Jamaica Bay Institute

National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Gateway National Recreation Area

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Breezy Point District

Overview and History

The Breezy Point District includes all the Gateway properties found in Queens, except for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Approximately 1,059 acres and 4.5 miles of ocean beach are contained within this portion of Gateway NRA. Most of the district’s sites: Jacob Riis Park, Fort Tilden, West Beach, and the Breezy Point Tip, are south of Jamaica Bay on the western end of the Rockaway peninsula. Located north of Jamaica Bay in Howard Beach are the two recent additions to the district, Frank Charles Park and Hamilton Beach. Both of which are managed for traditional recreational uses.

 

Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park is located in the eastern part of the District, south of the Marine Parkway Bridge. New York City acquired the property in 1912, intending to establish a public waterfront park. But in 1918 the US Navy leased the property and constructed the Rockaway Naval Air Station. When Robert Moses became New York City Parks Commissioner in the early 1930’s he wanted to bring the “Jones Beach” type experience to the New York City area. Jacob Riis Park, named in honor of the NYC journalist and public reformer. was that creation. Riis Park features a mile of ocean beach and is a very popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. Recreational facilities along the boardwalk surrounding the historic Bathhouse include: basketball courts, golf, paddle tennis, and children’s playgrounds.

 

Fort Tilden
Since the War of 1812, the United States Army has intermittently used the area of Fort Tilden for the defense of New York Harbor. In 1917, it was officially named in honor of former New York governor, Samuel J. Tilden. By 1967 Fort Tilden’s weaponry became obsolete and was ultimately transferred to the National Park Service. Today, Fort Tilden is comprised of a mosaic of reclaimed natural areas and assorted military structures. A narrow, one-mile long beach stretches along the Fort complex, connected to an established dunal system. The Back Fort, located on the west side of the complex, includes a successional maritime forest, a freshwater pond, and an observatory deck on top of Battery Harris East, a historic military battery, which is an excellent spot for viewing raptors during their fall migration. All sites are accessible along established trails.

 

West Beach
West Beach was the location of a half-finished complex of high-rise buildings that stood abandoned in 1972 when the property was transferred to Gateway. Stanley B. Tankel, a leader in regional planning in the New York area, led the movement to halt construction of the high-rise complex on Breezy Point and return the land to designated park use. The National Park Service demolished the buildings in the early 1980’s and West Beach is now habitat for a variety of shorebirds and is also frequented by fisherman. Behind the primary dune system, which extends the length of the beach, some small grasslands remain and are utilized by nesting killdeer and cottontail rabbits.

 

Breezy Point Tip
The Breezy Point Tip is the westernmost point of the Rockaway Peninsula. One of the most undisturbed natural areas of the Park, the “Tip” contains over 200 acres of sand dunes, salt and brackish marshes, and grasslands. Throughout the summer the protected ocean beach of the Breezy Point Tip is the nesting habitat for the threatened piping plover, roseate tern, least tern, common tern, black skimmer, and American oystercatcher. In addition, the beach is used as a stop-over for migrating shorebirds in the spring and fall. Fisherman from all over the tri-state area come to the Breezy Point Tip to fish off the jetty for striped bass, blue fish and summer flounder.

 
Experience Your America
Last updated: August 12, 2004
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