Jamaica Bay Parkland
The Jamaica Bay Parkland Framework Plan is a vision plan for an urban National Park. In 2013, MVVA won the competition to build on the National Park Service’s General Management Plan and propose a design for the Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden, and Jacob Riis Park sections of Gateway National Park.
Working in collaboration with the National Park Service, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, and engineers at Buro Happold, the framework plan brings a National Park experience to New York City.
Compelled by the impacts of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive force, the project embraces coastal resilience and advocates for a range of interventions based on the site’s tolerance for change. These strategies include cutting overflow channels, armoring historic assets, enhancing dune systems, and relocating critical roads and park topography to create views and mitigate flooding.
Over the last 150 years, the Jamaica Bay ecosystem has been defined by its rapid and constant change: human-directed processes have created new land and radically altered the coastline. These interventions have resulted in an artificial stasis, with none of the natural softness and flexibility that would allow the bay to absorb systemic shocks. Soft interdigitated edges have been hardened, and a fine-grained network of marshy channels have been reduced to a single dredged inlet.
If the Jamaica Bay Parklands are to survive for the next century, paradigms of success in the realm of coastal protection and preservation will need to evolve. Rather than continuing to invest in the increasingly futile defense of a constructed coastline that barely existed a century ago, the site should cultivate and celebrate the naturally dynamic edges of a healthy coastal ecosystem.
Diversifying the coastal protection strategies in the Jamaica Bay Parklands allows each site to be a pilot project for a different strategy along spectrums of hard to soft and active to passive. Innovative monitoring techniques would generate data that could be used to improve regional coastal resilience.
The proposed tidal inlets and softened edges will lengthen the shoreline on Floyd Bennett Field, increasing ecological and experiential complexity and diversity.
The site’s urban context offers a rare combination of natural and cultural resources, with coastal ecosystems directly adjacent to—and in some cases growing over—historic military and aviation infrastructure.
A century of land-filling and edge-hardening has resulted in a site whose ecologies are unnaturally oversimplified. However, in most cases, ecological function has been suppressed but not eliminated. This plan calls not for a wholesale ecological reconstruction, but rather an activating of the site’s own latent ecological capacities.
The current circulation system on the Jamaica Bay Parklands sites, and on Floyd Bennett Field in particular, is fragmented and difficult to navigate for all but the most frequent visitors.
A unified park drive at both Floyd Bennett Field and the Rockaway Peninsula sites is in some ways the most important element of this Framework Plan. It has unrivaled potential to comprehensively transform the visitor experience of the site by making program more intuitively accessible, by creating strategically inviting views of the sites and the surrounding water, and by allowing Floyd Bennett Field’s historic runways to be pedestrian-centric programmatic amenities, rather than vehicular circulation corridors.
The design ties these elements together with clear circulation, streamlines the arrival of visitors (including from New York City public transit), and provides an array of programmatic experiences, including art installations, overnight camping sites, protected swimming holes, beaches, bike trails, kayak launches, and accessible historic sites.