Things to Do -- Jamaica Bay
Jamaica Bay is an 18,000-acre wetland estuary surrounded by the Rockaway Peninsula to the south, Brooklyn to the west, and Queens to the east. Comprising an area almost equal to the size of Manhattan, the bay consists of numerous islands, a labyrinth of waterways, meadowlands and two fresh water ponds. The wetlands provide a unique environment for both wildlife preservation and urban recreation. Enclosed by the Rockaway Peninsula and protected from the Atlantic Ocean, the region currently hosts over 325 species of birds, 50 species of butterflies and 100 species of fish. A favorite stop for migratory waterfowl, the area is an integral part of the larger, regional ecosystem.
A New Partnership with the City of New York
On July 17, 2012, the National Park Service, The U.S. Department of Interior and the City of New York signed an unprecedented agreement to cooperatively manage Jamaica Bay's 10,000 acres of federal and City-owned public parkland. Under the agreement, federal and City agencies will jointly promote visitation, recreation, education programs, and scientific research, creating a new "jewel in the crown" of the national and City park systems. This innovative partnership will better connect surrounding communities to the natural beauty and history of Jamaica Bay.
Rockaway!, a free public arts festival sponsored by the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) to celebrate the reopening of Fort Tilden and recognize the ongoing recovery of the Rockaway peninsula, opens June 29 and continues through September 1, 2014.
The acclaimed international artist, writer, and musician Patti Smith—a Rockaway resident—conceived a large-scale installation, photography exhibition, and site-specific outdoor installation (The Resilience of the Dreamer) specially for Rockaway! Having witnessed personal belongings of Rockaway residents being destroyed and washed away during Sandy, Smith will install a gilded four-post bed with pure white linens in a long-abandoned building that lacks windows and parts of its roof. The bed will wear down physically, yet remain in place, a symbol of courage and resilience.In the RAA galleries, an exhibition of photographs taken by Smith over the last several years focuses on objects that were dear to their owners: Robert Mapplethorpe's slippers, Robert Graves's hat, Virginia Woolf's bed, Frida Kahlo's corset, and William Burroughs's bandana, among others. The adjoining gallery is dedicated to Walt Whitman and includes books of his poetry that visitors are invited to read. Smith has also placed five granite stones engraved with verses from Whitman's poetry along the trails of Fort Tilden to mark the far ends of this scenic urban park on the ocean.
In addition, the Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas will present a selection of small sculptures made from unfired clay and straw, inspired by the nests of the tiny Argentinian birds known as horneros. Installed in several locations throughout Fort Tilden, these nests invite local birds to inhabit them, offering a temporary home in this beautiful and fragile environment. These nests—a number of which can be found along the impressive hills and former batteries—also highlight the military history of Fort Tilden, which was built to provide protection against a potential enemy invasion from the ocean.Thanks to a loan from The Museum of Modern Art, Fort Tilden's military chapel—which was damaged by Sandy and is now being restored—will showcase one of the highlights from the MoMA collection: The Forty Piece Motet by Janet Cardiff, a spatialized adaptation of a sacred 16th-century motet created by recording each member of a choir individually and giving each voice its own speaker. The final component of the festival is a group exhibition organized in collaboration with the Honolulu Biennial on the grounds of the newly restored Rockaway Beach Surf Club on Beach 87th Street in Rockaway Beach. Following Hurricane Sandy, the Surf Club was the one of the largest relief centers on the peninsula; their organization facilitated and directed over 5,000 volunteers, with major contributions from MoMA PS1. The exhibition celebrates the efforts of the Rockaway community of surfers and artists in rebuilding their neighborhood.
Photo by Liora Codor
Family Day-Programs with Park Rangers
Discover Gateway with our special offerings for Jamaica Bay.
Reservations required: 718-318-4340.
Family Camping (overnight) in the Urban Outback
Reservations required: 718-338-4306
Archery (Year - round)
Call 718-338-3799 for archery permits for Floyd Bennett Field.
Beach Recreation (Summer)
Go swimming at Jacob Riis Park or Rockaway Beach during the summer. Build a sand castle and look for endangered Piping Plovers.
Rip currents are powerful currents of water flowing away from shore. Before you go to the beach, learn what you need to do to "Break the Grip of the Rip!"®
Breezy Point Surf Club provides sale of seasonal and day-use passes for beach club facilities, rental of day-use beach cabanas, cabanettes, bath cabins and use of swimming pool. They also have family recreational facilities, food and beverage sales and catering services are available in the restaurant and bar. Call 718-634-7200, or click on the link above.
Silver Gull Beach Club provides sale of seasonal and day-use facilities, rental of day use beach cabanas, cabanettes, bath cabins and use of swimming pool. Family recreational facilities, food and beverage sales and catering services are available in the restaurant and bar.
Biking (Year - round)
Bike along the historic runways of Floyd Bennett Field, or along trails at Fort Tilden. The Rockaway Gateway Greenway, a paved multi-use pathway adjacent to Floyd Bennett Field and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, offers a unique way to see the park. A variety of bikes are available for rent at Riis Park, and Marine Park.
Birding & Nature Study (Year - round)
Birding is great at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, as well as the back fort area of Fort Tilden, Marine Park and the North Forty area of Floyd Bennett Field.
Please remember that in order to provide food for wildlife, the removal of any plant materials, including fruits, berries, nuts and seeds is prohibited from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Boating (Park programs for small boat sailing, canoeing and kayaking are offered in Spring, Summer, and Autumn. Call (718)338-3799 or email us for reservations.)
Kayaks are available for rent at Marine Park.
Hand - launched privately owned small boats (canoes, kayaks, and rowboats) may be launched from various sites around the Jamaica Bay Unit. For information on launch sites call 718-338-3799.
During summer, basic sailboat instruction is offered by the park. Call 718-338-3799.
For larger boats Gateway Marina, located on Flatbush Avenue across from Floyd Bennett Field, offers slips and a full range of boating services. Call 718-252-8761.
Note: In order to protect wildlife and sensitive marsh habitat, entry into salt marshes or onto any islands in Jamaica Bay is not permitted.
Cross Country Skiing When the snow falls, Floyd Bennett Field's North Forty Natural Area is available for cross country skiing. Park rangers will cut a trail through the snow for you to follow.
Ecology Village Summer Camping Ecology Village, located at Floyd Bennett Field, offers a two day camping experience to students, ages 8-14. The program is available to non-profit and organized groups during the months of July and August. Participants camp on platform tents and receive all the necessary equipment for their overnight visit. Rangers present a variety of programs related to topics of environmental protection, conservation and awareness. New leaders must attend the 30 hour workshop presented by the rangers, prior to their trip. Returning leaders must attend a 2 hour refresher workshop annually before their scheduled trip.
A $50.00 fee is required for the camping permit. For more information and schedule of workshops, please call the rangers at (718) 338-4306. Please register for the refresher workshop or new leader training.
Ecology Village also conducts school camping programs during the school year. Teachers must attend a workshop prior to scheduling their class trip.
Exhibitors: Gateway Seeks Artists to Exhibit The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge seeks qualified exhibits for its gallery space. (Year-round)
Fishing (Year - round)
Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden and Canarsie Pier offer great fishing opportunities. Call 718-338-3799 for permits and other information for these sites. Other popular spots include Marine Park and Bayswater Park. If you are above 15, a fishing license is required for freshwater fishing at all city parks.
Health Advice on Eating Fish You Catch: New York City Area (from the State of New York)
Gardening (Spring, Summer, and Autumn)
Enjoy Brooklyn's largest Community Garden at Floyd Bennett Field. Call the Floyd Bennett Garden Association at 718-338-4255.
Golf (Year - round)
The Brooklyn Golf Center, located on Flatbush Avenue adjacent to Floyd Bennett Field, offers a driving range, pro shop and golf instruction. Call 718-253-6816. The Riis Park Pitch and Putt Golf Course offers an 18 hole par 3 executive course in a links - style setting. Call 718-474-1623.
History (Year - round)
Discover Jamaica Bay's historic sites, including Fort Tilden, a former U.S. Army post and Floyd Bennett Field, a former municipal airport and U.S. Naval Air Station.
Horseback Riding (Year - round)
Contact the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy at 718-531-8949. Horseback riding and lessons are available to the general public. (Year round).
The National Park Service, nor any of its units at Gateway National Recreation Area, will not and cannot accept injured wildlife, nor will we convey any wildlife to any other agency or rehabilitator. The NPS has no staff or facility for providing veterinary care to any animal, nor do the 22 sister park sites in the NYC area. You may wish to do a Google search of a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. Bringing injured wildlife to our parkland runs the risk of introducing disease and parasites.
Junior Ranger Program (Year - round)
Aspiring Junior Rangers can pick up the Junior Ranger activity booklet, and earn the Junior Ranger badge and patch at Floyd Bennett Field, Jacob Riis Park, and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Model Airplane Flying (Year - round, weather permitting)
Call 718-338-3799 for information on the Radio Controlled Flying Field at Floyd Bennett Field.
Passport to Your National Parks (Year - round)
For the collectors, passport stamps are available at Floyd Bennett Field, Jacob Riis Park, and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Passport to Your National Parks books are sold through the Eastern National bookstores at Floyd Bennett Field and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Pets are not permitted anywhere within the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge District or in the Back Woods of Fort Tilden or Floyd Bennett Field campgrounds. Pets are not permitted at Riis Park, Fort Tilden, Sandy Hook, or Breezy Point Tip ocean beaches from March 15 - September 15, or Great Kills Park swimming beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Pets must be kept on leash where permitted and are not permitted in any public building.
Picnicking (Year - round)
Individuals can picnic at Jacob Riis Park and Canarsie Pier; barbeque grills are available. Group picnic facilities are available by permit at Fort Tilden.
Public Camping (Year - round)
Floyd Bennett Field has 32 tent campsiites and 6 RV campsites available for a unique urban, yet rustic camping experience. Online reservations can be made by visiting www.recreation.gov. Sites are $20 per night. For more information, click here or call 718-338-3799.
Public Programs (Year - round)
Check the schedule of events to see what opportunities there are for Ranger-led and partner-led programs.
Public Recreation and Sports Fitness Facilities (Year - round)
Aviator Sports and Events Center, Gateway's newest and largest sports concessioner, offers indoor ice skating, hockey, a climbing wall, gymnastics, basketball, and outdoor sports fields. Call 718-758-7500, or click on the link above.
Walking & Hiking (Year - round)
Take a self guided trail at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Try the Upland, East Pond and West Pond trails. Or hike in the back fort area of Fort Tilden. Pets are not permitted anywhere within the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge District or in the Back Woods of Fort Tilden or Floyd Bennett Field campgrounds. Pets are not permitted at Riis Park, Fort Tilden, Sandy Hook, or Breezy Point Tip ocean beaches from March 15 - September 15, or Great Kills Park swimming beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Pets must be kept on leash where permitted and are not permitted in any public building.
Did You Know?
Did you know that many celebrities visited Fort Hancock in World War II? Judy Garland performed for the soldiers at Fort Hancock in 1943. Lana Turner also visited the fort during the war. More...