2007-05-11 / Community

Gateway National Park Named Worst In Nation

Advocacy Group Gives GNRA Failing Grade
By Howard Schwach

Large portions of the boardwalk railing in Riis Park are missing or deteriorated beyond use. Large portions of the boardwalk railing in Riis Park are missing or deteriorated beyond use. Gateway National Recreation Area, the national park that sprawls from Fort Tilden and Riis Park to Staten Island and Sandy Hook in New Jersey has received a failing grade of 53 out of 100 from an advocacy group that adds that 53 the lowest grade ever given to a national park.

The report from The National Parks Conservation Association, which graded our local national park as failing, was issued on Wednesday.

The report says that the park's natural and cultural resources are in poor condition and that the park "suffers from prior historical use, urban pressures and lack of support."

The report by the private, nonprofit organization gave Gateway a mark of 53 out of 100 for its natural resources and 46 out of 100 for its cultural resources. Those ratings are the lowest among the 28 national parks the group has surveyed over recent years.

A spokesperson for the group told The Wave that the scores for all the 28 parks average 69 for cultural areas and 59 for cultural resources.

The concrete boardwalk and many of the walkways are unusable in places. The restored bathhouse is in the rear of the photo. The concrete boardwalk and many of the walkways are unusable in places. The restored bathhouse is in the rear of the photo. The study pointed to untreated sludge in Jamaica Bay, industrial waste, toxic runoff and noise pollution from nearby John F. Kennedy Airport as some of the factors that went into the low grades.

In addition, it pointed to the park's long-time use as an airport and a naval airfield as negative factors and the deteriorating buildings at Floyd Bennett Field as a major factor in downgrading the park.

"Gateway was created to bring the national park experience to our urban region, to serve as a recreational experience for our residents and a living classroom for our kids" said Alexander Brash, the regional director for the organization. "However, it has failed to live up to its potential for more than 30 years. The park's poor grades reflect both its historical past, as well as a lack of serious public investment since our creation."

Barry T. Sullivan, the park's General Superintendent, told a New York Times reporter that he was not surprised by the report.

The Aviator Complex, which draws many Rockaway residents, includes two full ice rinks, one for hockey and the other for ice-skating. Many believe that facilities such as Aviator are the future of the park. The Aviator Complex, which draws many Rockaway residents, includes two full ice rinks, one for hockey and the other for ice-skating. Many believe that facilities such as Aviator are the future of the park. "We are not surprised," he said, "by the fact that resources in the most heavily populated city in our nation do not measure up to those or Yellowstone [National Park] or to parks situated in Alaska."

The 26,658-acre park was created in 1972. In addition to its natural areas, it includes the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse built in 1764, Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. Fort Tilden, Riis Park and the Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel.

Brash said that he doesn't expect the urban park to be akin to Yellowstone, but that "it should have a unified and compelling theme and facilities as good as those in Yellowstone or Central Park.

"Letting thousands of acres with great potential for recreation lie fallow is a sad waste," Brash said. "Now is the time, as the Park Service prepares for its centennial in 2016 for our Congress, city and state to reinvest in Gateway and create an iconic national park that our region's residents deserve and were promised."

The report does not take into account some of the new amenities and programs at Gateway provide by the Aviator Sports complex, such as this lacrosse workshop for kids that was held last month. The report does not take into account some of the new amenities and programs at Gateway provide by the Aviator Sports complex, such as this lacrosse workshop for kids that was held last month. The report takes no note of recent additions to the park, such as the Aviator Sports Complex or the Concorde aircraft.

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