Floyd Bennett Field

For the airport in Queensbury, New York, see Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.
Floyd Bennett Field Historic District

1998 map of Floyd Bennett Field from the National Park Service.
Location Marine Park, Brooklyn, New York City, United States
Built 1928
Architect City Department of Docks
Architectural style Classical Revival, Art Deco
NRHP Reference # 80000363[1]
Added to NRHP April 11, 1980

Floyd Bennett Field was New York City's first municipal airport, later a naval air station, and is now a park. While no longer used as an operational commercial, military or general aviation airfield, a section is still used as a helicopter base by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Located in Marine Park, southeast Brooklyn, the field was created by connecting Barren Island and a number of smaller marsh islands to the mainland by filling the channels between them with sand pumped from the bottom of Jamaica Bay. The airport was named after famed aviator and Medal of Honor recipient Floyd Bennett, a Brooklyn resident at the time of his death. It was dedicated on June 26, 1930, and officially opened on May 23, 1931. The IATA airport code and FAA airfield identifier code was NOP when it was an operational naval air station and later coast guard air station, but now uses the FAA Location Identifier NY22 for the heliport operated there by the NYPD.

Since 1972, Floyd Bennett Field has been a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service. Many of the earliest surviving original structures are included in a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, being among the largest collections and best representatives of commercial aviation architecture from the period, and due to the significant contributions to civil aviation and military aviation made there during the Interwar period.


A Bell HTL-1 taking off over a Grumman Albatross prototype at Floyd Bennett Field (May 1948)

Prior to the opening of Floyd Bennett Field in 1930, a compacted dirt runway existed on the island. It was referred to as "Barren Island Airport", but was used primarily by one pilot who gave flights to paying customers.

The municipal airport site was chosen and designed by famed aviator Clarence D. Chamberlin. His preference was Barren Island, a 387-acre (1.57 km2) marsh with 33 small islands in Jamaica Bay, off the southeastern shore of Brooklyn. The site was favorable due to the lack of obstructions nearby, and because it was easily identifiable from the air. After much debate over the merits of other sites within the city (including Governors Island, the purported favorite of New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia), the Barren Island site was approved. Six million cubic yards of sand were pumped from Jamaica Bay to connect the islands and raise the site to 16 feet (4.9 m) above the high–tide mark. The new airfield's modern, electrically illuminated, concrete runways (when most "airports" still had dirt runways and no night landings) and comfortable terminal facilities with numerous amenities made it among the most advanced of its day, earning a rating of A-1 (the highest) by the United States Department of Commerce at the time. A seaplane base was constructed on the southern waterfront as part of the installation. Flatbush Avenue was widened and straightened to create a more direct route into Manhattan.

LaGuardia pushed for Floyd Bennett Field to replace Newark Airport in Newark, New Jersey as the city's de facto main air terminal, including designs and plans to shuttle passengers to and from Manhattan in flying boats. He was only able to persuade American Airlines to move its Newark operations to the new airport, and many passengers complained that ground travel from Bennett Field to Manhattan took longer than from Newark. In addition, particularly in the early days of commercial aviation, freight – not passengers – provided the bulk of profits. As airmail was a major fraction of air freight at the time, airports having contracts with the United States Post Office Department attracted commercial airlines. Airlines used the cargo area available on passenger aircraft to carry airmail, guaranteeing a profit on empty flights, and often providing more revenue than passenger ticket sales on under-booked flights, which were common. Public skepticism about the safety of this new form of transportation, as well as the Great Depression, made air travel an expensive luxury. As LaGuardia was never able to convince the Postal Service to move its New York City operations from Newark to Floyd Bennett Field,[2] neither did the airlines relocate. This hindered commercial air activities at the airfield. As a general aviation airfield, however, it attracted the record-breaking pilots of the interwar period because of its superior modern facilities and excellent location for flying, hosting dozens of "firsts" and time records as well as a number of air races in their heyday, such as the Bendix Cup.[3]

Notable aviators and flights

Famed aviator Wiley Post twice used the field for record-breaking 'round-the-world flights, and developed or adapted technology (such as the Sperry autopilot) there to aid him. Famous aviatrixes of the era, such as Jackie Cochran, Laura Ingalls, and even Amelia Earhart broke records at this airfield. Howard Hughes also used Floyd Bennett Field as the start and finish of his July 1938 record-setting circumnavigation of the globe in ninety-one hours (as depicted in the 2004 film The Aviator). Media-savvy pilot Roscoe Turner was also a frequent visitor at this airfield, often in conjunction with record-breaking flights.

Floyd Bennett Field's most storied flight was probably that of Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan who, in 1938, after repeatedly being denied permission by the authorities to attempt a non-stop flight to Ireland, "accidentally" crossed the Atlantic in a second-hand surplus aircraft on a flight registered to go to California. In the midst of the Great Depression a hero-starved nation hailed Corrigan for his "accident", even giving him a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan upon his return. (Irish authorities had his aircraft crated and sent him and his plane back to the USA on a ship.)

On July 16, 1957, then-Major John H. Glenn, Jr., USMC, established a transcontinental air speed record, flying an F8U-1P Crusader (BuNo 144608) from NAS Los Alamitos, California to NAS New York–Floyd Bennett Field, in 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds. Project Bullet, as the mission was called, provided both the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed, and the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. Glenn was awarded his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross for the mission.

Non-commercial activity

Aerial view of NAS New York in the mid-1940s

After the 1930s closure of Naval Air Station Rockaway across the inlet, a hangar at Floyd Bennett Field was dedicated as Naval Air Reserve Base New York within the larger civilian facility. The NYPD occupied a hangar for the world's first police aviation unit. At that time the fleet consisted of (fixed-wing aircraft; it later used only helicopters.

In addition, about 10 acres (40,000 m2) of Floyd Bennett Field along Jamaica Bay were leased by the city to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in 1936, for the creation of Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn (CGAS Brooklyn). During World War II, the civilian airfield was first leased and then sold to the United States Navy, which subsequently established Naval Air Station New York (NAS New York) to host several naval aviation units of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, to include three land-based antisubmarine patrol squadrons, a scout observation service unit, and two Naval Air Transport Service (NATS) squadrons (processing the majority of the aircraft destined for the Pacific Theater), while still retaining the Coast Guard Air Station as a tenant.

The pilot Eddie August Schneider died in a training crash on the tarmac in 1940. NAS New York aircraft patrolled the Atlantic coastline and engaged German U-Boats, sustaining casualties, though this information was kept from the public at the time. In addition, Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) served as air traffic controllers in the control tower, directing traffic at the busy Naval Air Station, while others served as parachute riggers, packing parachutes and liferafts for use by aviators. Still others performed aircraft maintenance as Aviation Machinist's Mates, some of whom also served as "plane captains" for locally based aircraft.

Throughout the remainder of the postwar period and until the early 1970s, NAS New York-Floyd Bennett Field primarily functioned as a support base for units of the Naval Air Reserve and the Marine Air Reserve. CGAS Brooklyn continued to operate from NAS New York and the installation also served as a base for units of the New York Air National Guard from 1947 to 1970.

From the early 1980s to the early 1990s Floyd Bennett Field was homeport to a Naval combatant, the USS Boulder, LST-1190, as well as Naval Reserve Maintenance Facility (NRMTF)Brooklyn, a floating ship maintenance facility. In the early 1990s, the NRMTF function was transferred to SIMA Staten Island during the Navy's short stay in that location.

In the interim, commercial aviation in New York City moved to a new airport in Queens, which took advantage of the then-new Queens-Midtown Tunnel to Manhattan. That airport was quickly renamed LaGuardia Airport in recognition of that mayor's efforts to bring commercially viable aviation to New York City.

National Park Service acquisition

Coast Guard Helictoper

NAS New York was deactivated in 1971 and its tenant squadrons and personnel transferred to other naval air stations. An Armed Forces Reserve Center, which supported non-flying units remained, and is currently the airfield's only surviving military activity.

Most of the land transferred to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in Gateway National Recreation Area. The majority of the remainder, constituting the area occupied by Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, was officially transferred to the Coast Guard and no longer leased.

CGAS Brooklyn was eventually decommissioned in 1998, following its merger with CGAS Cape May, New Jersey and relocation to the new Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey. The majority of former Coast Guard land then transferred to the National Park Service (a small portion remained in the possession of the USCG parent agency at the time — the U.S. Department of Transportation — and a Doppler radar tower was placed there for use by nearby Kennedy International Airport). The NYPD moved their aviation operation from a historic hangar to the former Coast Guard Air Station facilities shortly afterward.

Current day

Normal usage

Floyd Bennett Field from the air, 2013
Former "Administration Building" (Building 1) served as passenger terminal, air traffic control, baggage depot, freight receiving–shipping, and accommodations for air crews. The tower on top was added when the facility was transferred to the Navy.
Hangars 7 and 8

Volunteers from the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project maintain a collection of example aircraft of the type with historic connections to the airfield, and display them in the 1940s–era Hangar B.[4][5]

In addition, the airport's original Administration Building is partially accessible to the public, including (under escort) the former control tower. The runways have long since been closed, yet are occasionally reopened for fly-ins.

As the area of natural grasslands in the region has declined from its historic range due to urban sprawl (see: Hempstead Plains), the Grasslands Restoration And Management Project (GRAMP) was created to maintain the open grassland in the middle of the former airfield. The purpose is to compensate in a small way for the impact to the native flora and fauna that depend on such habitat lost on Long Island. The program is a joint venture of the National Park Service as the land management agency, and the Audubon Society.

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has divisions located on the former airfield. The department's aviation base, with its fleet of Bell 412 and Agusta A119 Koala helicopters, is housed in space leased from the National Park Service that was once the United States Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, and is also now headquarters for the New York City Police Department Emergency Service Unit. The Driver Training Unit is also located there, using a section of former runway to teach officers to operate many different vehicles used by the department.

The New York City Department of Sanitation Training Center is located in Building 278 after its relocation from Randall's Island in January 2005.

The United States Park Police (USPP) operates out of the District 9 station, located on the former airfield, which is responsible for police coverage of the New York areas of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

In 2006, four of the eight original airport hangars were adapted for reuse and leased as a business concession for a community-based sports and entertainment complex. However, the historical integrity of some of the hangars has been alleged to be compromised thereby, in contradiction to the protections supposedly imposed by their inclusion on the National Register and under their management by the NPS.

The former airfield also accommodates public camping, with 46 campsites.[6] Floyd Bennett Field campground, however, is classified as primitive – with only portable toilets, and no electricity provided.[7] 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.[7] In 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he wants Floyd Bennett Field to feature the largest urban campground in the United States – with 90 campsites by 2013, and the possibility of 600 total campsites sometime in the future.[8]

On July 21, 2011 U.S. Rep. Michael G. Grimm introduced H.R. 2606 – New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act. According to the bill's CRS Summary, "New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act – Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to: (1) issue permits to allow the planning, construction, operation, and maintenance of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area (New Jersey-New York); and (2) enter into a lease agreement to allow the occupancy and use of an aircraft hangar building on Floyd Bennett Field (Brooklyn, New York) to house facilities associated with the operation of natural gas pipeline facilities. Requires rent proceeds and other fees generated in connection with such lease agreement to be deposited in a special account dedicated solely for use in the Gateway National Recreation Area".[9]

According to House Report 112-373, "Due to increased demand for natural gas in New York City, New York, additional pipeline capacity is needed. To remedy this problem, New York City is working to place a pipeline through Gateway National Recreation Area. H.R. 2606 provides the National Park Service (NPS) with the authority to approve a pipeline through its jurisdiction. As part of an agreement reached with NPS, in exchange for permitting the pipeline, the Williams Company will restore and maintain abandoned aircraft hangars in Floyd Bennett Field which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. One hangar will house the pipeline meter station and the others will be for park purposes".[10]

Other uses


Aerial view of Floyd Bennett Field, seen during departure from JFK


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

Some significant events at Floyd Bennett Field (FBF) during the Golden Age of Aviation:

Mural in progress, Ca 1939

See also


  1. National Park Service (March 15, 2006). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. Even with the improved facilities, it was still quicker to move mail into the city from the New Jersey airfield than from Floyd Bennett field.
  3. Blakemore, 1981, p. 51.
  4. "Exploring Hangar B, Where Dying Airplanes Return To Life". Scouting New York. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  5. "The Angels of HARP: Preserving, Researching and Restoring Aviation History". Gateway National Recreation Area. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  6. "Camping at Gateway". National Park Service. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  7. 1 2 Newman, Barry (13–14 August 2011). "A Campground Grows in Brooklyn, Bringing a New York Edge to Roughing It.". The Wall Street Journal. New York. pp. 1, A10. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  8. "From Amelia Earhart to S'mores: New York City's First Airport to become Country's Largest Urban Campground". Mail Online. London. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  9. "HR 2606". CRS Summary of HR 2606. Library of Congress. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  10. "Background And Need For Legislation". House Report 112-373 – New York City Natural Gas Supply Enhancement Act. Library of Congress. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  11. "Gateway NRA, Floyd Bennett Field: Ecology Village Camping Program" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  12. "FDNY Responds: Flight 587 Crashes in the Rockaways". NYC.gov. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  13. "British Airways Concorde to Return to Hudson River Park's Pier 86 in Preparation for the Reopening" (Press release). The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. 20 October 2008.
  14. McGeehan, Patrick (5 November 2006). "Concorde to Travel to Brooklyn, but Not by Air". New York Times.
  15. McGeehan, Patrick (7 July 2008). "A Concorde Is Disfigured While Parked in Brooklyn". New York Times.
  16. Griffith, Carson; Fischer, Molly (14 December 2010). "Taxi tycoon Andrew Murstein is revved to build race track in New York, bring sport to fans". New York Daily News.
  17. "'Cape Cod's' Success Climaxes 5 Years [of] Bellanca Records". The Sunday Morning Star, Wilmington, DE. 2 August 1931. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  18. "Airisms from the Four Winds - More Atlantic Flights". Flight. United Kingdom: flightglobal.com. July 31, 1931. p. 774. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  19. "Transport: 21 Hours". Time. 17 May 1937.
  20. O'Neill, Joseph (2008). Netherland. Harper Perennial.


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Coordinates: 40°35′28″N 73°53′28″W / 40.591°N 73.891°W / 40.591; -73.891

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