If you want to know what Gateway National Recreation Area is all about, Floyd Bennett Field is a great place to start. From here you can relive aviation history by exploring New York City's first municipal airport and former naval air station by bicycle along 6.5 miles of historic runways and access roads.
We suggest parking at the Floyd Bennett Field Ryan Visitor Center which is housed in the historic airport Administration building. It is open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Get oriented, enjoy the exhibits and pick up maps. and a National Recreation Area Program Guide.
Time your bike ride to coordinate with a ranger led bike excursion, or other educational and adventure programs. Don’t hesitate to seek advice from the park rangers.
This is one of our favorite places in New York City or should I say Brooklyn. We called it our "home away from home", as we spent so much time exploring the entire area .... again and again.
Visitors Center, drinking water, campsites, camp store, boat launch areas, picnic tables, charcoal grills, fire rings, showers, community garden, Hangar B, Aviator Sports & Events Center.
Besides opportunities for cycling, hiking, birdwatching, nature study and picnicking, Floyd Bennett Field is a magnet for hobbyists from around the city. There is also a model airplane field, a model car race track, community garden association, historic aircraft restoration projects, greenhouse education center, cricket club and archery range.
Directions / Contact: 718-338-3799
Floyd Bennett Field provides the ultimate rustic camping in the urban outback experience. There are 32 tent sites and 9 RV parking sites to choose from year around at Camp Gateway.
A camping program gives visitors the chance to sleep under the stars and cook over an open flame right in New York's back yard. Each campsite is basically equipped.
RentalsVisitors may bring their own bicycles or rent them from Aviator Sports and Events Center, located within the park.
Floyd Bennett Field Trail Connections
Jamaica Bay Greenway
The Jamaica Bay Greenway adjacent to Floyd Bennett Field is a 28-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian paths connecting parks, wetlands, and beaches surrounding Jamaica Bay. These include Dead Horse Bay, Plumb Beach, Fort Tilden, Jacob Riis Park, Rockaway Beach, Sunset Cove, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and Canarsie Pier.
The North Forty Natural Area Trails
Take the time before or after your ride to explore the North Forty Trail System (hiking only). Floyd Bennett Field contributes to the Gateway National Recreation Area ecosystem with it's diverse landscapes and habitat. The grasslands, uplands, wetlands, marshes and mudflats are home to an incredible variety of mammals, birds and marine creatures.
Floyd Bennett Field Bike Paths Description
The abandoned runways, now popular with cyclists and model airplane enthusiasts, crisscross the airfield and stretch for thousands of feet in all directions. The asphalt paths are wide open with little obstruction, however there are rough and broken up patches.
The fields between the runways are now part of an important Grasslands Management Area and are off limits. This grassland area is an attractive habitat for grassland birds and raptors (harrier, kestrel, hawk and barn owls). The American oystercatcher also nests here.
As you cycle the runways, watch for red-winged blackbirds (spring) and raptors that like to perch atop posts lining the runways. You'll also pass by many historic airfield features. Some of the hangars, neglected and battered by the elements over the decades have been restored. The Aviator Sports and Recreation Complex, a state-of-the-art indoor sports facility is now housed within Hangars 5, 6, 7 and 8.
From the main entrance to Floyd Bennett Field (traffic light) you can access the multi-use Jamaica Bay Greenway Bike Path. Bike north on the Greenway along Jamaica Bay over to the Jamica Bay Wildlife Refuge or head south over the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge to historic Fort Tilden's marine forest mountain bike trails and the beaches there or at Riis Park. It's beach plum heaven.
One of the original runways, constructed in 1929, runs parallel to the original hangars along Flatbush Avenue. This 3,100 x 100-foot concrete runway was lengthened to 3,500 feet in 1936 It was then modified to become the 4,500 x 300-foot taxiway T-10 in 1942.
Runway 6-24 (Old)
This 4,000 x 100-foot concrete runway was the second of the original two runways constructed in 1929. It runs perpendicular to the original hangars along Flatbush Avenue, from the Administration Building/Control Tower to the more modern Hangar B.
Runway 6-24 (New)
This 5,000 x 300-foot runway, constructed in 1942, was lengthened to 6,000 feet in 1952. It runs perpendicular to Flatbush Avenue on the North side of the field.
Constructed in 1936, the runway was lengthened several times. Today, at 7,000 feet it is the longest runway at the airport. It runs from the vicinity of the current main public entrance to the field at the South end of Flatbush Avenue, to the North corner of the field near the Mill Basin inlet.
Constructed in 1936, the runway was lengthened several times to its present length of 5,500 feet. It runs from the former Coast Guard Hangar to the Northwest corner of the field near Flatbush Avenue. For many years, the US Coast Guard used 2,500 feet of this runway for helicopter operations. Now the NYPD Aviation Unit uses this same segment.
Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest
Wildlife Watch & Photography
Jamaica Bay is a regionally important urban tidal estuary. The bay's geographic location acts to concentrate marine and estuarine species migrating between the New York Bight portion of the North Atlantic and the Hudson River and Raritan River estuary. It's also an important rest and food stop for migrating birds along the East Coast Flyway. It's salt marshes and uplands provide a rich fish, wildlife, and plant habitat complex.
In the spring, red-winged blackbirds like to perch atop the posts lining the runways. Towards dusk you might also see a raptor or two surveying the fields between the runways, no doubt looking for a tasty meal.
The North Forty trails wind through open fields, dense shrubland, and stands of phragmites (reeds) and lead to a 2 acre man-made pond with a blind for bird-watching. It can be accessed at the northern end of the airfield. The best time to do this hike is during the Spring or Fall migration periods. The shrubland is ideal habitat for mockingbirds, rufous-sided towhees, catbirds, northern cardinals and common yellowthroats. On the pond you might spot a variety of waterfowl including black ducks, wood ducks, glossy ibis, mallards, winged teal, sandpipers and hooded mergansers.
In the fall you might spot a hawk in every other tree close to dusk. You might also be dinner for mosquitoes at that time. Cover-up.
Note: Deer ticks present in the tall grasses. Take the proper precautions.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
The 9,000 acre refuge is located 1.5 miles south of the North Channel Bridge (Joseph Addabbo Bridge) on the right side. With more than 330 bird species—nearly half the species in the Northeast—sighted at the refuge over the last 25 years, it is a must-see
Address: 175-10 Cross Bay Blvd, Broad Channel, NY 11693
Historic Architecture & Walking Tours
Floyd Bennett Field Historic District
Floyd Bennett Field was listed on the Natiional Register of Historic Places in 1978. The district includes the original runways, the Administration building, eight original hangars, and several other dependent buildings. Most of the work done at Floyd Bennett Field throughout the 1930's was carried out by the Works Project Adminstration (WPA) crews.
Administration Building (Ryan Center) & Air Control Tower
The focal point of Floyd Bennett Field and one of the main features of the Floyd Bennet Field Historic District. It is located just north of the main runway. The building has changed very little since it's opening in 1930. Originally, this two-story brick building served as passenger terminal, air traffic control, baggage and freight distribution, and sleeping quarters for air crews.
The style is a "municipal hybrid" common for public building construction during 1900's - 1940's. Rennaisance Revival, Colonial Georgian Revival, Neoclassical and Art Deco style elements can be seen throughout the building.
Interesting details are the insignia on the roof, the building clock, passeneger loading tunnel, decorative fine artwork and murals in the lobby, ornamental brass stairway railing, and the four-story Control Tower which was almost completed by the time the airport officially opened.
All aviation enthusiasts will enjoy a tour of Hangar B, home to the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), which restores and maintains a wide variety of aircraft and gives visitors the opportunity to get up close to—and even inside of—airplanes spanning just about every era of aviation history.
Wander in and watch the volunteers at work as they go about restoring the collection. Call ahead to arrange a group tour.
Bikes & Beaches
Fort Tilden Mountain Bike Trails
Fort Tilden is a former United States Army installation. It has largely become a natural area of beach, dunes and maritime forest.
From Floyd Bennet Field you can hookup with the Jamaica Bay Bikeway and travel over the Marine Parkway Bridge to Fort Tilden which has a military history that dates back to the War of 1812. Mountain bike the back fort natural area trails which lead to historic gun batteries. Stairways lead up to observation decks atop the batteries where you can enjoy dramatic 360-degree panoramic views of Jamaica Bay and New York Harbor. After your tour, bike to the beach to catch a few rays and watch the shore birds play tag with the surf.
Rockaway Beach & Boardwalk Bike Path
Hurricaine Sandy wreaked havoc on this historic summer getaway for New York City dwellers. Sections of boardwalk were repaired, damaged beach buildings were renovated with new boardwalk islands constructed around them, public restrooms and lifeguard stations were installed to replace destroyed facilities, and interim shoreline protection and anti-erosion measures were created.
Much of the new boardwalk’s appearance – including its sand-colored decking, brightly colored ramps and designated bike lane – was decided during a series of collaborative design sessions with Rockaway residents.
By summer of 2017 all construction is projected to be completed.
Things To Do
County Fairs, Festivals, Special Events
Guided Bike Tours
Join a National Park Ranger for a guided bike tour of Floyd Bennett Field. See runways, shoreline, hangars and other historic and natural features on this fun 6.5 mile bike ride. Reservations are required.
Jamaica Bay Water Trails
See the Gateway National Recreation Area by kayak. There are seven National Park Service kayak launches in Jamaica Bay including Plumb Beach, Floyd Bennett Field Seaplane Ramp, Mill Basin, Canarsie Pier, and the North Channel Bridge. There are no boat rentals available at the Park, however in the spring and summer Park programs include sailing, canoeing and kayaking. All skill levels welcome.
Phone: Call 718-338-3799 for information and time schedules.
Bike Races: Tuesday Night Cycling Race Series
The Floyd Bennett Field Cycling Race Series is usually held on Tuesday nights from May through August.
Meet the Horseshoe Crabs
Each May and June at evening high tides on the full and new moons, horseshoe crabs emerge from the sea onto the beaches to mate at Jamaica Bay Park. These animals are among the oldest creatures on Earth. Migrating birds, which include several endangered species like the Red Knot, rely on the crab eggs as their primary food source. The crabs also play an important role in medical science.
The American Littoral Society offers guided, educational walking tours. View and learn about these fantastic creatures that predate the dinosaurs. You won't be disappointed. We weren't.
Website: American Littoral Society
Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
Much of America’s 20th-century history is inextricably linked to aviation. In recognition of this fact, the National Register of Historic Places has made the site part of its "Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms" Travel Itinerary.
Floyd Bennet Field was named for naval aviator and Brooklyn resident Floyd Bennett (1890-1928), the first person to fly over the North Pole as a pilot for Admiral Richard E. Byrd during the exploration of the North Pole expedition in 1926. He died in 1928 from pneumonia contracted during a rescue mission in the arctic.
Flight activities commenced at Floyd Bennett Field, New York's first municipal airport, on June 26, 1930. It had paved concrete runways, 4 hangars that could house and service the largest airplanes, facilities for seaplanes and flying boats as well as a comfortable terminal for pilots and passengers.
It's runways have been used to make record breaking flights by aviators such as Wiley Post, Jacqueline Cochran, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughs. On July 16, 1957, then - Major John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, established a transcontinental airspeed record flying an F8U-IP Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California to NAS New York–Floyd Bennett Field, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds.
Floyd Bennett Field provided an appropriate 'gateway' to the nation’s largest city --- New York City. After the opening of LaGuardia Airport, closer to Manhattan, the city eventually sold Floyd Bennett Field to the U.S. Navy in 1941. It was then the most active airport in the United States during World War II. It served as one of the most important sites in support of the Allied war effort during World War II and in the development of naval aviation.
In 1971, the U.S. Navy deactivated the field. Soon thereafter, the National Park Service made the location part of the Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway NRA) in 1972.
Treasure Hunting - Dead Horse Bay
Floyd Bennett Field was originally known as Barren Island. It was inhabited by European settlers who were able to access the mainland easily during low tide, or by small vessel. The idyllic island later became a major site for waste recycling and horse rendering factories. Dead horses and other animals were processed for fertilizer, thus the name Dead Horse Bay.
Although it is illegal to remove artifacts -- (this is part of a National Park) dozens of artists and antique collectors scour the beach every year, looking for that perfect relic to add to sculptures, paintings and mantel piece collections. The beach at the south end of Dead Horse Bay is also known as 'Bottle Beach' for the many antique bottles that still wash up onto the shore. To reach it, cross Flatbush Avenue at the traffic light (Floyd Bennet Field main entrance).
Look for the sign with a map on it. A short hiking trail leads to the beach. Landfill was used to connect the island to the mainland when the airport was built.
Great Story: Treasure Hunting At Dead Horse Bay
In counterpoint, every year, thousands of American Littoral Society volunteers clean-up hundreds of miles of shoreline along New York State's Beaches. Here's how they do it.
Website: Coastal Clean-Ups
By car: Belt Parkway (east or westbound) to Exit 11S. Travel about 1 mile south on Flatbush
By public transportation: IRT #2 (or #5 during rush hour) to Flatbush Ave. or IND “A” to Rockaway Park/Beach 116th St. Take Q35 bus from either stop to park. Bikes are not allowed on city buses. You will have to ride south from the IRT station on Flatbush Ave. or north over the Marine Parkway Bridge from the IND station.
Ferry: Take the NY Water Taxi ferry to Riis Landing. Bikes are permitted on the ferry. Cross the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge via the pedestrian/bike path and ride to Floyd Bennet Field. Also See Rockaway Gateway Greenway Bike Path for directions.
Gateway National Recreation Area
210 New York Avenue
Phone: (718) 354-4606
Web site: Jamaica Bay Unit