OPINION: Help shape Gateway’s future
Jamaica Bay, parts of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach, Queens, and areas along southeast Brooklyn’s waterfront are home to the nation’s fourth most visited park unit – Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway). Gateway was established in 1972 with the vision to serve local neighborhoods and visitors alike as a great urban national park. Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a close partner of NPCA, is a public-private partnership established in 2013 dedicated to improving the 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula. Both of our organizations seek to improve access to Gateway and provide visitors with a unique, urban park experience.
Improving access to Gateway has long been a pressing issue for a diverse set of stakeholders, as most of the park’s locations are not served by public transportation. The need to improve transportation in these areas of the city have become urgent in recent years, as larger discussions about equality and resiliency have dominated the public sphere. Improving transportation and access to Jamaica Bay will provide better opportunities for outdoor recreation, environmental education, access to the waterfront and open space, and other community benefits. One way to increase access to Jamaica Bay is to run a ferry that would serve both local residents and park visitors, and allow interbay connectivity between Jamaica Bay parks and nearby communities.
Today, individuals, non-profit and for-profit organizations, along with other interested parties can help shape the way Gateway is developed in the future and ensure that transportation is a key component to any future uses at the park. The National Park Service has released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the re-use of buildings and land at Fort Tilden East and Riis Landing in Gateway. Our hope is that individuals and/or organizations will submit proposals that include interbay ferry service to and from Riis Landing to points across Jamaica Bay like Canarsie Pier, connecting parks in Brooklyn and Queens. This is the first step in a lengthy process that will help shape Gateway’s future. Proposals are due by March 30 at 1 p.m. We urge readers to review the RFEI at https://www.nps.gov/gate/request-for-expressions-of-interest-for-fort-tilden-and-riis-landing.htm and consider submitting a proposal that better connects us and provides access to our parks.
Alex Zablocki is the executive director of the Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy. Lauren Cosgrove is the program director at NPCA’s Northeast Office.
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