Post-Sandy Restorations at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Times Ledger

June 26, 2015

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge announced Monday it will start the groundwork for a post-Sandy restoration project this fall in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

Part of the project is intended to repair the damage created when saltwater from the bay poured into the freshwater West Pond due to a breach caused by Hurricane Sandy. The pond is west of Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel.

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—part of the Gateway National Recreation Area—is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the northeastern United States. It is an integral stopover for migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory route along the Atlantic Coast and east of the Appalachian Mountains. Migrating birds need the food, water and habitats at the refuge. More than 330 species of birds have been seen at Jamaica Bay over the past 25 years.

As part of this collaborative project, The Nature Conservancy and National Park Services will reduce invasive plants and restore native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants, to create better habitats for migratory birds and improve the site’s ability to recover from future floods. The Rockaways’ beaches, bay and wildlife were devastated by Sandy.

In addition to the native plant and coastal resiliency work, hundreds of volunteers will be engaged in replanting the site, and others will join in monitoring butterflies and pollinators to track the project’s success.

Saltwater’s toll is visible on the trail surrounding West Pont, where dried out Maple trees and new vine species have taken over other plants and trees.

Joshua Laird, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, said some of the new non-native species are not nutritious for the animals that habitat at Jamaica Bay.

“National Parks are linked to the community around us—environmen­tal health, public health, access, education, housing, are all connected to us so these partnerships become an important part of the future,” he said during the Monday press conference.

“The habitat is critical to maintaining the visitor experience. We are honored to join this effort and excited to work with Jamaica Bay,” said Bill Ulfeder, state director of The Nature Conservancy. “We are here for the long term.”

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge wants to make the Atlantic Flyway stopover a sustainable environment and has researched plant species that can assimilate to freshwater or saltwater.

“For example, oak trees are a good host. Species such as caterpillars and moss make their homes on oak trees and this can be food for the bird,” Laird said.

“This key restoration project advances our goal to expand public access, and preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat in Jamaica Bay,” said Tom Secunda of chairman, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, which donated about $500,000 last year for the project.

The site work will begin this fall and continue through 2017. The refuge will rely on volunteers to help plant over 20,000 native trees and shrubs at the site over the next several years. Baseline biological monitoring, including surveys of birds, soils, vegetation and insects, will take place in spring and summer of 2016. Post-restoration monitoring will occur seasonally in the fall and spring, until at least 2017.

 

Efforts for Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Restoration are Ongoing

The Wave

June 26, 2015

Restoration groundwork for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was announced on June 22. The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Jamaica Bay-
Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) will collaborate to improve the ecological health of habitats, increase resiliency, and enhance the experience of future visitors to the
Gateway National Recreation Park

Land management strategies must adapt according to long term climate change effects. Out of New York City’s 520 miles of coastline, this individual breach caused by
Hurricane Sandy was a critical focus of the plans at 175- 10 Crossbay Blvd. in Broad Channel.

Beginning this fall through 2017, site work at the West Pond will handle the critical breach caused by Hurricane Sandy that mixed Jamaica Bay’s salt water into the pond’s fresh water.

Daphne Lim, a public affairs specialist for the NPS, outlined three alternatives that have been developed, though the NPS is still in the planning stages for an Environmental
Assessment (EA) study for the West Pond Breach. 

Repairing of the breach would include a freshwater source, in addition to a structure that enables staff to control water and salt levels for wildlife management purposes. If this
first option is chosen, engineering analysis will be necessary for design and placement. A constructed living shoreline would increase resiliency against potential future storm
damage, plus boardwalks and wildlife viewing areas strategically placed around West Pond will enhance visitors’ experience.

A second alternative, according to Lim, is a berm—a raised border barrier constructed to fill the gap. With this option, West Pond will be re-created and enhanced as a smaller pond area farther inland to bring freshwater habitats that are less tolerant of salt conditions found in estuaries. Both a freshwater source and a water control structure would then be installed.

Additionally, Terrapin Point would become an island created by the tide, allowing its ebb and flow through a channelized marsh. Conditions at Terrapin Point would be altered to
create a habitat for seabirds and terrapins. Trail access would be enhanced by creating a new trail system around West Pond and Terrapin Point. Bridging the breach was the third
option announced by Lim. In this case, the breach would be spanned together with either a steel truss bridge or a box culvert to restore the loop trail that existed before Hurricane
Sandy. Along the breach, banks would be stabilized and trail area of West Pond would continue to be influenced by the tide, with salt levels similar to Jamaica Bay. Not only will these options fix and protect the landscape, the reestablishment of freshwater will increase species diversity, increasing biodiversity at the refuge.

While two of the above possible plans will also further diversify the habitat, the level and length of construction required would be greater because of the additional earthwork, causing a longer recovery. The environmentally preferable alternative described in the plan is the second option, the berm, based on analysis of environmental consequences.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the NPS is required to go throughthese planning steps, for such a large-scale project, including a comment period for the
EA and a public meeting next month.

 

Jamaica Bay Garden Restoration Kicks Off

Queens Chronicle

June 25, 2015

A collaborative effort between federal park officials and two environmental groups is seeking to restore the North and South Gardens at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center in Broad Channel in an effort to bring more wildlife to the area and protect it from future floods.

“In New York, our natural areas are in constant need of work and maintenance,” Joshua Laird, commissioner of National Parks of New York Harbor, said at a Monday press conference. “The restoration work that is happening now is our response to time and what blows in with the wind: invasive species and so forth. And it doesn’t happen on its own. It happens through the time and care of park staff and volunteers who love this place and come here to help.”

The goal of the project, according to the National Park Service, which oversees the refuge center, is to remove plants that are not native to the Jamaica Bay area and replace them “native vegetation to restore biodiversity and habitat functions.” The project will encompass around 14 acres of the parkland.

It is expected to be finished in summer 2018, according to NPS officials.

The South Garden will be started first, they said, during this fall with the North Garden to follow in spring 2017.

The NPS is doing the work with the help of the the Nature Conservancy and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

“Each of us is bringing significant resources to the table,” Laird said. “The project wouldn’t be happening at all if it weren’t for all of the participants.”

The NPS and the Nature Conservancy will carry out the work.

The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Park Conservancy has donated $500,000 to the Nature Conservancy for the work and the project has been given a $300,000 grant from NPS, Laird said.

Bill Ulfelder, New York executive director of the Nature Conservancy, said his group is proud to undertake the work to protect what is one of his favorite parklands.

“The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Center is a true gem,” Ulfelder said.

He echoed Laird’s remarks that the collaboration between the three organizations is vital to the project’s success.

“Without your leadership and partnership, we would not be able to restore and protect together this marvelous natural area,” Ulfelder stated.

He added that he believes the project will be a model for other wildlife refuge centers that seek to restore their natural areas.

“And this project will have implications beyond Jamaica Bay by demonstrating how land management and coastal parklands can enhance resilience in a climate changing world,” he continued. “This work has the potential for applications across New York City’s more than 500 miles of coastland and beyond.”

Tom Secunda, chairman of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, also expressed his excitement for the project.

“It’s our job to bring together science, recreation and the people that can make a difference, like the Nature Conservancy and certainly the National Parks,” Secunda said.

 

Restoration Work to Enhance Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Queens Courier

June 24, 2015

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is getting a makeover.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the National Park Service(NPS) and Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) are collaborating on a project to improve the ecological health of habitats at the refuge and enhance visitor experience.

The project will include reducing invasive plants and restoring native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants. These conditions will create better habitats for migratory birds and improve the area’s ability to recover from floods. The organizations will also enlist volunteers to re-plant the site and monitor butterflies and pollinators.

“The JBRPC is proud to be working with The Nature Conservancy on this key restoration project that advances our goal to expand public access, increase recreational and educational opportunities, and preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat in Jamaica Bay,” said Tom Secunda, chairman of the  Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

TNC and NPS will call for volunteers to help plant more than 20,000 trees and shrubs within the next few years. The work is expected to begin in the fall of 2015 and continue through 2017. The baseline biological monitoring, including surveys of birds, soils, vegetation and insects, is currently taking place.

“This project will have implications beyond Jamaica Bay by demonstrating how land management strategies on coastal parklands and natural areas can enhance their resilience to climate change,”  said Emily Nobel Maxwell, director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. 

 

Three Groups Working To Repair Sandy Damage at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

NY1 News

June 23, 2015

After sustaining damage during hurricane Sandy, the National Parks Service will work with two more groups to ensure the future of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. NY1's Angi Gonzalez filed the following report.

A collaboration by three groups is helping make necessary changes at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Broad Channel.

"With more frequent flooding, sea levels rising and more sever storms in New York City, this work has the potential for application across New York City's more than 500 miles of coastland," New York Director of the Nature Conservancy Bill Ulfelder said of a new initiative announced on Monday.

The Nature Conservancy, using a $500,000 grant from the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, will work with the National Parks Service to make sure the preserve is around for future generations.

The National Parks Service has also secured another $300,000 for the effort.

"We've been working on selecting a palette of species that will help create more biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem," Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Jen Nersesian said of the nearly 20,000 new trees and shrubs that will be planted at the preserve.

The public will be able to help out with the efforts as the National Parks service says they'll need volunteers to help plant the native plant species they plan to add to the refuge over the next two years.

 

Beach Grass and More Beach Grass

The Wave

December 12, 2014

Two back-to-back planting events this past weekend added approximately 30,000 more grass culms to the berm in Belle Harbor.

On Saturday December 6th, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) with Bloomberg L.P. volunteers returned to continue planting American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata).

The harvested culms arrived in an NYC Parks truck and were unloaded in bundles. Some volunteers dug holes in the ground while others quickly followed their trails–dropping plugs in one by one then securely compacting the sand around them.

"Through JBRPC's partnership with Bloomberg, our incredible volunteers have planted more than 100,000 culms this year to help stabilize Rockaway's dunes," said Jackie Snyder, the conservancy's Executive Director. "Today, they even worked through the rain to complete the entire block."

It took an estimated 20,000 plugs to fill the area between Beach 144th and 145th.

For Jill Weber, Parks Administrator for the Rockaways since 2006, this would be her final day out in the field. She has been quite involved with coordinating and participating alongside volunteers during her years with the NYC Parks Department. "I just planted my last plant and I'm happy I got to do it with all of you," said Weber in a closing remark. She will be relocating to Nassau County to serve as the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the Town of North Hempstead.

NYC Parks held their own community beach grass planting event the following morning. The same well-stocked truckload of culms were used and similar methods got the plugs into the ground.

Elizabeth Jordan, Senior Project Manager for the Rockaway Beach Reconstruction Project, returned from the previous day in addition to members of Partnerships for Parks, a joint program between City Parks Foundation and NYC Parks. Michael Mullaley, Partnership for Parks Seasonal Corporate Program Assistant, briefly described the nonprofit organization's volunteer mobilization mission–directing New Yorkers towards opportunities to engage in the community building efforts happenng around them. Rockaway residents from different parts of the peninsula and two volunteers from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn attended.

The smaller team (than that of the day before), got started on the block between Beach 143rd-144th, which now remains partially covered as a dune-in-progress. About 10,000 plugs were planted in that section.

Towards the end of Sunday's planting, two passerby incidentally stopped to ask questions and decided to help out. "We plant them while they're dormant." explained Jordan. They reawaken later in the spring, and their roots begin to take hold underground.

 

Planting Seeds for Resiliency

The Wave

November 21, 2014

Forty thousand beach grass plugs were installed on the berm between Beach 134 and 132 streets in Belle Harbor on this past Sunday morning.

The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) brought volunteers from Bloomberg L.P.'s Philanthropy and Engagement Program out to Rockaway to plant the plugs. Parks Department staff and Belle Harbor residents also lent a hand in the effort. Altogether, the group of about 30 people equipped the designated segment of slope with rows of grass culms in just a few hours.

Continuing from where Parks left off the previous day, Sunday's planting was part of the ongoing large-scale project of providing the coastline with a resilient dune barrier, which is essential for protection against flooding caused by coastal storms.

One of the features of American Beach Grass (Ammophila breviligulata) is that it helps in establishing stable dunes with a rhizomatic root like stem that spreads underground and propogates, producing more of it.

Vigorous growth enables the plant to withstand heavy deposits of sand and advance up through it. Once reaching a height of 2-3 feet, the grass further builds the dunes by trapping windblown sand and holding it in place with the fibrous root system.

An ability to withstand tough conditions such as wind, drought, and salt spray make this beach grass formidable infantry against potential threats of the ocean.

Its planting period is late fall to early spring, excluding times when soil is frozen. The dormant culms that were planted by participants came from Cape May Plant Material Center in New Jersey, but JBRPC harvests beach grass at the 3.25-acre nursery within Gateway National Recreation Area's Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park as well.

The nursery was created in partnership with the National Parks Service, NYC Parks and the Natural Areas Conservancy.

Volunteers from Bloomberg L.P. will return in December to plant more beach grass.

NYC Parks has another day of planting scheduled for Dec. 7. To register as a volunteer, visit www.nycgovparks.org/reg/beach-grass/525

 

Rockaway! New York's Festival by the Sea

The Economist

July 23, 2014

Many of New York’s gallery-owners and gallery-goers decamp to the Hamptons come July, but this summer one of the area’s best arts festivals—one with particularly strong local roots—is taking place within the five boroughs. Rockaway! celebrates the ongoing rebuilding of the Rockaway peninsula after its ravaging by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and in particular the reopening of Fort Tilden, an army base turned national park that was damaged by the storm.

It is the brainchild of Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1 (an art institution), and Patti Smith, who both have homes on this 11-mile sliver of land that forms the southern rim of New York City. It was a rather sleepy place until a wave of gentrification started lapping at its edges, bringing beach-loving Brooklynites with it. But the peninsula really hit the news when Sandy crashed over its shores. Ms Smith, who bought a home there just weeks before the storm came, saw at first hand its impact on her own home and those of friends and neighbours, and was moved to act.

Together with the Rockaway Artists Alliance (RAA) and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, Ms Smith and Mr Biesenbach organised and curated the festival. But it is Ms Smith’s art, and indeed her very presence in Rockaway, that give the event its backbone. She makes deft use of the fort, which was established in the first world war, decommissioned in 1974 and then incorporated into the National Park Service. It has served as a base for the RAA for the past 19 years, and for Rockaway! the walls of the main exhibition hall have been lined with Ms Smith’s photography. The images consist of objects dear to their owners, much like the personal treasures washed away by Sandy. They include Virginia Woolf’s cane, Victor Hugo’s desk, Robert Graves’s hat and William Burroughs’ bandana.

Yet it is an installation of Ms Smith’s, in a long-abandoned building where locomotives were once repaired, that is most poignant. On entering, visitors see a gilded four-poster bed dressed with white linen (pictured above). Named “The Resilience of the Dreamer”, the bed is exposed to the elements that breeze through the broken windows and roof, amid debris that long ago developed its own ecosystem. Ms Smith has also left more subtle traces throughout the building, such as graffiti quoting Walt Whitman or phrases about resilience.

Whitman serves as a sort of patron saint of these exhibits. His poetry was read out at the festival's launch by Ms Smith (pictured below in Rockaway) and James Franco. And his verse has also been written on granite stones found along the fort's trails, encouraging an impromptu scavenger hunt through the grounds. Sculptures by Adrián Villar Rojas, an Argentinean, add nuance to the idea of exploration. Placed throughout the fort, they recall the nests of tiny Argentinean birds known as horneros and invite local birds to nest inside.

These should be sufficient enticement to go to Rockaway, but it is Janet Cardiff’s masterpiece, the "Forty Piece Motet" installed in the fort’s chapel (and on show until August 17th), that is the best reason to head there soon. On loan from MoMA, Ms Cardiff’s transcendent reworking of “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Tallis consists of 40 speakers arranged in a circle in the middle of the chapel, with each one playing one of the voices singing Tallis’s work. Both disorienting and beautiful, a motet that was composed for a cathedral plays perfectly in this small, fragile, still damaged room. New Yorkers may find that the Hamptons offer a more glamorously arty buzz, but at Rockaway! the buzz is of a rather different kind: community-generated and collaborative, oriented to the public as a whole rather than to an exclusive group, and steeped in local history.

Rockaway! runs until September 1st on the Rockaway peninsula.

 

Art Festival Transforms Sleepy Fort Tilden: Big Crowd for Rockaway!

The Rockaway Times

July 3, 2014

The smell of burning sage permeated the air as the sun set over Rockaway on Sunday evening. A huge crowd had amassed for the final event of the opening day of Rockaway!: a poetry reading by recording artist Patti Smith and actor James Franco.

The mostly young crowd that had assembled, many of whom had been bussed and ferried in from Manhattan and Brooklyn, helped transform Fort Tilden into a scene that seemed almost reminiscent of Woodstock, except perhaps a little more low-key.

The spoken word performance marked the end of a successful first day for the summerlong art show, which runs until September 1.  MoMA PS1 Director Klaus Biesenbach shared with the audience some of the story that led up to the creation of Rockaway!: how he and Franco surprised Smith on her birthday just weeks after Hurricane Sandy had devastated the peninsula, how they drove around Rockaway and found toys and photo albums left behind on the ground, how they came across a pile of old mattresses on the beach.

“Knowing Patti, and know how much a bed is a safe place to be warm and dry — I think that really inspired her,” Biesenbach said, referring to the artist’s outdoor installation, the “Resilience of the Dreamer,” a four-post bed set up in an abandoned warehouse.

Smith and Franco alternated between reading several Whitman poems during the performance. Smith had also used the American poet as inspiration for another installation: granite cubes dotted along the shoreline inscribed with lines from Whitman. After the poems, Smith performed a short concert alongside her guitarist Lenny Kaye and her daughter and keyboardist, Jesse Paris Smith.

Smith, known best for her song “Because the Night” dedicated a song to the audience: “We all have dreams,” she said. “We all have loss and failure, and we go on and rebuild our lives. “Her last song, “People have the power” even featured a special guest: Michael Stipe, the former front man of REM, who, according to Smith, helped with cleanup after Sandy.

Julia Donohue, 28, who lives in Astoria, said she came to Rockaway for the full day, having spent the morning at the beach and the afternoon touring the art exhibits.  “I had to stay for Patti Smith,” she said. “My parents listened to her when I was growing up so I love her too. I can’t believe I just got to see her.”

Michael Garcia, who moved to New York City a year ago from Texas, said Sunday was the first time he’d ever been to Rockaway.  “I didn’t realize New York basically has a beach town,” he said. “It seems like it’s almost been a secret.” He said that he will continue to visit Rockaway in the future. “I’ll definitely be back this summer,” he said. “I’d come out here every weekend if I could.”

Mary Carlson, 47, of Far Rockaway said she is excited to see so many new visitors to the peninsula. “Rockaway is beautiful and it’s my home,” she said. “I’m happy to share it with others. Those of us who are from here — we’re going to benefit from that.”

Mark Evans, 63, of Arverne, echoed similar sentiments.  “We’re friendly in Rockaway,” he said. “As long as visitors are respectful and clean, we’re happy to have them.”

 

Rockaway! Art Show Draws Thousands: Fort Tilden the Place to be

The Rockaway Times

July 3, 2014

Rockaway! deserved its exclamation point! The opening of the art show, Rockaway!, made the peninsula the place to be on Sunday. Locals as well as thousands of visitors (DFDs), from far and wide, spent the day in Fort Tilden to experience a lot of art and a little bit of music.

The show supports the reopening of Fort Tilden as well as other recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy. It’s also an opportunity to introduce outsiders to the peninsula.

The creative forces behind the show are rock star and artist Patti Smith as well as Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1, both of whom have homes in Rockaway.

The show, open until September 1, is a joint collaboration between the Rockaway Artists Alliance, MoMA PS1, the National Park Service, the Honolulu Biennial and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

The centerpiece of the show is Patti Smith’s own “The Resilience of the Dreamer,” an ornate, golden four-post bed draped in sheer white linens, placed at the center an abandoned automotive repair station still filled with junk. The bed juxtaposed against the industrial warehouse is startling.

Over time, the bed will deteriorate, but will remain in place, a metaphor for the residents of the peninsula and the struggles they have faced since trying to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

Betty Harrington, who lives in Rockaway, said she was grateful toward Smith. “Her work is beautiful,” she said. “She’s bringing so much needed attention down here. I wish these exhibits were permanent.” She said that while her home was not badly damaged during the storm, she has seen how it has affected local residents’ lives both immediately afterward as well as now, nearly two years later. “It’s been devastating,” she said.

The Rockaway Beach Surf Club, on Beach 87th Street, will also house a group exhibition of local and international artists. Those works are largely beach and surf-inspired.

In a separate solo project, the Argentinian artist Adrian Villar Rojas created small sculptures inspired by nests created by “horneros,” a type of Argentinian bird. The sculptures are located throughout Fort Tilden. Locating some of them in some obscure spots (high up in a broken window frame in the warehouse) was a fun challenge for many visitors.

In an additional solo project, the Fort Tilden chapel had been renovated and became the stage for Janet Cardiff’s “40 Part Motet,” an 14-minute sound installation that is a recording of a choir performing “Spem in Alium,” a composition written 500 years ago. Each individual voice emanates from a separate speaker, and together the voices they create a beautiful harmony, an ethereal sound that seems to fill the chapel. Visitors have the opportunity to either walk up to each speaker to focus on one voice or sit on a bench at the center of the space. The installation, created in 2001, had previously been housed at the Cloisters in Manhattan.

Melissa Day, 24, of Brooklyn, said the sound installation was her favorite piece in the entire Rockaway! show. “It was absolutely moving,” she said. “It was so powerful, it was like a religious experience. I’m going to tell the rest of my friends to come see it.”

Cardiff herself was at the Sunday exhibit. She remarked that Fort Tilden might not no longer be be one of New York’s best kept secrets.

Jacob McKinnon, 28, came all the way from Manhattan to see the show and spend the day at the beach. “These are big names, this is a big deal,” he said about the show. “We’ve got great art, food the beach,” he continued, gesturing around Fort Tilden. “This is why New York is great.”

In the evening, actor James Franco read poetry from a stage set up before a few thousand people. And Patti Smith sung a number of songs. An after party, celebrating the successful debut was held at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club.

 

Thousands Come out for Rockaway!

The Wave

July 3, 2014

They came by bus; they came by car, by bike, on foot, by ferry, by shuttle, train and even by sailboat.

They came from up and down the Rockaway peninsula, Broad Channel, and even neighboring states.

On June 29, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, visitors came by the thousands to Rockaway! a summer arts festival mounted by the Museum of Modern Art and the Rockaway Artists Alliance at Fort Tilden. Other major partners in the project included the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service (NPS). 

Although more exact numbers are not yet available, some estimates put the visitor figure at 5,000 for the free opening day event. The exhibitions were so popular that people waited in line to experience works by the internationally known artists Janet Cardiff, Patti Smith and Adrian Villar Rojas. Some works were on loan from MoMA and the Robert Miller Gallery, while others were created specifically for this arts festival. The entire exhibition was conceived and curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Director of PS1, Curator at Large for MoMA and Rockaway resident.

Both Smith and Cardiff came to the festival and toured the exhibitions. 

Over the day visitors of all ages enjoyed free ices and water, a variety of food trucks, kids’ activities at RAA, demonstrations by NPS and performances by the Rockaway Theatre Company. RTC also had cast members in full costume roaming and mingling with the crowd. As visitors took in the exhibitions, enjoyed the activities, chatted with the RAA volunteers at each gallery and explored the now fully reopened Fort Tilden, those who came were overwhelmingly positive about the event and Rockaway.

The day concluded with remarks from the outdoor stage by Biesenbach, Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Jen Nersesian, RAA President Dan Guarino, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Agnes Gund, founder of the Agnes Gund Foundation and President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art. The sizeable audience, stretched far across the grassy grounds between the Rockaway Theater and the Chapel building, was then treated to a Walt Whitman poetry reading by actor James Franco and artist, author and singer Patti Smith. Franco came in directly after finishing a Broadway performance of “Of Mice And Men.”

As the sun set Patti Smith took to the stage to close out the day by performing songs with guitarist Lenny Kaye and keyboard player, her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith. On her last number, which she invited the whole audience to sing, she was joined by surprise guest Michael Stipe, of R.E.M.

After the festivities at Fort Tilden, many moved on to the packed Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Also a part of the Rockaway! summer long arts festival, the Surf Club is hosting an exhibition with the Honolulu Biennial, which includes works of local as well as international artists.

Rockaway! will be on view at the Surf Club and also at the Rockaway Artists Alliance galleries through Labor Day, September 1. RAA will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

As the huge crowds left Fort Tilden, organizers agreed that the opening event was an overwhelming success. They also agreed this was a very positive start of many collaborative projects to come and a very positive development for Rockaway.

 

Photo Diary: A Weekend of Art and Community in the Rockaways

New York Times Magazine

June 30, 2014

The Rockaway arts festival — a free public event on the Queens peninsula conceived by two of the neighborhood’s notable residents, the MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach and Patti Smith, in conjunction with the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy — opened to the public at Fort Tilden yesterday. The festival, which is on view through September 1, incorporates site-specific installations and a photography exhibit by Smith that pay homage to the Sandy-ravaged community’s resilience. Also on view are sculptures by the Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas designed to invite bird nesting; a sound-art piece by Janet Cardiff, “The Forty Part Motet;” and a group show at the newly restored Rockaway Beach Surf Club. The opening day festivities included a poetry reading by Smith and James Franco and performances by the Rockaway Theatre Company — all of which, combined with the perfect summer weather, drew a vibrant crowd to one of New York’s most unique historical sites.

 

Fort Tilden Celebrates Reopening in Rockaways with Arts Festival

NY1 News

June 30, 2014

NY1 VIDEO: A park in the Rockaways that was once an army base is celebrating its comeback after Hurricane Sandy, showing art work from some well-known names. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

From the top of Battery Harris at Fort Tilden, the Manhattan skyline seems close enough to touch, but remote enough to avoid all the hustle and bustle. “There’s phenomenal natural environment around here," says Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Jen Nersesian.

Fort Tilden Beach was closed last summer because of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. It recently reopened, and a free public arts festival simply called "Rockaway!" helps celebrates that. “It’s been a really powerful way, through art—really place based art—to really connect the public with what we offer here," Nersesian says. The National Park Service is hosting the installation, which partners the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, MoMa PS1 and the Rockaway Artists Alliance.

It was conceived by MoMa PS 1 director and Rockaway resident Klaus Biesenbach in collaboration with artist Patti Smith, who performed at Sunday's opener. She has a home in the Rockaways.

It features her work called "Resilience of the Dreamer," which includes a bed inside a former locomotive repair shop.

"It has beautiful white linens on it and you can this beautiful white kind of falling, cascading fabric that really lends it its dream-like quality," says Rockaway Artists Alliance Director Christine Mullally. There are also a collection of Smith's photos, plus five granite stones engraved with the poetry of Walt Whitman. Inside a chapel, a musical piece gives each member of a choir its own speaker.

Christine Mullally says she hopes visitors will see the beauty of the Rockaways, but the art is also for many who are still trying to bounce back from Sandy.” I really am hoping that everyone in the Rockaway community—which is a large peninsula of thousands of people—that everybody comes and takes this opportunity to see some international artwork," Mullally says.

You can check out the exhibits Thursday through Sunday from noon till 6 p.m. For more information, check out momaps1.org/rockaway1, ornps.gov/gate.

 

Rockaway! Exhibition Opens This Weekend

The Wave

June 27, 2014

Rockaway! the largest arts festival ever to come to the peninsula, is opening this Sunday, June 29.

The far-reaching, multi-artist, multivenue, free exhibition will run from June 29 through to Labor Day, September 1. Spread over several buildings and the historic grounds of Fort Tilden as well as the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, it will feature works by music legend and Rockaway resident Patti Smith, Canadian artist Janet Cardiff, Adrian Villar Rojas of Argentina and also the Honolulu Biennial.

Several works, from Smith and Rojas, have been uniquely created for Rockaway! Others, like Janet Cardiff’s “Forty Piece Motet” which was last seen at The Cloisters, are on special loan to exhibition host The Rockaway Artists Alliance from the Museum of Modern Art collection.

Several buildings at Fort Tilden, including the Chapel, the T-6 gallery and T-9, a former locomotive repair facility, are opening up to the public, in some cases for the first time, for this exhibition.

The Rockaway! Opening Day event is an opportunity for the National Park Service, Rockaway Artists Alliance, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy and MoMA PS1 to join other Fort Tilden partners, festival supporters and Rockaway residents to kick-off the Rockaway! public art festival and celebrate the reopening of historic Fort Tilden. Formerly an active military base, the Fort is now known as Rockaway’s urban park.

The Sunday opening event is family focused, with children’s art activities, baseball clinics, orienteering, historical tours and theater performances.

For the big day, the Rockaway Artists Alliance, the host of the exhibition, will be joined by its neighbors and Fort Tilden partners, the Rockaway Little League and Rockaway Theatre Company. The Rockaway Little League will be fielding pick-up baseball games and their ‘taste of the ball park’ concession will be open. The Rockaway Theatre Company will be presenting scenes from their past, present and future musical productions.

The Rockaway Artists Alliance will host children’s activities in their T-149 kidsmART program building, which will also allow parents to go and view the rest of the exhibitions.

The National Park Service will have camping, kayaking and outdoor activities demonstrations all day long. Throughout the day, food vendors will be situated throughout Fort Tilden.

The opening day is an opportunity for local residents to be the first to experience this innovative art festival, which runs through Labor Day. The festivities at Fort Tilden close with a poetry reading by Rockaway resident and punk rock legend Patti Smith and a special appearance from actor James Franco, but the party continues after-hours at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club.

The Rockaway! festival and exhibition is in part a direct outgrowth of an unprecedented partnership forged between the National Park Service and the City of New York to unite and revitalize the parks around Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula. It is also the first large-scale public program hosted by the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a public-private organization created to support the federal local partnership.

Rockaway! the wide ranging, summer long free public contemporary art festival/exhibition kicks off with a grand opening celebration this Sunday, June 19. Here below is a schedule of events for the daylong event.

 

ROCKAWAY! OPENING DAY
Sunday, June 29, 12 – 8 p.m.
Fort Tilden, Gateway National
Recreation Area

11:45 A.M.:

• Parking shuttle begins operation
from Riis Beach (continuous
loop until 8:15 p.m.)

NOON:

• Fort Tilden event opens!
• Rockaway Little League concessions
open at RLL clubhouse
• Food trucks begin operation
• Free water, lemonade at Rockaway
Artists Alliance T-7 Gallery

1 P.M.:

• Children’s art activities: Rockaway
Artists Alliance, Building T149
(ongoing until 4 p.m.)
• Baseball clinic: Rockaway Little League,RLL field (30-40 minutes)
• Theater performances: Rockaway
Theatre Company, RTC Theater
(20-30 minutes)
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden:
NPS Rangers, outdoor stage area
(30 minutes)
• Orienteering course: NYC Urban Park
Rangers, outdoor stage area
(ongoing until 4pm)
• Camping/kayaking demonstrations:
NPS, outdoor stage area
(ongoing until 4pm)

2 P.M.:

• Baseball clinic: Rockaway Little League,
RLL field (30-40 minutes)
• Theater performances: Rockaway
Theater Company, RTC building
(20-30 minutes)
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden: NPS,
outdoor stage area (30 minutes)

3 P.M.:

• Baseball clinic: Rockaway Little League,
RLL field (30-40 minutes)
• Theater performances: Rockaway
Theater Company, RTC building
(20-30 minutes)
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden: NPS,
departing from outdoor stage area
(30 minutes)

4 p.m.:

• Children’s activities end

7 p.m.:

• Performance: Patti Smith and James
Franco, spoken word (outdoor stage)8 p.m.:
• Fort Tilden event closes
• Rockaway Beach Surf Club party
begins!

8:15 p.m.:

• Last shuttle departs Fort Tilden
for Riis Beach parking lot
________________________________

ROCKAWAY! PARKING AND
PUBLIC TRANSIT INFO:
NOTE: Parking at Fort Tilden is limited,
but there is plenty at Riis Beach
\(cost is $10 per vehicle).
There will be shuttle service
from Riis Beach parking lot
to Fort Tilden.

VISITORS ARE ENCOURAGED
TO TAKE MASS TRANSIT
OR BICYCLE!!!
Bike racks will be available at key
locations around Fort Tilden.

 

Finally, a Tide of Celebration in the Rockaways

The New York Times

June 26, 2014

Patti Smith has been visiting the Rockaways in Queens since the 1970s, when she would venture around the secluded Fort Tilden, the national park and beach, with Robert Mapplethorpe.“It had the most beautiful dunes,” she said wistfully.

Ms. Smith, the musician, artist and writer, became a Rockaway resident in 2012, renovating a home across from the beach just before Hurricane Sandy hit. Her place suffered damage, but nothing compared with neighbors’ houses, which were destroyed by flood and fire. “We went around after the storm, and it was heartbreaking,” she said, mentioning “people’s broken dishes and melted dolls.”

Mattresses, appliances and other household wreckage were piled around Jacob Riis Park, and debris littered Fort Tilden, a grim restricted site for months afterward. Ms. Smith and her friend Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1, whose bayside home is a few blocks from hers, were part of the relief effort. Mr. Biesenbach, especially, emerged as a force able to pull together celebrity friends and disparate groups active in the recovery to help. Now Ms. Smith and Mr. Biesenbach are responding not just as citizens but also as artistic torchbearers, creating a site-specific festival to celebrate their adopted community and the reopening of Fort Tilden.

Patti Smith and Klaus Biesenbach have teamed up to start a new festival to celebrate the re-opening of Fort Tilden and their adopted community in the Rockaways.

Put together in just a few months, Rockaway! (the exclamation point is theirs) begins on Sunday and runs through Sept. 1, with a full schedule that includes installations and photography by Ms. Smith, an immersive sound piece by Janet Cardiff and sculpture by the Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas in and around Fort Tilden, and a satellite exhibition of art at Rockaway Beach Surf Club. It represents an unusually nimble partnership between the transplants, Ms. Smith and Mr. Biesenbach, and the local occupants: the long-running Rockaway Artists Alliance, the National Park Service and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. On a tight-knit peninsula that has recently undergone not only a natural disaster but also sometimes tense demographic, economic and social shifts, the organizers are hoping the festival will appeal to everyone.

“The work has to be lofty; the work has to stand alone,” Mr. Biesenbach said in his German-accented English. “But it also has to serve the people, presented in a way that’s memorable and seductive to the people. Also safe.” The festival is free and open to the public. But transforming the site, parts of which have never been used for events on this scale and some of which remain damaged by the storm, proved daunting.

The challenge served as inspiration, Ms. Smith said recently, as she picked through the rubble in a former automotive warehouse she is using for her main installation, deciding what should go and what should stay.

“Our friends and neighbors are making the same decisions in their homes,” she said. Debris encroaches on a four-poster bed covered in a cascading sheer white fabric, which she rinsed to soften. Titled “The Resilience of the Dreamer,” her piece is inspired by the domestic lives exposed by the storm — the destroyed mattresses piled by the beach, for example — and by the emotional significance of the bedroom. (She writes in bed a lot, she said.) Exposed to the elements, the bed will be transformed over time, even as it remains rooted in the crumbling, graffiti-covered building. 

“It’s a metaphor for the area,” she said. “Everyone’s dreaming of redoing their house. But we can’t take nature out of the equation, because we live by the sea.”

The Rockaways are dotted with improvements made post-Sandy: new stretches of boardwalk and modern beach buildings. But it is still in recovery mode. “We were crippled,” said Brandon d’Leo, an owner of Rockaway Beach Surf Club, a bohemian hangout a few blocks offshore. Mr. d’Leo didn’t reopen until mid-August last year, he said. He hopes that hosting an exhibition for the festival — including work from the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Olaf Breuning, Tom Sachs (who has a home nearby) and Elizabeth Peyton — will attract a new crowd and send a message about the Rockaways. “It’s not just a beach place; it’s a place where you could get world-class culture,” he said.

For Jackie Snyder, executive director of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a newly created public-private partnership, the festival was a smooth fit. “It made sense to work together,” she said, adding, “I don’t think anyone can say no to Klaus.”

Mr. Biesenbach, an avid gardener whose yard is filled with exotic plants, seems at home here. He traverses the neighborhood on a rusty bicycle, stopping often to take nature-scene photos, like birds nesting on the beach. As personally engaged as if assembling a museum retrospective, he conceptualized Rockaway! with Ms. Smith and presided over regular planning meetings. He even took the cover photo for the festival’s brochure, an image of an abandoned building on a wind-swept Rockaway beach.

“There’s something magical about this area,” he said, as he and Ms. Smith tooled around.

It fell to Jennifer T. Nersesian, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Fort Tilden, to make certain that the landscape will not be damaged by the sprawling event. She went to a meeting of black-clad curatorial assistants at PS1 in her federal parks department uniform.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said of the attention and resources needed for the festival. “But this helps connect people to the place and opens the door for them to form their own attachment.” Before the storm, she added, “Tilden had sort of just been discovered; visitorship was on a sharp increase.” It’s rebounding, though the Army Corps of Engineers is still restoring the dunes and sand to 1970s levels, which requires an unsightly pipe on the beach.

To entice explorers, Ms. Smith had blocks of granite inscribed with Walt Whitman poetry placed along the waterfront path. “It all explains the connection between man and nature, a natural fit for someplace like a national park,” Ms. Nersesian said.

Ms. Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet,” a ghostly choral installation that emanates from 40 speakers, is set in a former military chapel whose walls and paint had to be replaced for the show.

“Everything is sturdy and humble,” Ms. Smith said, as she and Mr. Biesenbach walked around the rehabbed buildings in Fort Tilden, which Rockaway Artists Alliance has long used as a gallery space. (Photographs by Ms. Smith will hang there.) “I like that. That’s why I like it around here.”

“This is the transformative power of art,” she said. “We’re making the space better than we found it, not just philosophically or poetically or spiritually better, but practically better.”

That sense of renewal is what the alliance and festival organizers sought, building on the budding art scene. This month Topless Gallery — the name is a wink to the nudity on Fort Tilden’s beach — opened to crowds in a former law library, steps from Rockaway Taco, the epicenter of the area’s cool weekender revival. The gallery’s artist-founders, Brent Birnbaum, 36, and Jenni Crain, 23, expect to show mostly work from outside the peninsula.

“Someone has yelled ‘hipster!’ at me,” said Mr. Birnbaum, who has piercings and a man-bun and moved to the Rockaways last year from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But he added that he had found the neighbors welcoming and that the economics were such that he didn’t need to sell much art to survive. With its 62-inch watermark from Sandy still visible, the pop-up gallery will be open on weekends.

Patrick Clark, 60, a stained-glass artist who has lived in the Rockaways for 28 years, said he was energized by the influx of young creators, though he acknowledges what it may foretell. “I’ll be gentrified out of here in a couple of years,” he said. “But I’d rather see the neighborhood come to life, even if it means I’ll have to go.”

Jogging on the new boardwalk with her children, LaToya Shaw, 28, who works in child care, cheered the festival. “It’s bringing people together, it’s attracting the right elements,” showing, she said, that for her community, Sandy “was a setback, but it didn’t break us.”

Rockaway!,  a free public arts festival, opens on Sunday with a poetry reading from James Franco and spoken-word performance from Patti Smith. It continues through Sept. 1. momaps1.org/rockaway1.

 

Rockaway! Meets the Big Time

The Rockaway Times

June 25, 2014

Rockaway gets to be a brand new canvas. Sunday marks the arrival of Rockaway! an arts festival sure to attract visitors from around the world.

Rockaway! — exclamation point and all – comes via an unprecedented collaboration. The Rockaway Artists Alliance, MoMA PS1, the National Park Service, the Honolulu Biennial and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) joined together to launch the summertime festival.

“These are all groups that are really interested in supporting the Rockaways,” Jackie Snyder, the executive director of the JBRPC, said. “They’re all working to support the communities out there, working to improve public park lands and make it a destination for other New Yorkers who maybe don’t know how spectacular the Rockaways are.”

Rockaway! will feature artists both international and local, including rock star Patti Smith, who helped developed the idea for the show, alongside Rockaway resident Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1 and a Rockaway resident, himself.

Smith’s work in the show will include an outdoor installation, titled “The Resilience of the Dreamer.” Inside a run-down abandoned building she will install a four-post bed and linens. The bed will deteriorate over time, a representation of the fortitude of Rockaway and its relationship with the elements.

Smith’s work will also include an exhibition of photographs of objects that held significance for their well-known owners: Virginia Woolf’s bed and Frida Kahlo’s corset are among the photos.

Within the military chapel at Fort Tilden will be a sound installation from the MoMA collection, “The Forty Piece Motet” by Janet Cardiff,” which was previously on display at the Cloisters.

There will be a third solo project, by the Argentinian artist Adrian Villar Rojas. Throughout Fort Tilden, the artists will have on display small sculptures inspired by birds nests created by Argentinian birds called “horneros.”

The Rockaway Beach Surf Club, on Beach 87th Street, will host a group exhibition of local and international artists whose work is beach-inspired and surf-related. The Surf Club, which was recently restored, operated as a relief center immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

The show will support the reopening of Fort Tilden and other post-Sandy recovery efforts. It’s also a way to introduce Rockaway to individuals from outside of the peninsula and allow them to experience the incredible view at the Harris battery, Snyder said.

“We’re interested in getting people from outside of the community who may or may not go the Rockaways or with any frequency and give them a reason to go out,” she said. “People who aren’t so familiar with it can see what a great place it is, as well as support the economy and help Rockaway do great things.”

The exhibit, which is free, begins June 29 and will run until September 1.

Schedule of events for Sunday, June 29

Noon – 8 p.m.: Exhibitions on view at Fort Tilden Family-friendly activities
7 p.m.: Spoken word performance by Patti Smith
Poetry reading by James Franco
8 p.m. – midnight: After party at Rockaway Beach Surf Club

 

Free Arts Festival Celebrates Opening of Fort Tilden, Recovery of Rockaway Peninsula

NY1 News

June 20, 2014

NY1 VIDEO: Starting next weekend, for two months, a free arts festival will take place in Queens celebrating the opening of Fort Tilden and the ongoing recovery of the Rockaway Peninsula. NY1's Anthony Pascale spoke with Angela Goding, director of development at MoMA PS1, and Jackie Snyder, executive director of the Jamaica Bay - Rockaway Parks Conservancy, about the event. - See more at: http://queens.ny1.com/content/news/210882/free-arts-festival-celebrates-opening-of-fort-tilden--recovery-of-rockaway-peninsula/#sthash.JQCVABDh.dpuf

 

MoMA PS1's Rockaway! Festival to Include Janet Cardiff, Patti Smith

Art in America 

June 12, 2014

Summer shows of artworks by Janet Cardiff, Adrián Villar Rojas and Patti Smith will celebrate ongoing post-Superstorm Sandy recovery on New York's Rockaway peninsula, in the borough of Queens.

MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach and Smith, both of whom have homes in the area, have organized Rockaway!, a public arts festival consisting of several exhibitions that will mark the reopening of Fort Tilden, a historic Army battalion and its surrounding beachfront park that suffered severe erosion during the 2012 storm. In collaboration with the Rockaway Artists Alliance (RAA) and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservatory (JBRPC), the event (June 29-Sept. 1) will feature work by both international and local artists.

The festival will be hosted in the public gallery at Fort Tilden, which has been run for 19 years by the RAA. Smith plans to exhibit three works, including The Resilience of the Dreamer, a site-specific installation that will place a gilded four-post bed within an abandoned park building. She'll also show photography depicting personal objects of great importance to their owners—poet Robert Graves's hat and artist Frida Kahlo's corset, among others.

A series of sculptures by the Argentinean artist Rojas will address the ecological rebuilding of the area. The fort's chapel will host Cardiff's sound installation The Forty Part Motet, which adapts a 16th-century vocal piece, giving a microphone to each voice of a 40-member choir.

A short distance down the beach, in a recently restored surf culture staple, will be a group show of Rockaway artists in collaboration with the Honolulu Biennial (whose first outing will be in 2016). The Rockaway Beach Surf Club served as one of the largest relief centers for area residents during the storm and its aftermath. The exhibition will highlight the rebuilding efforts of Rockaway surfers and artists.

This summer exhibition series is the second project undertaken by MoMA PS1 in the Rockaways. In March of last year, the museum coordinated the construction of the temporary VW Dome cultural center. Through June of 2013, the structure acted as a space for contemporary art performances and as a platform for neighborhood voices.