to refuge visitor center. Or, Green Line 021 bus from Liberty Ave. (Queens), or 116 Street (Rockaway) to refuge. Or, 021 bus from New Lots Ave. (Brooklyn) or Far Rockaway (Queens). Auto: Belt Parkway to Exit 17 for Cross Bay Blvd. south. The refuge is on west side of Cross Bay Blvd., one mile south of North Channel Bridge.

Floyd Bennett Field. Mass Transit: Take IRT 2 subway to Flatbush Ave., then the Green Line 035 bus-ask the bus driver to stop at Floyd Bennett Field. Or, the Green Line 035 bus at Flatbush and Nostrand Ave., or at Ave. U near Kings Plaza to Floyd Bennett Field. Cross Flat-bush Ave. and walk one-fourth of a mile to the visitor contact station. Auto: Belt Parkway to Exit 11S, Flatbush Ave. south. At the traffic light near the Marine Parkway Bridge, turn left into the park.

Canarsie Pier. Mass Transit: BMT LL subway to Rockaway Parkway, free transfer to B42 bus to entrance of the Pier. Auto: Belt Parkway to Rockaway Parkway, Exit 13.

Sandy Hook Unit
Because Sandy Hook dominates a major channel into New York Harbor, it has been the site of a lighthouse and a series of forts since colonial times. The last of the forts, Fort Hancock, is still largely intact, as are the great gun emplacements that defended the harbor entrance. The remains of the Sandy Hook Proving Ground, where new U.S. Army weapons were tested from 1874 until 1919, may be seen. The Atlantic Ocean beach provides swimming and surf fishing on the peninsula. Behind the beach are superb resources for exploring history and nature, including the holly forest.

Sand dunes protect portions of the Sandy Hook uplands against seawinds and enable the growth of plant life. The growth culminates in a holly forest unsurpassed on the eastern seaboard. Besides its natural aspects, Sandy Hook also offers many historic sites. The lighthouse, which dates from 1764, is the Nation's oldest in continuous operation. Fort Hancock is the last of several forts erected on Sandy Hook to protect the shipping channels into New York harbor. Here also is one of the first stations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

Tours of Fort Hancock and natural areas are offered in the summer, along with lifesaving demonstrations and children's shows. Summer also brings performances and lectures to the Fort Hancock post theater or auditorium. The park offers field trips, classes, and workshops for teachers. Four campsites are available to youth groups by reservation. Sandy Hook is a popular stop for bikers, hikers, and birdwatchers. In the spring and summer, you may see endangered osprey nesting here.

Getting There: Mass Transit: TNT Hydroline, daily hydrofoil from Pier 11 in Manhattan, or from the 69th Street Pier, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, to Highlands, N.J., and return. New Jersey Transit train, New Jersey Coast Line to Red Bank, then the M24 bus to Highlands. Academy Lines bus from New York City to Highlands. Auto: Garden State Parkway to Exit 117 (or U.S. Route 9 and NJ Route 35 south) to Route 36 east to Sandy Hook.

Breezy Point Unit
From early spring through fall, rangers lead thousands of schoolchildren in explorations along ocean and bay beaches to discover the fascinating world of marine life. Fort Tilden , a defense point for New York City intermittently since the War of 1812, is open to the public for tours on weekends. Special programs for groups are available on request about the history of the Rockaway peninsula. Summer programs at Breezy Point include visits to Fort Tilden by organized groups of young people and senior citizens for games, environmental education, crafts, gardening, picnicking, and swimming. Fall and spring bring such special events to the mall at Riis Park as craft shows and theatrical performances.

Focal point of the Breezy Point Unit, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, is Jacob Riis Park, named for the crusading journalist (1849-1913) who battled for better housing and recreation facilities. Here is one of the finest ocean beaches in the metropolitan region. Swimming and surf fishing (in designated areas only) are joined with opportunities for softball, baseball, football, rugby, paddleball, and handball. Historic areas include one of the first stations of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, the Rockaway Naval Air Station, and Fort Tilden.

Getting There: Mass Transit: Take the IRT 2 subway (5 also at rush hour) to Flatbush Ave., then the Green Line Q35 bus to the park. Or, take the IND A or CC subway to Rockaway Park, then the 022 bus to the park. Or, 021 or Q53 bus to Beach 116 Street, then the 022 or 035 bus to the park. Auto: Belt Parkway to Exit 11S, south on Flatbush Ave., and over the Marine Parkway Bridge to the park. Or, Woodhaven Blvd. to Cross Bay Blvd., west on Beach Channel Drive to the park.

Staten Island Unit
From the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to its southwestern tip, Staten Island faces the waters of Lower New York and Raritan bays. Great Kills, toward the southwestern end, was once the site of an Algonquin Indian village. Its topography was changed by massive land-filling in the 1940s and Crookes Island became Crookes Point-a choice spot for fishing. Miller Field, toward the mid-point of the island and built just after World War I to serve hydroplanes of the U.S. Air Service, is a site of historic and recreational interest.

Swimming and fishing are centered at Great Kills Park in the usually calm waters of Lower New York and Raritan bays. Northeast of the former bathhouse, a peat bog reaches into the bay. Great Kills offers athletic fields, a model airplane field, walking trails, and educational programs to the public. Environmental field trips are available to school classes during the spring and fall. Bird walks, geology walks, star watches, and Monarch butterfly walks are offered weekends for the public. In the summer, there are discovery walks over woodland, grassland, dunes, and beach trails for organized groups and drop-in visitors. The center of Crooke's Point is being allowed to return to a natural state and is preserved as a habitat for plants, birds, and other animals, as well as one of the Staten Island stopping places for Monarch butterflies in their annual migration to and from Mexico.

Miller Field has a roller hockey rink and is a site for all kinds of ballgames. Hoffman and Swinburne Islands in lower New York Bay are currently undeveloped and inaccessible to public use.

Getting There:
Miller Field. Mass Transit: S76 bus from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to New Dorp Lane; walk east on New Dorp Lane to the park entrance. Auto: Staten Island Expressway to Hylan Blvd. exit, then south on Hylan Blvd. to New Dorp Lane. Turn left on New Dorp Lane and continue to park entrance.

Great Kills. Mass Transit: S76 or S79 bus from Staten Island Ferry Terminal to Great Kills entrance at Buffalo Ave. and Hylan Blvd. Auto: Staten Island Expressway to Hylan Blvd. exit, south on Hylan Blvd. to Great Kills at Buffalo Ave.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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