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Floyd Bennett Field: astronomy, camping, gardening, cycling, birding and more!

May 12, 2010

(Photo: M. Sedwick via Wikipedia)

In today’s NYTimes Frugal Traveler blog, Matt Gross talks about camping at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field.  What fun – a city camping trip accessible by public transportation! If nothing else, it seems you and your urban kids could end up with a great story. You can see from the photo above where the campground is located. Though, I have never camped there, we have spent a fair amount of time at Floyd Bennett Field, watching the Tuesday night bike races that are held there. Be careful camping: I have plucked a pile of ticks off of the dog every time we are out there and I am continually amazed by how windy it is out there, so make sure you have enough stakes for your tent, though I expect the campsites offer some protection.

If you aren’t a camper, there are a lot of other activities to do at Floyd Bennett Field, including specific events for stargazers, history buffs, cyclists, gardeners and more…

Floyd Bennett Field was built originally on Barren Island in Jamaica Bay, and was later connected to the mainland with landfill under the guidance of Robert Moses. After serving as the city’s municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field was converted to a Naval Air Station in 1941. It was the most active airport in the United States during World War II, and it has an important place in the history of military aviation.

Here’s the list of other activities:

1. The historic control tower and terminal at Floyd Bennett Field has been converted into the site’s visitor ‘s center. From the top of the tower, enjoy a spectacular view of Floyd Bennett Field and Jamaica Bay. Exhibits and interpretive programs celebrate the people and historical events connected with Floyd Bennett Field. The runways are now popular with model airplane enthusiasts and cyclists while acres of restored grassy fields give nature lovers a chance to explore the wildlife in their own back yards.

2. May 21st: 8-10 pm: The Night Sky: Pack a blanket and search the night sky with the Amateur Astronomers Association. Telescopes will be provided or bring your own. At the Radio Control Flying Field.

3. May 22nd: 10:30 am- 2:30 pm: Hike Flyod Bennett Field: Wear comfortable shoes for this four mile hike around historic Floyd Bennett Field. Park rangers will share the information about the airfield and the wildlife found here. Call ahead for reservations, (718) 338-3799. Meet at Main Entrance Ranger Station.

3. National Park Service Ranger site tours of the commemorative artwork and memorial are offered to the public free of charge Monday-Friday, at 10am and 2pm. Groups are urged to make reservations for tours to ensure adequate preparation and ranger availability.

4. Birdwatching: Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) has been known for its grassland birds and wintering hawks and owls. Go bird watching in the grasslands of Floyd Bennett Field to spot a falcon or kestrel.

5. Walk, run, bike, or skate on The Rockaway Gateway Greenway, a multi-use pathway adjacent to Floyd Bennett Field which offers a unique view of the park.

6. Test your green thumb and join Brooklyn’s largest community garden run by the Floyd Bennett Field Garden Association.

7. Aviator Sports & Recreation operates an indoor/outdoor sports facility that includes venues for ice skating, hockey, basketball, soccer, rock climbing, and more.

8. Additional concessions include the full-service Gateway Marina which has fishing enthusiasts and a picnic area with bbqs and restrooms.

9. The Jamaica Bay Riding Academy: This family-owned and operated horseback riding and boarding facility and has been located in Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay for over thirty years. Jamaica Bay offers private and group lessons and trail rides, summer camp, birthday parties, and pony rides. Jamaica Bay Riding Academy is authorized by the Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, to serve the public in Gateway National Recreation Area. There are also many events for Jamaica Bay Members such as horse shows, parade rides and hunter paces. Horses are available for sale or lease. Jamaica Bay is home to Seaside Therapeutic Riding, a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with disabilities and special needs. To go to their site, please click here.

10. Brooklyn Golf Center: 75 Practice Tees, 20 Grass Tees, Professional Instruction (Computer Analysis, Putting Green, New Target Greens, Camps & Clinics, Full Line Of Golf Equipment Club Fitting/Re-Gripping (718) 253-6816) (their website isn’t working)

General Directions to the vicinity: (for specific locations, check their websites or call)

Mass Transit: From Manhattan, take the No.2 Train (No.5 train only on weekday rush hours on the East Side) on the West Side downtown to Flatbush & Nostrand Avenue (last stop), from there transfer to the Q35 bus south on Flatbush Avenue. Ask the driver to let you off at Floyd Bennett Field. Check the bus map for the many buses that connect to the Q35 line. Take any trains from Manhattan that stop at Atlantic or Pacific Avenue stations in Brooklyn and transfer to the No.2 or No.5 trains to the Flatbush/Nostrand Station and take the Q35 bus. The Q35 bus stops on Flatbush Avenue across from the entrance at the Ryan Visitor Center and again at the entrance road just before the bridge toll plaza.

By Car: From the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn take exit 11-S which brings you onto Flatbush Avenue South. About 1 mile south the Belt Parkway, keep left and turn left at the traffic light just before the Marine Parkway Bridge toll plaza. From central Brooklyn, you may take Flatbush Avenue south all the way to the Field. From the Rockaways take the Marine Parkway Bridge and make the first right at the traffic light after the toll gate.