Press Release Mar 20, 2017

New Report: One of America’s Most Visited National Parks Only Accessible for Some

Parks group identifies transportation improvements for Gateway, including ferry, bus and bicycle options.

NEW YORK – With a record-breaking 8.6 million visitors to Gateway National Recreation Area in 2016, an increase of nearly 2.5 million visitors from the previous year, Gateway National Recreation Area is one of our country’s most visited national park sites. However, despite the park’s proximity to some of the city’s most dense urban areas and Manhattan, access to the park is mostly limited to those with their own vehicle, a new report shows. To address this lack of access, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) released a report today offering transportation recommendations to better connect surrounding communities to the Jamaica Bay area of Gateway.

The report, Transportation and Access Improvements for the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, offers specific recommendations for expanding or creating new water routes and ferry service, extending and improving New York City bus service and raising public awareness of and improving bicycle access to the national park.

“Surprisingly, despite its location, getting to Jamaica Bay can be extremely time-consuming for many city residents,” said Cortney Worrall, Northeast regional director for National Parks Conservation Association. “Although the national park is only 25 miles from midtown Manhattan, it can take two hours or more to get there using public transit. Gateway National Recreation Area is one of our country’s most visited national parks. But due to a lack of transportation options, it’s those with their own vehicle who are most inclined to go. And that is what we want to change.”

The NPCA report is the result of ideas and recommendations from hundreds of passionate people and communities working together to strengthen, protect and restore Jamaica Bay, as well as representatives from the National Park Service, the city, state and federal agencies. The goal of the Jamaica Bay advocates is to develop ideas for transportation that would ease access to the Gateway National Recreation Area for all city residents and visitors alike.

Key report recommendations, with a goal of being completed within the next one to three years, include:

  • Adding ferry service from Canarsie Pier to Riis landing and other points in the park, which would allow south Brooklyn and Queens residents direct access to Gateway’s beaches;
  • Updating public transportation bus maps with information about Gateway National Recreation Area, and installing shelter or Bus comfort stations at park entrances;
  • Making transit to the park safer by building a multi-use path for pedestrians on Flatbush Avenue leading into the park, one of the city’s most dangerous roadways; and
  • Improving lighting and maintenance needs on the Jamaica Bay Greenway bicycle route in sections that run parallel to the Belt Parkway.

Accessing the park by personal vehicle is the most frequent way that visitors come to the park, yet less than half of New York City’s residents own a vehicle. And locals that are dependent on public transit are often faced with dangerous conditions on congested city streets that connect Jamaica Bay to the rest of the city.

For example, Flatbush Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard in Brooklyn and Queens are two of the most frequently used streets that connect New York City to Jamaica Bay, but are also considered two of the most dangerous streets in the city. More pedestrians are killed or seriously injured due to traffic accidents on these streets than many other areas in New York. That is why in 2015, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio identified these streets as priority corridors meaning they will be an area of focus for future engineering, planning, education and enforcement to improve pedestrian safety.

To address these safety concerns, NPCA is advocating for a protected multi-use path on Flatbush Ave. from Avenue V to just south of the Belt Parkway entrance ramp, and on Woodhaven Blvd. over the Addabbo Memorial Bridge. This multi-use path would offer bikers, runners and walkers a convenient and safe, protected pedestrian lane for those visiting and living within close proximity to the park.

Improving public transit routes connecting Jamaica Bay to New York City could also provide additional evacuation options for the millions of people living in the surrounding areas and would be a vital public safety resource for Brooklyn and Queens waterfront communities.

“The community has come together and put a lot of thought into these recommendations, many of which could be done relatively quickly and cost-effectively. It’s a great example of how small changes can lead toward big improvements. National parks, including one as important as Gateway, should be accessible to everyone, and we won’t let up until it is,” added Cortney Worrall.

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About National Parks Conservation Association

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.