Weiner Writes From Capitol Hill
As the NPS endeavors to create a long overdue vision plan for Gateway National Recreation Area, I want to urge you to remember the “recreation” in Gateway Recreation Area. I have been troubled by recent measures by the management of the park that have been unhelpful to our shared objective of making this glorious urban national park a jewel of the system.
Any review of the best and proper uses of this park must adhere to some principles:
Recreation is more than Bird Watching. Nobody has done more to bring improvements and federal dollars to the park than I. The Aviator project, the wildlife center, the Ryan center, the marina, the driving range, the bathhouse, the playgrounds, Charles Park, and the ferry landing are some of the improved amenities that I have been able to successfully fight for and fund. But an enormous amount of dollars and sweat equity have been deposited in the park by regular citizens who use the park for recreation. Our local arts group has fixed up a building at Fort Tilden. A little league has transformed some run down fields. A group of hobbyists have made a display place for old planes at a hangar in Floyd Bennett Field. These organizations are using the park for exactly the purpose it was envisioned. Any new plan for the park should not only welcome these groups, but should pay them dividends for their considerable investments in the form of priority use of the facilities and the waiving of fees in exchange for their upkeep of federal property.
Little leaguers don’t have lawyers. Nor do artists, fishermen or boaters. When the NPS is lucky enough to attract “value added” users like a little league which is willing to administer recreation on a large scale and invest in park improvements, they should not be burdened by paperwork, contracts and bureaucracy that ties them in knots. The ethos should be “you want to help the park? We want to help you.” Recently the park has been bogging down these organizations with legal hurdles that have to end.
Keep the beach clubs afloat. In another of the many ways that our park is different than nearly every other, we have beach clubs on parks land. They are recreation staples of the park and should have long term affordable leases that ensure they can attract membership and make investments for years to come.
Tall fences - and fixed seawalls - make good neighbors. Gateway National Recreation Area wraps around the infrastructure of the city and state. In the case of State Road that leads into the Breezy Point Cooperative, the trees and bushes go clear over and make passage by bike or foot impossible. I have regularly mustered troops from the city and state to clear the way, but NPS needs to take greater ownership of this problem. The same is also true of the badly degraded seawall and national parkland along Beach Channel Drive. If the Interior Department does not follow the lead of the city and repair the bulkhead on its land, the entire Riis Park access road and parking lot could be swept away.
I have other concerns that I hope your agency takes seriously in the reenvisioning of the park. For example I hope that steps can be taken to keep the post office operating in Fort Tilden and that bus service can be ensured to the park.
The most important take away is that you need to treat the community as owners of the park, not just customers. We are prepared to help in more ways than you can imagine, but it begins with a more open, warm and inviting posture on your part.