Some Truly Unique Miles
Wednesday 11/29, Run #91: Marine Parkway Bridge, Floyd Bennett Field, Flatlands
Distance: 11.34 miles
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.
- Floyd Bennett Field (Forgotten NY)
- Historic Floyd Bennett Field
- Floyd Bennett Field History
- Abandoned Airfields - NYC
- Marine Parkway Bridge (NYC MTA)
Marine Parkway Bridge
Detail on the old administration building at Floyd Bennett Field
Inside one of the old hangars
Outside one of the old hangars
Corner of Flatbush Avenue & Kings Highway