July 4, 2012 - This photo essay is part of an ongoing series about camping within the 5 boroughs of New York City. The series so far includes camping at Wolfe's Pond Park and a portrait of Pouch Camp in Staten Island, a trip to the Boatel in Queens, and a one year pass to a shanty timeshare in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Floyd Bennett Field is an abandoned airport at the southern end of Brooklyn, with empty runways and aircraft hangars, crumbling power stations, a hollowed-out police precinct, and a constantly changing collection of boat wrecks. Built on landfill poured into the marshes of Jamaica Bay, this was once New York City's only municipal airport. It now resembles a wide open wilderness, with an excess of concrete. It is also New York City's only public campground.
As part of the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area, Floyd Bennett Field has recently renovated and upgraded much of its facilities, including expanding its campgrounds last summer to include space for over 50 campsites and RVs. The newly remodeled campsites are surrounded by a dense stand of trees and feel isolated from the city, despite a constant stream of jets flying to JFK overhead and the nearby views of the Empire State Building. The closest neighbors are the colonies of rabbits and raccoons that live in the woods nearby. At night, a surprising amount of stars are visible.
Passage to Camp
Besides unlimited firewood, camping at Floyd Bennett provides visitors the opportunity to explore this ruined airport at their leisure. Bordered by empty runways, the camping area is next door to a unrestored, derelict aircraft hangar filled with antique planes that are slowly being renovated. The nearby shoreline of Jamaica Bay is populated by a collection of wrecked boats and early morning fishermen. Longer hikes from the campground lead to an abandoned Job Corps campus and to the perpetually polluted beaches of Dead Horse Bay. As New York City's only campsite, Floyd Bennett provides an appropriately unvarnished experience of the urban waterfront, where man-made "nature" co-exists with copious industrial ruins and the visible effects of centuries of pollution.
For more information on camping at Floyd Bennett, visit the National Park Service website. For more photo essays from the area, visit Floyd Bennett Airfield (2008) and Dead Horse Bay (2008).
Boat Wrecks in the Morning
Gateway Job Corps
Dead Horse Bay Beach