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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Visitor center
Visitor center
Gateway National Recreation Area Jamaica Bay Unit map.jpg
Jamaica Bay Unit of the
Gateway National Recreation Area
Location New York City, United States
Coordinates 40°36′57″N 73°49′48″W / 40.6158°N 73.83°W / 40.6158; -73.83
Jamaica_Bay_Wildlife_Refuge Latitude and Longitude:

40°36′57″N 73°49′48″W / 40.6158°N 73.83°W / 40.6158; -73.83
Area9,155 acres (37.05 km2)
Governing body National Park Service
Website Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife refuge in New York City managed by the National Park Service as part of Gateway National Recreation Area. It is composed of the open water and intertidal salt marshes of Jamaica Bay. It lies entirely within the boundaries of New York City, divided between the boroughs of Brooklyn to the west and Queens to the east.


Bird watching has always been a popular activity at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, June 1973. Photo by Arthur Tress.
Conservation sign circa 1973

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge consists of several islands in Jamaica Bay, located in both Brooklyn and Queens. The Queens portion is located near John F. Kennedy International Airport, which was built upon a portion of the wetlands in Jamaica Bay. In April 1942, the City of New York started placing hydraulic fill over the marshy tidelands of the area. [1] JFK International Airport is now the sixth busiest airport in the United States, [2] and the aviation traffic may pose some serious noise pollutant threats to the surrounding environment. [3]

The refuge provides habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna, both marine and terrestrial. With resident and migratory birds, it is a prime location for birding in New York City. Other animal activities include diamondback terrapin egg-laying and horseshoe crab mating and egg laying. The primary diet of the diamondback terrapins include fish, snails, worms, clams, crabs and marsh plants, many of which are abundant in these particular marshlands. [4] Ospreys, which were at one time endangered due to the pesticide DDT, have regularly nested in the refuge since 1991. [5] They are currently being captured, tagged and studied in the Wildlife Refuge to help scientists better understand the birds' habits. [6] Small mammals such as eastern gray squirrels [7] and raccoons [8] are also present in the area. The recently increased raccoon population, however, has developed a taste for diamondback terrapin eggs, and many nests are often destroyed only 24 hours after being laid. [9]

Adult female diamondback terrapin

The extent of the refuge is 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 in 1972. Usually, federal wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Features created under city ownership include two large freshwater ponds. A visitor center with a parking lot provides free permits to walk the trails. [10] The two main trails go around the East Pond and the West Pond. The West Pond and its trail, however, were breached by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


As a result of climate change, the Jamaica Bay area faces effects such as salt marsh erosion, rising sea levels, and flooding. [11] In 2012, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar authorized the creation of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, Inc. (JBRPC). [12] The public-private organization was officially established in 2013, partners with the National Park Service, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, and is "dedicated to improving the 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula for local residents and visitors alike." [13] [12] Other organizations dedicated to the preservation of the bay include Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers and The American Littoral Society. [11] [14]

In 2016, David Segal and David Hendrick released the documentary Saving Jamaica Bay, narrated by actress Susan Sarandon. [15] The film portrays the history of the national wildlife refuge and current efforts to preserve the natural landscape and wildlife. [16]

See also


  1. ^ "History of JFK International Airport". The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  2. ^ "(JFK) John F. Kennedy International Airport Overview". FlightStats, Inc. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  3. ^ Cohen, Beverly; Brozaft, Arline; Goodman, Jerome; Nádas, Arthur; Heikkinen, Maire (February 2008). "Airport-Related Air Pollution and Noise". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. 5 (2): 119–129. doi: 10.1080/15459620701815564.
  4. ^ "Diamondback Terrapin". Defenders of Wildlife. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  5. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. (2012-05-02). "An Earth-Bound View of Where Ospreys Soar". The New York Times. ISSN  0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  6. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (2 May 2012). "An Earth-Bound View Of Where Ospreys Soar". The New York Times.
  7. ^ Huynh, Howard; Williams, Geoffrey; McAlpine, Donald; Thorington, Richard (December 2010). "Establishment of the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Nova Scotia, Canada". Northeastern Naturalist. 17 (4): 673–677. doi: 10.1656/045.017.0414.
  8. ^ Burke, Russell; Felice, Susan; Sobel, Sabrina (December 2009). "Changes in Raccoon (Procyon lotor) Predation Behavior Affects Turtle (Malaclemys terrapin) Nest Census". Chelonian Conservation and Biology. 8 (2): 208–211. doi: 10.2744/ccb-0775.1.
  9. ^ Newman, Andy (17 July 2002). "Turtle Soup? Raccoons Like Eggs; A Hungry Invader Threatens Terrapins in Jamaica Bay". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge New York Harbor Parks
  11. ^ a b Kensinger, Nathan (2016-03-17). "Forecasting NYC's Climate Change Future in Jamaica Bay". Curbed NY. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  12. ^ a b "Who We Are". Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  13. ^ "Improving Parkland Through Partnership". The Wave | Rockaway Beach, NY. 2020-07-23. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  14. ^ "Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers". Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  15. ^ Sigal, David (2016-03-17), Saving Jamaica Bay (Documentary), Susan Sarandon, Grounded Truth Productions, retrieved 2021-04-29
  16. ^ Kern-Jedrychowska, Ewa (16 March 2016). "Susan Sarandon Narrates Documentary to Raise Awareness About Jamaica Bay". DNAinfo New York. Retrieved 2021-04-29.{{ cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status ( link)

External links