Gateway was created by the
U.S. Congress in 1972 to preserve and protect scarce or unique natural, cultural, and recreational resources with relatively convenient access by a high percentage of the nation's population. It is owned by the federal government and managed by the
National Park Service.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a prime location for viewing birds and bird migrations,
diamondback turtle egg-laying and
horseshoe crab mating and egg laying. Its 9,155 acres (3,705 ha) are mostly open water, but includes upland shoreline and islands with salt marsh, dunes, brackish ponds, woodland, and fields. It is the only "wildlife refuge" in the National Park System. Originally created and managed by New York City as a "wildlife refuge", the term was retained by Gateway when the site was transferred. All other federally managed areas titled "wildlife refuge" are managed by the
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under their own specific criteria and standards.
Shirley Chisholm State Park is a park built on top of the former Pennsylvania Ave landfill along the belt parkway in the north of the bay. The park is operated by the
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, but the land is owned by the National Park Service and is leased to the state for a 60 year period. The park represents an innovative step in
landfill remediation and redevelopment, and has cost 20 million dollars as of 2019 to develop. The park features bike paths, free bike rentals, kayaking, fishing, and walking trails. The first phase of SCSP was opened in July 2019, and subsequent development will open the other half in 2020.
Floyd Bennett Field, a decommissioned airfield with a historic district on the
National Register of Historic Places, also hosts the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (H.A.R.P.) in Hangar B where volunteers are working to preserve the park's collection of historic aircraft. Hangar B is open to the public at selected times during the week. Exhibits and programs on the airfield's history are available in the former control tower and terminal, since converted into the Ryan Visitor Center, named for
William Fitts Ryan, the congressman who championed Gateway's creation. The former airfield also accommodates public
camping, with 46
campsites. As of August 2013, Floyd Bennett Field campground provides hot showers and clean modern bathrooms. There is also a camp store. No electricity provided. Still, it is the only public campground maintained by the National Park Service that is within the
limits of an American city, and the only legal campground in New York City. The grasslands of Floyd Bennett Field are a good place for viewing
falcons such as
kestrels. Floyd Bennett Field also includes
concession recreational facilities including a sports arena and ice skating rinks in
adaptively re-used hangars. Within this unit, but still nearby, are
Dead Horse Bay, which includes a marina concession, and an adjacent golf
driving range concession. Bergen Beach, on the north shore of Jamaica Bay, is also nearby and within the unit's boundary, supporting a horse
riding academy concession.
Canarsie Pier is the latest in a series of
recreational piers near this location, and remains popular as a picnic area and fishing spot on the north shore of the bay.
Fort Tilden, between Jacob Riis Park and Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula, has some of the city's most pristine and secluded ocean beaches, a
successionalmaritime forest, a
coastal dune system, and a freshwater pond. Between 1917 and 1974, Fort Tilden served as part of the harbor's system of defenses, and once housed
Nike antiaircraft missiles. Today an observatory deck on one of the old batteries has views of Jamaica Bay,
New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline. Fort Tilden is one of the best places on New York Harbor to observe hawks during the fall migration.
Breezy Point Tip occupies the westernmost part of the
Rockaway peninsula, forming one side of the outer "gateway" to New York Harbor. Its 200 acres (81 ha) contain oceanfront beach, bay shoreline, dunes, marshes and coastal grasslands. Breezy Point Tip is a nesting area for the threatened
Jacob Riis Park is an ocean beach with a boardwalk and historic bathhouse with
art deco elements. It was built by powerful New York planner and administrator
Robert Moses, and was named after journalist, photographer and reformer
Community District Tabulation AreaJoint Interest Area (SI95) with areas for Fort Wadsworth, Great Kills Park, Miller Field and Hoffman & Swinburne Islands
The Staten Island Unit is located on the southeastern shore of
Staten Island facing
Lower New York Bay. It includes
Swinburne Islands, both off limits to visitation and managed primarily for the benefit of avian species. The unit also includes the following three sites:
Fort Wadsworth is a historic collection of masonry fortifications on the site of much earlier fortifications at
the Narrows of New York Bay.
Miller Field is a historic former airfield south of
New Dorp with picnic areas, open areas and sports fields.
Great Kills Park includes a marina where visitors can go boating, a beach with lifeguards during the summer, and nature trails. It also serves as a nesting site for
Sandy Hook Unit
Sandy Hook Unit is in
Monmouth County in northern New Jersey. The
barrier peninsula forms the other side of the "gateway" to New York Harbor, and includes two park sites:
Fort Hancock served as part of the harbor's coastal defense system from 1895 until 1974 and contains 100 historic buildings and fortifications.
Sandy Hook contains seven beaches, including
Gunnison Beach, a
nude beach by custom, as well as salt marshes and a maritime holly forest. Ferries from
Manhattan are available in season. Fishing and using hand-launched vessels are popular here.
^Congress of the United States. Public Law 92-592. October 27, 1972.
^Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Establishment of Gateway National Recreation Area in the States of New York and New Jersey. United States Senate, 92nd Congress, 1st Session. Report Number 92-345 to accompany S. 1852 Ordered to be printed August 3, 1971