Must-See Jamaica Bay: History
Outdoors & Recreation
by Alyssa Grossman, 05/15/2012
Jamaica Bay is a destination with a past as lively as its current activities and events. Culture hounds should head to Fort Tilden, a 1917 harbor defense outpost named after Samuel Tilden, New York's governor from 1875 to 1876. Decommissioned in 1974, the fort now houses the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company, but visitors can still explore the landmark's batteries and bunkers and get a feel for its rich history. (The beach at Fort Tilden remains closed for restoration efforts after Hurricane Sandy.) Another must-see: Floyd Bennett Field, home of aviation history and the newly reopened William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center. The field was named for Brooklynite Floyd Bennett, a naval aviator who was the first to fly over the North Pole, in 1926. The space's impressive history goes on from there: record-breakers Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes both took off from Floyd Bennett, and during World War II, it served as the country's most-used airport. Recently restored, the 1930s building takes guests back to its days as the City's first municipal airport. Inside, you'll find exhibitions, touch-screen newsreels, watercolor panels of the era's transportation methods and aircraft replicas built to scale by skilled volunteers.
Jamaica Bay's past is easy to explore on your own, but for even more ways to learn about the area's history, check out these activities and events:
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays Throughout the Summer
Historic Aircraft Restoration Project at Floyd Bennett Field
Drop by to check out the progress volunteers are making or join in on the effort to restore the vintage aircraft at Hangar B. For more information, call 718-338-3799.
June 1 and 15
Rockspot Bike Tour at Firehouse 59
Explore Rockaway's past while traveling the area on two wheels. Registration is required. For more information, call 718-327-5919 or visit rwalliance.org.