Floyd Bennett Field was New York City’s first municipal airport. From 1930-39, it was the center of aviation in NYC and site of many record-setting flights. In 1939, La Guardia Airport opened and FBF became a Naval Air Station, which it remained until being decommissioned in 1971. Since then, it has become part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, along with Jamaica Bay, The Rockaways, and Sandy Hook, NJ. It’s now a home to sports facilities, hiking trails, gardens, archery range, a model airplane field, campsites, a NYPD helicopter unit, and a Marine Corps Reserves site.
Riding the runways.
There is something otherworldly about riding FBF. While there are roads on the edges of the park, most people ride the runways. References to the movie Mad Max crop up. After being in a city with lots of buildings and trees, in a region with lots of hills and few straight roads, the incredibly wide runways of the place and little vegetation taller than humans is a striking anomaly. If you go to Floyd by bike, and whether it’s taking Flatbush from downtown Brooklyn, or riding the narrow paths of the adjacent greenways, the change in scenery is jaw-dropping.
Until you go, it’s hard to appreciate how dramatic the change is. When was the last time you rode your bike on an abandoned, dead-flat, absolutely straight 12-lane highway that has nothing but fields on either side? And it’s just about always windy—it’s an airfield.
FBF is a great place to ride if you want room, if you want to be alone, if you want quiet. You’ll get lots of it all, though the quiet can get oppressively loud. The narrowest runway is three or four car-widths wide, and it’s fairly short. Then they get wider and wider. It’s so wide, you might even have trouble holding a straight line.
All of this might seem like criticism of FBF. It isn’t. Floyd is so different from everywhere else it needs to be explained. There’s a stark beauty to it. Fondness grows on return trips.
Racing the runways.
Our first experience at Floyd was bike racing. Many people believe racing on pancake flat roads is necessarily easy. Races here can be amongst the hardest in the region. We appreciated the difficulty but had some trouble getting used to the location. As we went back, we found ourselves liking the place more and more.
There are Tuesday night races in the spring and summer. There used to be races on Thursday nights as well. And occasional weekend races, too.
But racing only takes up an hour or two occasionally. The runways are available pretty much all the time. A hard rain might briefly flood them, but the water recedes quickly. Snows even disappear fast, and they don’t plow. It’s just about always clear and usually empty. Bring your friends, your family, there’s room for everyone to ride.
Grub and Slug
There are often food trucks by the Aviator Sports Complex. Otherwise, you have to either ride northwest along Flatbush a ways or ride to The Rockaways.
FBF is in the midst of a re-imagining to bring in more visitors. Hangar B, which houses historic aircraft is worth a visit and the Ryan Visitor Center is in the midst of being transformed to its former glory, when it was an integral part of the active airfield. As of March 1, 2021, both are closed due to Covid until further notice. Visit the links on this page before going to confirm whether they’ve been reopened or not.
Particulars (Floyd Bennett Field Ride)
Distance: 2.3 miles
How to get there: Take the 2 or 5 train to the Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College Terminal. Then ride southeast on Flatbush Avenue to FBF. Flatbush is pretty busy when you first get on the street, but the traffic thins out fairly quickly.
Elevation: 21 Feet
Terrain: Flat. No traffic. Runways.
Ride Rating: @
Notes: Otherwordly beauty. Needs to be experienced to be believed.