Located on Barren Island in Jamaica Bay and opened as New York’s first municipal airport in 1931, this 1,300-acre site witnessed many record-breaking flights until World War II, when it took on a significant role for the U.S. Navy. In 1971 the field was deactivated and soon became a part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the National Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area.
Between 1928 and 1931 the site was transformed from a tidal estuary to a flat, dry terrace with the establishment of the two first, perpendicular runways- one of which at 4,000 feet was the longest in the country. Between 1931 and 1934 Depression aid funding was used to create a new entrance to the airport and to install an early landing light system. From 1934 to 1938 the Works Progress Administration (WPA) expanded the original runways, added two additional ones, and added the Coast Guard air station while also constructing a more formal airport entrance landscape. Leading up to World War II, the U.S. Navy introduced many administrative and infrastructure buildings, as well as the Naval Aviation Reserve base.
Floyd Bennett Field is now the largest expanse of open land in New York City, and hosts one million visitors annually with its diverse recreational programs, that include urban camping, kayak trips, Ranger-led ecology walks, and the Floyd Bennett Field Garden Association’s community garden. The landscape has changed dramatically over the three decades following the establishment of Gateway National Recreation Area, as its stewardship emphasizes recreation and natural resources. This includes the management of woods and trees on what was formerly open, mowed airfields, and the removal of non-significant World War II architecture. 328.5 acres of Floyd Bennett Field were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 1980.