Southern Brooklyn’s sprawling Floyd Bennett Field partially reopened on June 13, more than one month after federal officials closed the park to store out-of-commission MTA buses.
“We all feel good,” said Leondre Descartes, a retired Mill Basin resident who fishes from the park in Jamaica Bay.
Hikers, bikers, and fishermen may once again use the greenspace, according to park officials, who noted that the site’s campground, archery and sports fields, and visitor center will remain closed until further notice.
The reopening comes seven weeks after national park officials closed the 1,000-plus-acre field to allow transit authorities to store idle MTA buses at the park, which resulted from the agency’s reduction of bus service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although officials stored about 100 buses at the park at the height of the pandemic, park officials sealed off the entire greenspace to the public, claiming that a partial closure would be difficult to maintain and would require more security resources, a parks spokesperson told The City in April.
Transit authorities removed the buses from the park about two weeks ago, but the park remained closed for maintenance, said a spokeswoman for Gateway National Recreation Area, which operates the field.
“Gateway is currently working to make sure Floyd Bennett Field is ready for visitors before opening the gates,” said Brenda Ling, noting that officials had to mow the lawn and collect garbage and litter.
The park’s closure infuriated 400-plus members of the Floyd Bennett Gardens Association, many of whom rely on their gardens for fresh produce. The gardens’ shutdown, they said, not only prevented many locals from accessing greenery, but also made it difficult for some members to feed themselves.
“It really comes down to being a food access issue for a lot of people,” said Shannon, a gardener who declined to give her last name. “You got a lot of elderly people who go, and this is their lifeline.”
Gardeners wrote angry letters to the National Parks Service, who negotiated an agreement with the association and allowed the gardeners back into their plots one week after the closure.
However, a group of local fishermen subsequently blasted park officials for not granting them equal access to the site, and claimed that going to the park was important for their mental health, too.
“I think of it not only as a place to catch, but also as a place to de-stress,” fisher Adrian Morris told Brooklyn Paper in May, adding that most fishermen eat the fish they catch. “Ninety percent of the fishermen take their fish for food … The fish market is not exactly cheap.”
Park officials at the time said that they could not allow the fishermen to reenter the park prior to Floyd Bennett Field’s opening since they were not part of a formal organization that could regulate their activity.
The fishermen, however, returned right after the park’s entrance reopened last weekend.
“I went back Sunday,” said Decartes, who was fishing at Floyd Bennett Field when reached for comment. He said he had traveled to the park’s entrance everyday during the closure to see if it had opened yet. “All my buddies were happy.”