Gateway National Recreation Area
Envisioning Gateway: A Public Design Competition | Gateway Park Sites
Gateway's Jamaica Bay Unit includes a wealth of history, nature and recreation, from New York City's first municipal airport and coastal fortifications to a wildlife refuge and pristine beaches. Located in Brooklyn and Queens, Jamaica Bay is home to such well-known destinations such as: Floyd Bennett Field and Jacob Riis Park; Canarsie Pier, Plumb Beach and Frank Charles Park; Fort Tilden and Breezy Point; and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Did you know?
- At approximately 32 square miles and over 13,000 acres, Jamaica Bay is the largest natural open space in New York City.
- Plumb Beach on Jamaica Bay is one of the few remaining vestiges of the 1920's concept of a “parkway,” a road that is used to bring people to parks from urban centers, and in fact is a park in and of itself to be used for vehicular recreation.
- The first transatlantic flight departed from the Rockaway Naval Air Station on Jamaica Bay in 1919. Today, it is the site of Gateway’s Jacob Riis Park.
- Theodore Roosevelt called journalist Jacob Riis “New York’s most useful citizen.” As police commissioner, Roosevelt often accompanied Riis in raids exposing the hardship of life for New York City's poor and immigrant populations.
- 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. The government built Jacob Riis Park to give New York City's burgeoning immigrant population a place to escape tenement life and the chance to reconnect with the natural beauty and recreation of the sea.
From fishing to sailing, soccer and baseball to model airplane flying, Gateway's Staten Island Unit offers a wide range of recreational opportunities. Opportunities are offered in every season to explore historic military fortifications, enjoy the ocean beaches, and discover nature in generous open spaces and exceptional areas at Fort Wadsworth, World War Veterans Park at Miller Field, and Great Kills Park.
Did you know?
- Staten Island, an eclectic mosaic of the American culture, contains a record of some of the most important events in American history. The first European to leave a record of his exploration to the entrance of the New York Harbor was Giovanni da Verrazano, who in 1527 sailed into the stretch of water known as the Narrows, the location of the present-day Fort Wadsworth. Henry Hudson, 85 years later, explored the river beyond the Narrows and named Staten Island.
- Fort Wadsworth, located on Staten Island at the Narrows, is one of the oldest military sites in the nation. It has controlled the entrance to New York Harbor since the Revolutionary War, and from 1954 to 1966 was the control center for New York City's Nike missile defense system. When it closed in 1994, Fort Wadsworth was the longest continuously used military site in the country. It continues to be used by the Coast Guard today.
- Miller Field gained recognition as an airfield in World War I. Originally the site of a Vanderbilt Mansion and the historic Elm Tree Light, the site became home to the 102nd Observation Squad. The Elm Tree Light and an airplane hanger remain today, and dozens of athletic fields offer recreation opportunities for City residents.
Visit the Sandy Hook Light, America's oldest operating lighthouse (1764), and the Sandy Hook Proving Ground, which helped to defend our freedom, at Gateway's Sandy Hook Unit. Forts on Sandy Hook have guarded the entrance of the New York Harbor since the 1800s, including historic Fort Hancock, which defended the harbor against enemy navies and warplanes from 1895 until 1974. These sites complement seven miles of ocean beaches, a maritime Holly forest and other natural and recreational resources.
Did you know?
- The Sandy Hook Light was dimmed in World War II and painted in camouflage. Homes and businesses that were within 5 miles of the ocean were required to use blackout curtains in order to protect ships from submarine attacks.
- Since 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse has been a beacon for shipping. During the American Revolution, the lighthouse was defended by British Loyalists, ensuring British access to New York City.
- Fort Hancock housed an integrated unit in World War II. The 1225th Army Service Unit had African-American soldiers and in 1943 was joined by a group from the Women's Army Corps.
- Many celebrities visited Fort Hancock in World War II. Judy Garland performed for the soldiers at Fort Hancock in 1943.
For more information on Gateway National Recreation Area, visit: www.nps.gov/gate.