National Parks Service Looking to Land Glampers at Floyd Bennett Field
The National Parks Service has put out requests for new operators at the former airstrip on Jamaica Bay as well as Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, hoping to attract a new clientele. The Aviator Sports complex could also get new management.
Two federally owned swaths of land in the city could soon host “glamping” and tiny cabins for overnight stays, as the National Park Service looks to expand accommodations, according to calls for proposals released last week by the agency.
The requests for fancier outdoors activities (glamorous+camping = glamping) come as the parks service seeks to get more use and money out of Floyd Bennett Field in southern Brooklyn and Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island.
Both sites currently have bare-bones camping, but a new operator could start as soon as this summer to improve and increase amenities, according to the NPS.
“Applicants proposing the introduction of additional camping amenities, including but not limited to glamping and tiny house camping at the below identified locations will be required to submit to an additional level of compliance review to ensure the proposed activity does not present any unacceptable impacts to natural and cultural resources,” a request for proposals from the parks service reads.
There have been a few spots for urban camping and glamping around New York City in recent years. Camp Rockaway began operating at nearby Fort Tilden in 2017, with higher-end tents and a campfire. It is now only open at a site upstate, according to it’s website.
Governor’s Island will also offer a glamping experience starting in May through Collective Retreats, which has locations around the country.
Keva Niver Ademuyiwa, 42, lives in Brooklyn and owns Boheme Retreats, which renovates vintage campers. She currently runs a site in Livingston Manor in Sullivan County, but would love to find a spot closer to home.
“People ask me to use them in Brooklyn all the time, there’s just not a place,” she said.
Floyd Bennett is “a great spot, you’re right by the water as well,” Ademuyiwa added.
The feds are also looking for a new operator of the sports center currently known as Aviator, housed inside former airplane hangars at Floyd Bennett Field, in the hopes of luring in more visitors to the former military airstrip in Marine Park.
“The park is interested in proposals which integrate use of other areas within Floyd Bennett Field, including the existing public campground, located on the opposite end of Old Runway 6-24 from hangars 5, 6, 7, and 8,” the release says. “Similarly, the park is interested in proposals that leverage opportunities in other areas zoned for recreation in Gateway.”
The request for more campsites seeks to expand visits and opportunities at Floyd Bennett as well as Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. Both currently have bare-bones camping, but a new operator could start as soon as this summer to improve and increase amenities, according to the release.
Floyd Bennett currently hosts 44 campsites, including 12 spots for RVs. There are 7 campsites at Fort Wadsworth.
Both of the campsites run from the end of May until September, according to NPS, and the new operator could start as soon as this summer.
Applicants would not be able to alter any of the historic structures, according to Daphne Yun, a spokesperson for the Gateway National Recreation Area, which encompasses multiple waterfront sites across New York and New Jersey.
At Floyd Bennett, the parks service also put out a request for interest to take over the Aviator Sports complex.
The complex features facilities for basketball, volleyball, indoor tennis, soccer, football, a gymnastics center, and ice-hockey rink inside former airplane hangars. There is also a 35-foot-tall rock climbing wall, arcade, meeting rooms, and a food court.
Aviator Sports opened in 2006 but its operator contract is up in 2023, and a new operator could take it over in January 2024, according to the National Park Service. Aviator Sports did not respond to a request for comment.
The request encouraged applicants to explore ways to expand use at Floyd Bennett, which is at the southernmost end of Flatbush Avenue and accessible by public transportation only by the Q35 bus, connecting at the Flatbush Ave-Brooklyn College stop on the 2 and 5 trains.
The request for proposals also calls for a better transportation connection to Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden across the Gil Hodges-Marine Parkway Bridge on the Rockaway peninsula, which is also part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
The new operator could also work to expand camping on site, the request says. Yun said they’re soliciting ideas and proposals that could help expand “multi-day opportunities and improved transportation access” to Floyd Bennett.
Hernan Lucero, 49, started participating in bicycle races at Floyd Bennett Field more than a decade ago. Although he hasn’t formally raced at the site since 2019, he hoped for improved maintenance for everyone, not just cyclists.
“It’s a nice piece of territory where lots of things can happen,” he said, noting it could use better maintenance. In the past, he’s filled in potholes on his own before a race to improve the course.
“To me it’s something special because I see a lot of different people using federal property, which I think is the main goal for federal parks.”
Floyd Bennett Field was decommissioned as an airport and became part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in the early 1970s, along with Fort Wadsworth.
It has long drawn visitors who enjoy natural activities, including bird-watching and fishing.
The area also has a space for private gardens, which the NPS closed in the early weeks of the pandemic but reopened days after THE CITY reported gardeners’ outrage.