As published in the Rockaway Times, November 9, 2017 | by Alex Zablocki
It has been a busy few weeks at the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC). At the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, we recently capped off a three-year restoration project with The Nature Conservancy and National Park Service. This work included 14-acres of restoration and the planting of 28,000 trees and shrubs. Working with the American Littoral Society, Gateway Bike and Boathouse, Rockaway Beach Civic Association and NYC Parks, we helped transform parkland located at Beach 88th Street and Beach Channel Drive into a place for kayaking, with public access to the bay. Finally, two weeks ago we began a project to improve the overlook at Battery Harris East, Fort Tilden, along with our partners at the National Park Service and Groundwork Hudson Valley. While the cold weather seems to be setting in, we look forward to spending the next few months planning out an aggressive agenda for 2018 to further improve our parks and open spaces.
Get to know our parks.
Did you know that Gwritzman Triangle, located at Beach Channel Drive and Beach 144th Street in Neponsit, is named after Leroy H. Gwirtzman, a World War II veteran and long-time community activist? According to NYC Parks, the park is part of the city’s Greenstreets Program and provides walkways, a sitting area, flagpole, plantings and a fence with decorative features. Recently, JBRPC joined NYC Parks and local residents in painting the fence and improving the grounds. This work will be completed in the next few weeks.
Speaking of veterans, often times we take for granted the joys of enjoying the outdoors and our beautiful landscape. As we approach Veterans Day, we are reminded of the sacrifice so many have made to keep us free. Selfless acts of heroism and service do not go unnoticed and it is because of the women and men in the armed forces that we can go about our daily routine and enjoy our wonderful open spaces.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has erected many monuments across our parks honoring our veterans. Some of these include the Rockaway Women Veterans Monument, Rockaway Veterans Memorial, Belle Harbor Memorial Circle and Broad Channel Memorial Park Flagstaff and plaque. A full list can be found at: https://www.nycgovparks.org/art-and-antiquities/permanent-art-and-monuments.
Across the bay at Floyd Bennett Field, the National Park Service has recognized World War II pilots of the Naval Air Ferry Command which was once based at Floyd Bennett Field. This plaque can be found in the Ryan Visitor Center. In Floyd Bennett Field’s Hangar B, the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP) – having many members who served in the military – has a small museum dedicated to armed forces.
All of these are worth exploring.
We want to hear from you.
Last month, JBRPC launched a new activities and events map on our website. The tool allows visitors to sort activities of interest across all Jamaica Bay and Rockaway parks, as well as events taking place in our parks. You can help us build out content for the new map by sending us your events. The map and link to submit events can be found at http://www.jbrpc.org/getting-around. Let us know what you think.
If you would like more information on JBRPC, including volunteer opportunities and events, please visit www.jbrpc.org.
Alex Zablocki is the executive director of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.
New York Today | By ALEXANDRA S. LEVINE OCT. 27, 2017
Good morning on this flawless Friday.
How can trees protect us from another Hurricane Sandy?
Five years after the storm — which slammed into the Northeast on Oct. 29, 2012, killing 43 people in New York and causing $19 billion in damage — nearly 20,000 trees and shrubs have been planted in a hard-hit area in Jamaica, Queens, to build up coastal resilience.
Rebuilding and preparing for the next big storm often centers on infrastructure and architecture, less so on plants.
New York City’s more than 500 miles of coastline — the dunes, wetlands, marshlands, coastal forests and oyster reefs — can be a protective buffer against storm surge.
“These natural systems are the front line — the places that are between the open ocean and New Yorkers,” Mr. Ulfelder said. “The more we can do to invest in these, the better they’re going to be in helping to protect us.”
The conservancy, along with the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, National Park Service and hundreds of volunteers, is wrapping up a three-year project to cover 14 acres of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge with trees and shrubs. When Sandy flooded the area, the plants there could not tolerate the salty, wet conditions, said Emily Nobel Maxwell, the New York City program director at the conservancy. But the plants that they are placing there — a vibrant “maritime forest” of oaks, pines, juniper, holly, blueberry and elderberry — can better tolerate saltwater inundation.
“The expectation is that they will be under water more often in the future, as the surges happen,” Mr. Ulfelder said. “When the water washes around them, they will be able to survive some of those events, whereas the previous species could not. They’re designed to be compatible with a sea-level-rising world.”
If it’s successful, Mr. Ulfelder and Ms. Maxwell said, the project can serve as an example for other parts of the city susceptible to water damage.
The group’s goal is to plant 28,000 trees there. If you’re interested in volunteering to help, you can sign up to participate this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or next Saturday and Sunday at the same time.
“There’s something very special about putting a tree in the ground,” Mr. Ulfelder added. “The feeling of that and the connection to the earth, but also an expression of hope about the future.”
By Gene Apodaca | October 25, 2017 @5:18 PM
Residents in the Rockaways are getting more access to Jamaica Bay. A project is underway to open up a new kayak launch there. As NY1's Gene Apodaca reports the project breathes new life to a park that has sat idle for years.
The swans swimming in Jamaica Bay will soon have some company.
The parks department has reached an agreement with the city-funded non-profit organization Gateway Bike and Boathouse.
The organization will provide free kayaking and lessons on a piece of parkland at Beach 88th street and Beach Channel Drive in the Rockaways.
It will be only the third public access point to Jamaica Bay on the peninsula.
“It means taking full advantage the assets around us and fresh air and exercise and good health,“ said Rick Horan, Executive Director of Bike and Boathouse.
The more than one acre site has been closed to the public for years. At one point used as a staging area for a massive sewer construction project. Hurricane Sandy further delayed its development.
However, last summer the site was returned to the parks department, clearing the way for public use again. The American Littoral Society teamed up with the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy to clean and prep the site.
“That included working throughout August and September removing invasive species putting in a trail, wood chips and a weed barrier so that the site can be prepared and ready,“ said Alex Zablocki, Executive Director of Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.
With the help of Boy Scout Troop 298 from Brooklyn, two shipping containers were outfitted to serve as temporary boathouses. The hope is that a permanent boathouse eventually can be built.
Currently, there are three kayaks at the site but organizers hope to have 18 by the time they launch next spring.
“I think it’s going to be great for the community give a lot of people a place to go enjoy this beautiful bay,” said nearby resident, Bryan Ecock.
In the coming weeks the community will be asked to help design the site. Officials hope that by giving people more access to the water they will, in the long run, help improve the condition of the bay.
“The more people know about the bay the more apt they are to take care of it,“ said Horan.
28,000 Trees Planted During Three-Year Restoration Project in Sandy-Damaged Jamaica Bay to Improve Wildlife Habitat and Coastal Resilience
TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT, 600 VOLUNTEERS WILL PLANT NEARLY 18,000 TREES IN EIGHT DAYS
New York, NY (October 25, 2017) – The eight-day volunteer event to plant nearly 18,000 native trees and shrubs in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, NY has reached its halfway point. Nearly 600 volunteers are participating in the large-scale planting, which is the capstone project in a three-year collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) to restore 14 acres of the Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, damaged by Hurricane Sandy. By the final planting day, October 29th—the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the total number of trees planted during the three-year project will be nearly 28,000. Media are invited to the press event on October 26th.
Like many parts of New York City, Jamaica Bay and the surrounding communities were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Shoreline neighborhoods flooded, and many homes were damaged or destroyed. In the Refuge, an 8.5-foot storm surge uprooted trees and destroyed vegetation. Both East and West Ponds, important sources of freshwater, were breached and inundated with brackish water from the bay. The altered landscape allowed for the expansion of some invasive plant species, which further degraded wildlife habitat and reduced biodiversity.
The partnership between the Conservancy, NPS, and JBRPC will help create a more resilient Jamaica Bay—one that can better adapt to the impacts of climate change. By restoring native plant communities, including flood- and salt-tolerant species, the project will both improve the site’s ability to recover from future floods and create better habitat for wildlife. The Refuge is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Northeast, with more than 330 migratory and native bird species, and it is home to other local wildlife, including diamondback terrapins, red bats, and horseshoe crabs. The findings from this project may have potential applications for other coastal areas of New York City and beyond.
“As we reflect on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we appreciate the clear threats of sea level rise, flooding, and storm surge are very real,” said Bill Ulfelder, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in New York. “At The Nature Conservancy, we believe in the power of nature to help protect New Yorkers and promote resilience in a climate-changing world. In Jamaica Bay, alongside our partners and community members, we have put that belief into action.”
“As we approach the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we know we are helping to strengthen the ecosystem at the Refuge to survive and function far into the future, even in the face of a changing environment,” said Gateway Superintendent Jennifer Nersesian. “But perhaps more importantly, what we've seen through this project is the resilience and commitment of our community, from our project partners to the many volunteers who have all come together to help restore the Refuge. It is that spirit of stewardship that is the real key to our future, no matter what the circumstances.”
“The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to our region’s most important bird sanctuary and provides a thriving environment for many species right here in New York City,” said Tom Secunda, Chairman, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. “With the help of many partners and volunteers over the past three years, the Refuge is coming back stronger than ever before. The resilience of this refuge and surrounding community after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy has been nothing short of extraordinary. The JBRPC continues to be a proud partner with The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service to create an even more resilient and sustainable Jamaica Bay.”
Dedicated volunteers include: staff from corporate partners Bank of America, Accenture, and Bloomberg; the Central Park Conservancy and its youth program, ROOTS; students from local middle schools and high schools; local residents; and nature lovers from across the City. Over the past three years, hundreds of volunteers have planted trees, helped remove invasive vegetation, and conducted biological monitoring.
“Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is one of New York City’s most special natural areas, and every volunteer who has helped over the past three years has a tangible connection to this place,” added Ulfelder. “This work would not be possible without enthusiastic volunteers and wonderful supporters—they have helped make Jamaica Bay more resilient, better for wildlife, and more welcoming to people and nature."
The collaboration between the Conservancy, NPS, and JBRPC to restore 14 acres in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge began in Fall 2015. The work was made possible through a capital investment donation from the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy to The Nature Conservancy and Centennial Funding from the National Park Service. The project has three goals: improve health of wildlife habitat, improve coastal resilience, and enhance visitor experience.
The Wave | on October 19, 2017
Friday the 13th, was a lucky day for us in Broad Channel this October. The subway station garden, adopted by the Civic Association in 1990, got a 100 percent improvement thanks to Ciaragrace Donley of NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office, Alex Zablocki of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, and a handful of valued volunteers. The weeds are gone, woodchips laid, and native plants obtained by the Conservancy were planted. The Conservancy also erected signs crediting the Civic Association with maintaining the gardens. Let’s hope passersby respect the gardens by depositing their litter in the trash can provided by funds from Councilman Ulrich.
- BARBARA TOBORG
BY KAMI-LEIGH AGARD
As published in the Rockaway Times | 19 OCTOBER 2017
If you are entering or exiting the Broad Channel (BC) Subway Station, get ready for an eye-pleasing shock. On Friday, October 13, the Broad Channel Civic Association (BCCA) got their hands dirty, and joined the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) and Councilman Erich Ulrich’s office in giving the Station’s community garden a much-needed cosmetic facelift.
According to Dan Mundy, Jr., BCCA president, community volunteers removed 22 bags of weeds and debris from a nearly 3,000 square foot garden space adjacent to the Station. A weed barrier cloth was installed to help limit future maintenance needs at the site and loads of woodchips were placed across the garden. Twelve native flowering plants and trees were planted including beach plumb, holly, gray birch and andropogon. Also, the group installed two signs at the site recognizing the work of the BCCA to maintain the garden in partnership with the JBRPC.
In 1990, BCCA ‘adopted’ the Station’s garden and received a grant to beautify it with plants and trees. However 12 years later, Hurricane Sandy decimated it. BC resident Barbara Toborg said, “Sandy wiped out all the tender loving care locals diligently gave to the garden in all those past years, transforming what once was beautiful into a garbage-littered eyesore. Then a few years later, the Metro Transit Authority (MTA) stepped in by building a wall and planting a nursery. However, we knew that we had to pitch in and revitalize the garden back to its glory days with our BC green touch.”
As documented in the book, Broad Channel (Images of America: New York) authored by Liz and Dan Guarino, “In 1880, the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Beach Railroad began service and BC became a stop in 1881. The new community's hub was the railroad station, the line having been taken over by the Long Island Rail Road. Then in the 1950s, after the LIRR trestle had been plagued by interruption of service over the years by fire and the havoc that ice in the bay worked on the miles of open trestle, the line was transformed into a subway line by the NYC Transit Authority. The BC Subway station is now a major destination and transfer point for commuters.
Mundy, Jr. said, “The garden’s transformation is amazing, making the entrance to our town’s train stop look really beautiful. It was great to see locals coming out to beautify our community.”
BY ALEX ZABLOCKI | 28 SEPTEMBER 2017
Like many of you, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) welcomed the reopening of the full Rockaway boardwalk this summer. JBRPC is energized by a series of exciting milestones achieved over the past few months in the Rockaways by our partners, government agencies and our organization. While the reopening of the boardwalk is a major milestone in Rockaway’s recovery post-Sandy, we know that more needs to be done to ensure the long-term sustainability of parklands and overall resiliency of the Rockaway community.
With recent storms such as Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, we are reminded that Mother Nature is both unpredictable and unforgiving. In Rockaway, the best buffer we have to protect us from extreme weather and climate change are our salt marshes, beaches and dunes. While maintaining the integrity of these natural areas is one piece of the overall resilience strategy, it is key to providing Rockaway with protection from dangerous storms.
As part of our mission, as a nonprofit organization charged with providing support to the National Park Service and NYC Parks in Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways, we seek to support these natural areas and restore them, and by doing so improve habitat, help sustain open spaces and protect inland areas from the threats of storms and climate change. For example, JBRPC partnered with The Nature Conservancy to restore parkland in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to improve the ecological health of habitats, increase resiliency, and enhance visitor experience at the Refuge. In over 14-acres of the Refuge, this project restores native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants, to create better habitat for migratory birds and improve the site’s ability to recover from future floods, and provide a natural buffer to surrounding communities. On October 21 and 28, hundreds of volunteers are needed to help plant over 17,000 trees and shrubs as part of this project. If you would like to assist in this effort, please visit our website at http://www.jbrpc.org/volunteer/.
Get to know our parks.
Did you know that Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, plays an important role in protecting the Rockaways and Jamaica Bay from storms? With our partners at the National Park Service, NYC Parks and the Natural Areas Conservancy, the JBRPC is preparing for future shoreline restoration projects through the support of the Marian S. Heiskell Beach Grass Nursery at Floyd Bennett Field. While the nursery may be located in Brooklyn, native beach grasses grown at this 3.25-acre site are used to stabilize dunes and other natural areas buffering the Rockaway coastline from storms and sea level rise. Floyd Bennett Field also offers both natural and active recreation areas, including camping, bird watching, fishing, hiking and kayaking. Visitors can also learn about the parks important place in aviation history at the Ryan Visitor Center and the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP) located at Hangar B.
We want to hear from you.
As we approach the five-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, JBRPC is co-hosting a three-part event titled “Science of the Living City: New York City’s Coastal Future: What Can Jamaica Bay Be?" This free public event takes place October 10, 17 and 24 and will bring together voices from over 25 local organizations to discuss current life in the Jamaica Bay watershed and its future. For more information, please visit: http://bit.do/resilienceseries.
If you would like more information on JBRPC, including volunteer opportunities and events, please visit www.jbrpc.org.
From the JBRPC | BY ALEX ZABLOCKI, 24 AUGUST 2017
The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) was established in 2013 as a public-private partnership dedicated to improving the 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway peninsula for local residents and visitors alike. With its partners at the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, JBRPC works to expand public access; increase recreational and educational opportunities; foster citizen stewardship and volunteerism; preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat; enhance cultural resources; and ensure the long-term sustainability of parklands.
You may have seen us working in the community over the years. JBRPC has worked with government agencies and local organizations to bring improvements and programming to places like Fort Tilden, Riis Park, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Rockaway beaches. Most recently our organization privately funded improvements to Bayswater Park and we are currently working with partner organizations to improve parkland at Beach 88th Street.
While our presence in the Rockaway community is not new, there are longstanding organizations doing great work to improve parks and open spaces here in Rockaway. JBRPC seeks to partner with these groups and complement their work, not duplicate it, and support the local community by filling gaps where needed. We work closely with the American Littoral Society, Rockaway Artists Alliance and other groups to help fulfill our mission. This year we opened an office on Beach 116th Street and welcome visitors to come learn about our work and let us know how we can support parks in our community.
Get to know our parks.
Did you know that Fort Tilden, which is owned and managed by the National Park Service, was established as a military base in 1917? It was intended to fortify the Rockaway peninsula from naval attacks during World War I and remained an active base during World War II and the Cold War. Both anti-aircraft guns and Nike Missiles were placed at Fort Tilden to protect from aerial attacks. One of the batteries, Battery Harris East, can be accessed by the public by following the trail along Range Road. Visitors may ascend the staircase to the top of the battery to experience breathtaking 360-degree views of the Rockaways, Jamaica Bay, Atlantic Ocean and the Manhattan skyline. Fort Tilden was decommissioned in 1974 and now serves as a public park.
We want to hear from you.
As the end of summer approaches, we want to hear from you. Let us know how you are enjoying the last days of summer in our parks. Post a picture to Instagram and tag us @JBRPC.
Alex Zablocki is the executive director of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. Prior to leading the Conservancy, Alex served at the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery as a Senior Program Manager for infrastructure projects and storm recovery programs. The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy headquarters is located at 177 Beach 116th Street, Suite 4, Rockaway Park. For more information on the Conservancy, please visit www.jbrpc.org.
Maria Elena Perez | on August 02, 2017
Bayswater Park has gone through a bit of a much-needed makeover, thanks to the Jamaica Bay—Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC), NYC Parks and students from the Student Conservation Association.
On Wednesday, July 26, volunteer students, the Natural Areas Conservancy, the JBRPC, NYC Parks and guests gathered for the ribbon cutting of the a mural and a tour of the new trails that were added to the back of the park.
“We’re working to make this park more resilient, more accessible and a better place for the community to come out and enjoy on a day-to-day basis,” said NYC Parks Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanaugh.
Thanks to funding from Councilman Donovan Richards, the JBRPC and the Natural Areas Conservancy, the new park includes a new picnic bench area, grills, a mural painted by the volunteer students and spruced up trails in the back of the park.
The Natural Areas Conservancy is a public-private partnership that works with NYC Parks in raising additional resources for natural areas and conducting research.
Sarah Charlop-Powers, executive director of the Natural Areas Conservancy, is excited to be partnering with the JBRPC and NYC Parks to see this big project come together.
“It’s one of the few sites where we’re all collaborating together and it’s really exciting,” said Charlop-Powers.
Growing up in the Bronx, Charlop-Powers was a part of cleanup and environmental projects as well. She expressed how “great [it was to see] all of these students be a part of beautifying the park.”
“It was a life changing experience for me to have that kind of job, and I think for any New York City kid to have this kind of job, if you’re living in one of the five boroughs,” said Charlop-Powers.
Executive Director of the JBRPC, Alex Zablocki, is also thrilled about the partnership and is happy with the outcome of the mural.
“This was clearly a partnership with many organizations that we are proud to support and be a part of,” said Zablocki.
The JBRPC, which is a public-private partnership, improves 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway Peninsula. When partnering with NYC Parks and the Natural Areas Conservancy, they help expand public access and restore natural areas to parklands.
Zablocki hopes that with the new improvements, they will see more people in the peninsula come out to enjoy their local parks.
“By improving the trails and bringing in the new picnic tables, we hope that more people will come out to enjoy these natural areas in Jamaica Bay,” said Zablocki.
Large planting event is part of a three-year project in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to benefit both nature and the surrounding communities
New York, NY | October 25, 2016
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC), has kicked off a six-day event to plant more than 10,000 native trees and shrubs in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, in Queens, NY. The plantings are part of a collaborative project between the Conservancy, NPS, and JBRPC that began in Fall 2015 to restore 14 acres of the Refuge damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The project has three goals: improve ecological health of habitats, increase resilience, and enhance visitor experience.
In addition to replanting the site, The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service have been working to remove invasive vegetation. To track the project’s success, teams will continue to conduct biological monitoring of the site, including surveys of birds, pollinators, vegetation and soil. Hundreds of volunteers have engaged in restoration work thus far, and more than 400 volunteers are expected to participate at this week’s planting event. The goal is to plant 30,000 trees and shrubs by the project’s end in Winter 2017.
By restoring native plant communities, including flood- and salt-tolerant species, the planting efforts will not only increase wildlife habitat but also improve the site’s ability to recover from future floods.
“The Nature Conservancy is proud to help make New York City a greener, more hospitable environment for both people and nature,” said Emily Nobel Maxwell, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. "It's incredible to see the changes Jamaica Bay has undergone since Hurricane Sandy struck four years ago. This project is an excellent opportunity to steward one of our most important natural areas, and it has the potential to inform the management of coastal parklands citywide and beyond, helping us better adapt to the impacts of flooding, sea level rise, and severe storms.”
“This project is a fantastic way to begin the second century of the National Park Service,” said Jen Nersesian, Superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area. “Improving our ability to recover from future floods can make us better neighbors, and improving the habitat will make us an even better refuge."
“This important restoration work at Jamaica Bay connects science and recreation, nature and people,” said Tom Secunda, Chairman, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. “JBRPC is proud to partner with The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service to create a resilient Jamaica Bay for nature, local residents, and visitors alike.”
“We also thank all of the dedicated volunteers who are making this work possible one tree at a time,” added Nobel Maxwell. The more than 400 volunteers participating in the planting event include: staff from corporate partners Bank of America, Bloomberg, Lowe’s, and NBBJ; the Central Park Conservancy and its youth program, ROOTS; students from Alternate Learning Center Schools and Bronxdale High School; local residents; and nature lovers from across the City.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, located in the Atlantic Flyway – a major migration route stretching from the Arctic to South America, is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeast. More than 330 bird species, including migratory songbirds, are found in the Refuge. The restoration efforts will provide birds with better habitat and nutrient-rich food for their journey. The park is also home to diamondback terrapins, red bats, and more than 60 species of butterflies and native pollinators.
The Refuge is an ecological oasis, offering visitors an essential connection to nature in New York City. It is accessible by public transportation, and it attracts more than half a million visitors each year.
The ecological restoration work in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was made possible through a capital investment donation from the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy to The Nature Conservancy and centennial funding from the National Park Service. For more information about the work at Jamaica Bay, please visit nature.org/jamaicabay.
About Gateway National Recreation Area
A large diverse urban park spanning two states, Gateway combines recreational activities with natural beauty, wildlife preservation, military history and more Visitors can hike, picnic, swim, sunbathe, bike, visit the oldest lighthouse in the nation, see an airplane collection and camp overnight, all in the New York metropolitan area. Gateway is one of the ten most visited national parks in the country. For information about Gateway's upcoming public programs, see the park's Web site at www.nps.gov/gate. To join the conversation about Gateway, follow us on social media. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @GatewayNPS.
About the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy
The Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) is a public-private partnership established in 2013 that is dedicated to improving the 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway Peninsula for local residents and visitors alike. With its partners at the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, JBRPC works to expand public access; increase recreational and educational opportunities; foster citizen stewardship and volunteerism; preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat; enhance cultural resources; and ensure the long-term sustainability of the parklands, including the development of the Science and Resilience Institute. Learn more at www.jbrpc.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
• Parking shuttle begins operation
from Riis Beach (continuous
loop until 8:15 p.m.)
• 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
• 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
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden:
NPS Rangers, outdoor stage area
• Orienteering course: NYC Urban Park
Rangers, outdoor stage area
(ongoing until 4pm)
• Camping/kayaking demonstrations:
NPS, outdoor stage area
(ongoing until 4pm)
• Baseball clinic: Rockaway Little League,
RLL field (30-40 minutes)
• Theater performances: Rockaway
Theater Company, RTC building
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden: NPS,
outdoor stage area (30 minutes)
• Baseball clinic: Rockaway Little League,
RLL field (30-40 minutes)
• Theater performances: Rockaway
Theater Company, RTC building
• Historical tours of Fort Tilden: NPS,
departing from outdoor stage area
• Children’s activities end
• Performance: Patti Smith and James
Franco, spoken word (outdoor stage)8 p.m.:
• Fort Tilden event closes
• Rockaway Beach Surf Club party
• 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
Bike racks will be available at key
locations around Fort Tilden.
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.
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
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
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.