Major Changes Proposed For Gateway
Five designs that could radically change the face of Gateway National Park and the way that Rockaway residents interact with the park, were chosen as finalists this week in an international contest that drew 230 entrants from 30 nations around the world.
Gateway National Park includes Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, Riis Park and Fort Tilden on the Rockaway peninsula, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel, as well as areas of New Jersey and Staten Island.
In May, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the organization running the competition to redesign the park, issued a report that said that Gateway was in poor condition, receiving a rating of 53 out of a possible 100, the lowest rating of the 27 other national parks rated recently by the association.
According to that report, when Gateway was created 34 years ago, more than $92 million was authorized for its restoration, but none of those funds were ever appropriated.
In January, with funds from several large philanthropic corporations such as Tiffany & Co., the organization launched the competition that was whittled down to five finalists this week.
That prize went to Ashley Scott Kelly and Rikako Wakabayashi for "Mapping the Ecotone."
According to the NPCA, the winning design "creates a microcosm of shifting habitats and landforms to capture the diversity of Gateway's 'ecotones,' or zones of ecological tension. The design suggests forming a new park at Floyd Bennett Field that would dramatically reintroduce water into the site by creating a new series of jetties and piers that would bring park visitors into direct contact with marshlands, tides and fluctuating sea levels and educate visitors about the tension that occurs when ecological and human environments intersect."
Second prize of $10,000 went to "Reassembling Ecologies," designed by the North Design Office in Toronto, Canada. Third prize went to a team of designers at Virginia Tech University in Alexandria, Virginia.
There were several honorable mentions, as well. All of the designs are posted at www.npca.org/gateway and the public is invited to visit the site and vote for their favorite design.
"The designers have had their shot, the jury has narrowed the field and now it is up to the American public to vote. We need public input on which designs and ideas should be chosen to make Gateway an iconic national park," said Alexander Brash, the NAPC's regional director. "We hope that a transparent process, followed by extensive public input, will engage New Yorkers, regional residents and all Americans to ponder the park as it is, consider what it might be, and encourage our elected officials to support a new vision for Gateway."
The support of public officials such as Congressman Anthony Weiner, is critical to the design plan, because there is no obligation for National Park officials to accept or implement the plan.
A statement issued to The Wave by Barry Sullivan, Gateway's General Superintendent, said that the design competition "comes at a very fortunate time. Beginning in 2008, the National Park Service will begin a multi-year process to develop a new General Management Plan for Gateway. These winning designs offer some interesting concepts, ones that will be considered as we plan the future direction of the park."
Sullivan added, "We appreciate all the NPCA and their supporters have done to generate new ideas about Gateway and its important role as the nation's first urban National Park."
All of the plans for the park include ecological education and experimentation as well as recreation.
Portions of the park such as Fort Tilden, Riis Park, the Wildlife Refuge and Floyd Bennett Field, have long been thought of as local venues by Rockaway residents and local arts organizations who use the park as a headquarters.