Connecting People to Brooklyn's Waterfront

Jamaica Bay, by Don Riepe

From industrial shipyards to multicultural residential neighborhoods to a thriving wildlife sanctuary and national park, the Brooklyn waterfront spans a remarkably diverse landscape.

Not long ago, that waterfront seemed inaccessible to many New Yorkers. But in recent years, RPA and other civic groups have worked to create and bolster a system of waterfront greenways to give the public access to New York City's extraordinary shoreline. As part of those efforts, RPA is co-sponsoring the 4th annual Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride on Saturday, July 28, an organized bicycle ride along the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway and the 30-mile Jamaica Bay Greenway.

On the same day, RPA and the Jamaica Bay Greenway Coalition will release the second edition of the Jamaica Bay User's Guide, a pocket-size map that highlights plans for the completed greenway, access routes to reach it, points of interest, kayak and other boat launches and cycling distances. You can see an advance copy here.

The Jamaica Bay Greenway is a key feature in the recent agreement by the city and National Park Service to work together to improve parkland in and around Jamaica Bay. The greenway is comprised of a continuous, 19-mile loop route around the Jamaica Bay that connects to an additional 11 miles of waterfront bicycle and pedestrian pathways. These paths serve as the best pedestrian and bicycle route between local neighborhoods of east Brooklyn and the Rockaways to more than 10,000 acres of federal, state and city parkland, including Floyd Bennett Field, Riis Beach, Fort Tilden, Marine Park and Rockaway Beach. RPA and the Jamaica Bay Greenway Coalition partners have been advocating the creation of a cohesive, user-friendly route, improving access for the roughly 200,000 residents that live within a 20-minute walk, and attracting people to visit the unique resources of Jamaica Bay.

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Since its inception in 2010, the coalition, staffed by RPA, has hosted more than a dozen large and small events that have introduced people to the greenway and promoted the great recreational, historical and cultural assets of the area.

The Epic Ride is designed for riders of all ages and abilities by providing three start locations at Newtown Creek, Owl's Head Park and Aviator Sports in Floyd Bennett Field, which will give participants the opportunity to ride 40, 26, or 14 miles, respectively. The route will be marked, allowing riders to travel in groups that move at their own pace. A rest stop with refreshments will be provided at Aviator Sports in Floyd Bennett Field. The ride will end at the new Rockaway Beach Club food vendors on the Rockaway boardwalk at Beach 97th Street.

For less experienced riders, or those looking to learn more about the remarkable Floyd Bennett Field, the National Park Service will be guiding a free, 2.5-mile bike tour across the windswept runways of Floyd Bennett Field highlighting the remarkable natural and cultural history of the unique landscape. The Floyd Bennett Field Tour will begin at the Aviator Sports Epic Ride rest stop at 10 AM and will return for food and festivities at noon. There will be bikes available for rent and plenty of parking is available at the field.

The Brooklyn Waterfront Epic Ride will take place rain or shine on July 28. For more information or to register for the ride please visit http://www.brooklyngreenway.org/event/brooklyn-watefront-epic-ride/ or contact Marilyn Schiller. For more information or to register for the Floyd Bennett Field Tour please call the National Park Service at (718) 338-3799.

Top photo: Don Riepe; bottom photo: Sophia Koven