A group of our friends has an annual late-spring (pre-mosquito) tradition of overnight camping at Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn every year. (Yes, this is the place where some newspaper reporter incredulously roughs it for a night each year, because, Fuggedaboutit, you can actually go camping in Brooklyn???, only to discover that it’s pretty much like camping anywhere else.) In the past, our friend Matt booked one of four gargantuan plots for $50 a night, where a bunch of people could pitch tents and nobody was within farting distance of someone else’s.
This year, it’s a whole different scene, owing to the National Park Service’s long-term goal of transforming the underutilized bucolia into a mini-Yellowstone. Those big plans are already underway.
As of last July 4, groups can’t book a massive stretch of grass anymore — you have to reserve individual one-tent camp sites for $20 to $40 a piece, each with its own picnic table, fire pit and a grill. (They’re new.) There’s also a collective sink, with potable water, also new. As before, you can shower at nearby Aviator Sports during certain times (ask them when you arrive.) The toilets are still basically holes in the ground with seats on top.
According to John Warren, public affairs specialist for Gateway National Recreation Area, there are 40 individual camp sites so far, with plans to create 600 spots total (and, one would hope, flushing toilets) down the road. That would seem to make the place a bit Stuy Townish, but he said they’re expanding into other areas of the park. Sorry kids, no beach camping now or ever, owing to legal restrictions.
Warren says the park is attracting more international travelers who spend their days in Manhattan and, we quote, “go to Broadway shows.” Times Square is just 1:18 away on Hopstop time.
“It’s probably the cheapest place to stay in New York City, and you can be there for 14 days,” Warren says. Don’t worry about leaving your tent behind: “Nobody wants it,” he says. “It’s like stealing your underwear.” (But maybe take the iPad with you to Porgy and Bess?) Warren, who’s worked for the Park Service for eight years, says he’s never heard of any theft incidents on the campground, which makes it possibly safer than your own apartment.
Spring and summer sites are already booking up, so best to pick a weekend and get a bunch of friends together to take over the joint, cause otherwise you never know who will be two thin pieces of nylon away. The site is Camp Gateway and here’s a link to reserve.