Ryan Visitor Center reopens at Floyd Bennett Field

The former air control tower for New York City's first airport now helps visitors navigate recreational opportunities at Gateway.
The former air control tower for New York City's first airport now helps visitors navigate recreational opportunities at Gateway.


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News Release Date: May 4, 2012

Contact: Reina T. Becnel, 718-354-4607

Gateway National Recreation Area will reopen the newly renovated William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center, which served as the historic passenger terminal building for Floyd Bennett Field, New York City's first municipal airport. The official opening of the Ryan Visitor Center is from 12 noon to 5 P.M. Saturday, May 5, with festivities for visitors planned for both Saturday and Sunday.

"Gateway cannot wait to celebrate this beautiful restoration with the public," said Superintendent Linda Canzanelli. "Finally, the terminal is restored to its majesty during the Golden Age of Aviation." She encouraged families and aviation enthusiasts to explore the new visitor information and educational exhibits at the Ryan Visitor Center and to visit Gateway's collection of historic aircraft at Hangar B.

Live music will kick off the festivities at noon, with the ribbon cutting ceremony and christening of the full scale replica of Wiley Post's Lockheed Vega "Winnie Mae" at 12:30 P.M. In addition, children's activities, live music and swing dancing will continue throughout the weekend. In the newly restored center, visitors can view newsreels from the airfield's heyday via a touch screen and enjoy historic exhibits. Children can "fly" a mini-airplane and test their paper airplane design skills. The Rockaway Arts Alliance will conduct children's activities on both days in the new visitor center.

During the three-year renovation, the Ryan Center was painstakingly restored to its original look during the Golden Age of Aviation in the 1930s, when Floyd Bennett Field served as New York City's municipal airport. Paintings and panels depicting modes of transportation from the steam engine to the dirigible have been restored to their 1939 appearance. Electrical, fire suppression, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems have been upgraded.A new elevator has been added for increased accessibility.

The restoration project, contracted and managed by the National Park Service's Denver Service Center, was funded in large part by a $4.8 million grant from the Department of Defense.Additional funding was provided by the National Park Service.

The new "Winnie Mae", a full scale replica of the Lockheed Vega aircraft flown by Wiley Post around the world in 1931 and 1933, was built at Hangar B in Floyd Bennett Field by volunteers from the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP). Building the aircraft took ten volunteers and over 16,000 hours from a scale model. No plans for the original are known to exist.

Visitors will be able to see one of two remaining C97 aircraft in existence and the PBY Catalina, an amphibious aircraft. Tours of nearby Hangar B will feature Gateway's collection of historic aircraft, which are being restored by the members of HARP.

The Ryan Visitor Center is named after William Fitts Ryan, a United States Congressman from New York City from 1961 until his death in 1972. Ryan championed the creation of Gateway National Recreation Area in 1972. Following his death, the park's founding legislation stipulated that the terminal would be named after him.

About Gateway National Recreation Area

Established in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area offers more than 26,000 acres of marshes, wildlife sanctuaries and recreational athletic facilities, miles of sandy beaches; indoor and outdoor classrooms; picnicking and camping areas, as well as historic structures and military installations, airfields, a lighthouse, and adjacent waters around New York harbor. The park offers urban residents in two states a wide range of recreational opportunities year round. With more than nine million visitors a year, it is the third most visited national park in the country. For information about Gateway's upcoming public programs, see the park's Web site at https://www.nps.gov/gate/index.htm


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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