Gateway National Recreation Area 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
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Queens, . Right nearby the Jamaica Bay area.
- LaGuardia (LGA) in Queens, .
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, .
By subway or train
Directions from National Park Service website :
- 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, ) 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.
Directions from National Park Service website :
- 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, . 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), . Daily ferry service between Manhattan (Pier 11 & East 34th Street) and Highlands, NJ.
- NY Waterways, phone: 1-800-53-FERRY, . 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.
Directions from the National Park Service Site:
- 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 Visitor Contact Station closed 2008 - Use Jacob Riis Park Visitor Contact Station.
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 is extremely popular in summer with more than 5,000 visitors on beach days. Parking is $15 per car ($75 per season). Arrive early (or late) to be sure of a parking spot. Open 5AM to 8PM. 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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