Weiner Gives Gateway Update
Rep. Anthony Weiner held a press conference at Gateway National Recreation Area's Ryan Visitor Center on Wednesday to take credit for about $66 million in recent improvements and talk about the new projects he wants to fund.
Among the recent improvements that Weiner has help fund: The Aviator Sports complex; the new 1.5-mile bike path though the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; a new refuge visitor center; and beach and marsh restoration projects.
Now, Weiner says the top priority for him and Barry Sullivan, Gateway's General Superintendent, is restoring the Ryan Visitors Center. Weiner has requested more than $6 million in Federal funds to restore the building, which is more than 75 years old. A restored Ryan Center would be the primary visitor hub and administrative center for Gateway's Jamaica Bay Unit, complete with meeting areas and exhibits of Floyd Bennett's history, he said.
Balancing the historic airfield's history - it was the city's first municipal airport and the takeoff or landing spot of several historic flights - with modern-day uses is a theme that Weiner has repeated often. He is a major supporter of Aviator Sports, which converted four historic yet empty and deteriorating hangars into a public indoor/outdoor rec center that he says trumps Chelsea Piers.
"We're starting to look at this park for all its potential, not just its history," Weiner told the small gathering of reporters and National Park workers.
Weiner also said that he's trying to get the Department of Transportation to use $15 million dollars in Federal funds that have already been allocated to purchase three high-speed ferries and run a pilot program for daily commuters. He said the "sticking points" are the cost of a ride and that the city has been reluctant to get behind the idea. Weiner said he was working to hammer out an agreement before DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall's, who announced her resignation in January, leaves for a new position with the City University of New York. That may have already happened by the time you read this; her last day was reportedly Friday, April 13.
Weiner is also looking to fund cricket fields, a $2 million trash collection initiative at the beaches in Riis Park and a three-person natural resources crew to clean wetland areas, he said.
The congressman, who described the park as "one of New York City's best kept secrets," said when he seeks funding, he often has to explain to other representatives that there's a National Park, perhaps not as prominent as Yellowstone or Yosemite, in his district. "Sometimes people say, 'Huh, I haven't heard of that one,'" said Weiner.
Weiner touted the following accomplishments:
Aviator Sports opens:
Four of Floyd Bennett's eight hangars were transformed into a new, multi-use family sports and recreation facility, complete with two NHL-sized ice skating rinks, a gymnastics facility, hardwood basketball and volleyball courts, a rock climbing wall, fitness center, outdoor playing fields for football and soccer, plus a "Best of Brooklyn" food court. Status: Opened fall 2006. Cost $38 million.
New 1.5-mile bike path:
Joined by National Park Service officials, local elected officials and community members, Weiner opened the 1.5-mile, multi-use path that runs through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, allowing Gateway visitors to bike, stroll, jog, rollerblade and bird watch through the refuge. The path is an extension of the Rockaway Gateway Greenway, a 20-mile network of pathways around Jamaica Bay. Status: Completed summer 2006. Cost $1.5 million.
Renovation of the Wildlife Visitor Center:
Weiner gave reporters a sneak peek at the facility last summer, and it's set to officially open in June. The visitor center has almost doubled in size and now includes a multipurpose room for meetings and lectures, display space and a variety of energy efficient upgrades. The building also allows the refuge to relocate its maintenance facility away from where visitors congregate. Status: Renovations complete. Set to open in June. Cost $3.3 million.
Marsh Restoration at Elders Point East:
Wetland restoration project to save the marsh island ecosystem in Jamaica Bay. For the project, about 270,000 cubic yards of sand was pumped onto the marsh and 900,000 plants were planted to restore 24 acres. Status: 24 acres completed, additional 16 acres expected to be completed this year.
Fight Against Beach Erosion:
Weiner secured about $125,000 for an Army Corps of Engineers study that could pave the way for building groins and jetties to protect the shoreline. He has secured $9 million in the past.