29 November 2006

Some Truly Unique Miles

Wednesday 11/29, Run #91: Marine Parkway Bridge, Floyd Bennett Field, Flatlands

Distance: 11.34 miles
Time: 1:25
Pace: 7:30
Temp: 54
Dewpoint: 50
Weather: mostly cloudy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.20
Total Unique Miles: 711.21
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 40.82

For the complete route, click here

Notes: I use the words "unique miles" around here quite a bit, but the term also could apply to most of today's run since the route was so unusual in a number of ways. First, it was the only run I've done which actually began in another borough (Queens). Second, it's the only time I've started a run on a bridge (though back in August I did end one on the Pulaski Bridge here in Greenpoint). Third, it's the only time I've traveled by bus to get to the start of a run (the Q35, which took me from the end of the 2 subway line at Nostrand and Flatbush Avenues and deposited me in on the far side of Rockaway Inlet after almost half an hour). But mostly, it's the only time I've done the majority of a run on the grounds of an abandoned airport.

Floyd Bennett Field, which occupies most of a large peninsula in the southeast corner of Brooklyn (it was originally an island, actually), was intended as New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's answer to Newark's burgeoning commercial airfield during the 1930s. For a number of reasons (including the Post Office's refusal to move its airmail terminal there), the airport never, uh, took off, and during World War II the US Navy moved in, using it as Naval Air Station Brooklyn until 1971. The following year, the National Park Service took over, incorporating it into the Gateway National Recreation Area. Though it never amounted to much as a commercial venture, it was apparently particularly attractive to a number of famous aviators back in the 1930s -- including Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes -- who used it as a base for various record-setting flights.

I won't go into the airport's history here since it's well-documented elsewhere (if you're interested, check out the links below), but it was an especially interesting place to run. It doesn't look like much has happened since the Navy left back in the 1970s -- a number of deteriorating buildings dot the landscape, in various stages of abandonment or disrepair. The NYPD has a sizeable corner cordoned off for a training facility (I asked the guard if I could run there, but was politely denied), and the Sanitation Department has a similar operation going on. The Park Service maintains several buildings, and there are even a few private residences (in what I assume were the former homes of Navy officers, though I'm not sure). The majority of the land is empty, however, with broad concrete runways taking up quite a bit of the real estate. On the southwestern edge (along Flatbush Avenue) are the old hangars and the administration building, which now houses Park Service offices and an information center. One of the hangars has been converted to a huge, modern gym/fitness center/entertainment complex called Aviator Sports, which evidently only opened two weeks ago. I didn't go in.

Like Fort Hamilton, I'm not sure if Floyd Bennett Field is even considered an actual part of Brooklyn (especially since it's under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service). But I really enjoyed running around the old airfield, partly because there was almost no one around, and partly because it was, to be honest, kind of cool to be running down what used to be an old runway and poking around the hangars. The Marine Parkway Bridge (which connects Brooklyn and the narrow little strip of Queens that fronts the Atlantic Ocean) was also a lot of fun to run across, largely due to the fact that it had a separate pedestrian/bike lane, adding both to the safety and legality of my crossing.

Finally, this now wraps up my goal of running everything south of a line across the borough formed by 65th Street, Avenue P, and Flatlands Avenue. As you might recall, I did this because I live in the northernmost neighborhood in Brooklyn, and wanted to finish up the areas farthest away before the cold weather set in. (Considering it was close to 60 degrees today, I'll say "mission accomplished.") Anyway, as soon as I figure out some kind of strategy for the next portion of this project, I'll be sure to post it. In the meantime, here are a number of links (the Forgotten New York page is especially interesting and includes dozens of pictures), as well as a few photos.

marine parkway bridge
Marine Parkway Bridge

building, floyd bennett field
Detail on the old administration building at Floyd Bennett Field

hangar, floyd bennett field
Inside one of the old hangars

hangar, floyd bennett field
Outside one of the old hangars

drugs, flatlands
Corner of Flatbush Avenue & Kings Highway

ideal, flatlands
Flatbush Avenue


At 3:04 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

Not just unique, also fascinating.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Feminist Runner said...

Oh my god, that bridge! I ran it once and forgot I was scared of heights. I remember about halfway through when my partner yelled "Look back at Coney Island!"
Shit! I did it and I then proceeded to run as fast as possible to get to the other side, ran on the boardwalk in the Rockaways, and tried to determine how I was going to get back. I ran it, probably at my maximum heart rate and capacity.
Which is my very long way fo saying, you are a brave man, very brave.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Gary said...

I've got my share of neuroses and phobias, but thankfully, fear of heights is not one of them! Maybe you would've been more comfortable today -- it was kind of gray and foggy out that way and you couldn't really see too much off in the distance. Coney Island wasn't visible, though I did manage to make out some of the buildings on the Kingsborough CC campus in Manhattan Beach. What kind of freaked me out was how alone I was -- I didn't see any bicyclists, nor any other pedestrians, until I was almost up by the King's Plaza mall.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is the area where I grew up. The bridge is even scarier when you see it go up for boats. It is a drawbridge


At 8:06 AM, Blogger Richard said...

I grew up in the area and went to P.S. 203, the Floyd Bennett School. We also used to go to Rockaway for the summer, and then both sets of my grandparents moved out there. If you think the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Bridge is hard to run on, it's a freaky drive for some people because the car moves back and forth with the grooves in the road. My mother and aunt were so afraid of it that they refused to drive over it.

We kids used to go around Floyd Bennett Field. By the water of Jamaica Bay on the Brooklyn side, there used to be wild rabbits and all sorts of other wildlife. The fishing was good.

The most interesting event I ever attended at Floyd Bennett was in the mid-70s: an avant-garde festival, of all things. I remember seeing weird holograms and a "human dictionary" and a woman dressed up as a giant penis who was forced to take off her top (headgear shaped like, well, you know) by the Park Service rangers who argued that the completion of the fascimile of genitalia made it look obscene.

On the other hand, the Park Service rangers never bothered those of us on Bay 1 at the gay beach in Riis Park, just over the bridge in Rockaway, when we went nude and displayed the real thing.

At 8:58 PM, Anonymous jen said...

Most people give me a strange look when I say that going to Floyd Bennett Field was one of the highlights of my last trip to NY (or, more likely, they don't even know what I am talking about), but it was pretty cool to walk around on an abandoned airfield. This is where I can really see that running Brooklyn is preferable to walking. The only reason why we were able to get out there is because we got a ride to the airport and stopped there on the wa; otherwise I remember looking at the subway map and seeing that it would have been an awfully long walk from the station.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Richard -- that story (the avant-garde festival) is terrific. Thanks!

And Jen, you're right, FBF is miles from the nearest subway. I guess you could take the Q35 bus, but in my experience, the bus moved down Flatbush Avenue so slowly I honestly think I could've gotten there faster if I'd walked. A

At 4:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot has changed..I live right off of Flatbush and N and can attest to the Q35 being one of the fastest and most reliable buses on the avenue now. It only stops at U, P, Kings Highway and Nostrand now.

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Antney said...

WOW!!!! From 1965-76, I lived at 1495 E. 56th, and N. Howdy, neighbor! This brings back fond memories. I'd lose more Spaldine and superballs to Deutsch's Pharmacy roof...


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