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Thread: National Parks, Under a New Umbrella

  1. #1

    Default National Parks, Under a New Umbrella

    September 11, 2003

    National Parks, Under a New Umbrella


    Hoping to entice more visitors to its New York area sites, the National Park Service is placing Jamaica Bay and 21 other scattered outposts under the umbrella of a single and more catchy sounding entity called the National Parks of New York Harbor. The new entity plans to arrange ferry links among the sites and have a single visitors' center at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan to steer tourists around the harbor.

    The project, which will be financed largely with private donations that are yet to be raised, was detailed yesterday at a Midtown breakfast for prominent New Yorkers and city and federal park officials convened partly by David Rockefeller Jr. Mr. Rockefeller, the citizen chairman of the National Parks Foundation, a fund-raising group chartered by Congress, made clear that the issue was not acquiring parkland — the usual plea of environmental enthusiasts.

    "There needs to be be a new emphasis on using the parks that exist and getting a better understanding of them and access to them," he said in an interview. "What good is a park unless there are visitors?"

    The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Sandy Hook in New Jersey, Jacob Riis Park, Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island have not drawn the visitors that had been hoped for when they were set aside three decades ago as the 26,000-acre Gateway National Recreation Area, one of the first urban national parks. Jamaica Bay's 13,000 acres include beaches, woods and wetlands that are home to a strikingly varied collection of fish and migrating and nesting birds, but it is more than an hour by subway from Midtown and, in gelatinous city traffic, even a longer trek by car.

    Marie Rust, the regional director of the National Park Service's northeast region, said an important strategy would be to create regular ferry service between, say, Lower Manhattan and a landing at Riis Park or to Fort Wadsworth, which is building an education center for schoolchildren. The park service is also considering running ferries around the harbor from its newest acquisition, a 26-acre section of Governors Island off the southern tip of Manhattan.

    There are temporary docks at Sandy Hook and Riis Park, and this summer private operators had two to four round-trip ferry runs a weekend to those beaches from Lower Manhattan. But Ms. Rust, who was raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said that money would need to be raised for permanent docks.

    Marian S. Heiskell, a leader in the campaign to create Gateway, recalled that Congress declined three decades ago to finance mass transit to Gateway and said "perhaps that is why, in part, Gateway has not realized its potential as the first urban national park.'` Gateway had 9.25 million visitors last year, but its vast expanse can accommodate millions more.

    Ms. Heiskell is a member of the family that controls The New York Times Company. The New York Times Company Foundation was the host of yesterday's breakfast.

    A single entity that would provide for marketing and promotion of all the park service sites would, with luck, draw visitors to the service's more obscure sites. Visitors flood park service sites like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but often overlook Fort Wadsworth, one of the nation's oldest military installations, and Floyd Bennett Field, the city's first municipal airport and the takeoff point for Douglas (Wrong Way) Corrigan's flight.

    Ms. Rust said the 22 parks should have a single information center. That, she said, would be in Federal Hall, the site, rebuilt in 1842, of Washington's inauguration.

    The National Park Service, which spends $46 million a year operating its New York area sites, opened an office for the National Parks of New York Harbor this year, provided a start-up pool of $3 million, appointed an acting commissioner, Marc A. Koenings, and is searching for a permanent commissioner.

    Much of the planning for marketing the new harbor entity and the fund-raising will be done through the National Parks Foundation, which has appointed Marie Salerno, former president of New York City 100, the city's centennial commission, as president of the harbor parks project.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  2. #2
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    So, they're adding ferries and changing the name from Gateway? That's the point of this, right? It's good. People don't realize all that NYC has to offer.

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