Fort Tilden Adventure

I got to give my new bicycle a workout over the weekend as bobhowe and I rode out to Fort Tilden, in the Rockaways. I’d never been there before, and I’m rediscovering one of the joys of bicycling — access to areas of the city you’d never walk to and couldn’t drive to. Fort Tilden opened in 1917 and closed in 1974; despite the annoying Geocities promotional crap, this is a good page with history and more photos.

Early 70s Police Car Early 70s Police Car
As we rode down Flatbush Avenue we saw some old police cars in a parking lot. It was apparently part of some police memorial motorcycle ride. This car, the police car I remember as a child, caught my eye, so we rode in to check them out and take pictures.
Late 70s Police Car Late 70s Police Car
Cops being cops, we had an “Oops, we walked into the wrong bar” moment. I had to take one more picture, this one of what I think was the first blue-and-white NYC police car.
Fort Tilden Fort Tilden
We escaped the police, and rode over the bridge to the Rockaways, and made a right turn to Fort Tilden. It’s mostly abandoned now, and quite photogenic.
Fort Tilden Fort Tilden
Much of the area looks like the setting for J.G. Ballard novel. Some portions of it seem to be used for reserve training, but mostly it’s just a demonstration of nature’s ability to recapture anything you try to take from it.
Fort Tilden Fort Tilden
As with these vines, tearing an old building down in slow motion.
Battery Harris East Battery Harris East
This emplacement used to hold a 16-inch gun that would fire a shell 30 miles.
Atop the emplacement Atop the emplacement
Looking out towards Sandy Hook.
Fuji Blimp Fuji Blimp
Heading to Sheepshead Bay.
Floyd Bennett Field Floyd Bennett Field
Speaking of J.G. Ballard! Abandoned, weedy runways, the occasional buzz of a radio-controlled plane, but mostly just silence and enormous spaces.
Fuji Blimp At Home Fuji Blimp At Home
And then, you turn a corner, and there’s the Fuji Blimp! Apparently, this is where it lands. The blimp balances on its one landing wheel as the handlers get it ready to take off.
Gondola Gondola
Closeup as the blimp takes off. Believe it or not, blimps are very loud. Big engines driving big propellers.

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18 Responses to Fort Tilden Adventure

  1. iguffy says:

    I love those old police cars! I have to take photos of them sometime, wherever I can find them.

    • ken says:

      Me too. I watched The French Connection a while back and was just transported to my childhood. (Not that we sold heroin, just the old police cars and subways and the smudge pots around construction sites, etc.)

  2. mkvl3 says:

    Are the fort and airport gated? Or are they more or less very easy to get go and available for the public to enter?

    • balloonhedz says:


      if you mean Floyd Bennett….there ARE public areas as part of its dismal existance as part of Gateway Natl Park.

      • mkvl3 says:

        Re: airport

        More specifically, the abandoned warehouses and hangars on the property. Are they easily accessible?

        • bobhowe says:

          Re: airport

          Oh, not so dismal, I think. Technically the hangars themselves are off-limits. Also off-limits at Floyd Bennett are the NYPD aviation field, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center, the New York City Department of Sanitation Training Center, and the U.S. Park Police training area behind its administration building. The Admin building and air traffic control tower is now ca museum. Otherwise there’s lots of empty space to roam around.

          Almost nothing in Fort Tilden, in Rockaway, is off limits except a locked maintenance yard and a small section of what used to be a U.S. Army Reserve Center. You do have to have a parking permit to park on Fort Tilden; those are given almost exclusively to fishermen. You can inquire at the Administration building, just south of the Marine Parkway Bridge, opposite the Firehouse (Engine 329, I think).

          • balloonhedz says:


            my interpretation of dismal stems from the condition of the place when it WAS an NAS and what it looks like now. Granted the need for maintenance and cleanliness isnt the same now. Thing is when you have active aircraft around (especially jets) the grounds have to be immaculate in order to avoid anything (pebbles, plant life, nuts debris etc) being sucked up into the air intake of an aircraft engine. That can and does do massive damage. At the start of operations they used to do what was called a UFO Hunt. Personnel would line up at one side of the area side by side and literally walk clear across looking down for bits and pieces of whatever.

          • bobhowe says:

            Re: dismal

            Yeah, I understand. I kind of like the ruined, post-apocalyptic look, but that’s because I never served at CGAS Brooklyn. I would probably feel differently about Governor’s Island, for example.

  3. balloonhedz says:


    I grew up in the NYPD…pop uncle and distant cousin. I remember the OLD Fury model..the lil boxy one behind the one from Mcy2. If that parking lot full of nostalgia was on the southbound side of Flatbush on the north side of the Belt, that MIGHTVE been on the grounds of Highway Patrol Unit 2. But somehow it just doesnt look like it. Somewhere in Manhattan I believe it is, theres an enclosed pier where they store the department vehicles involved in line of duty deaths dating back a good period.

    THATS the place Id like to see.

    Meanwhile, Floyd Bennett Field was (after it was NYCs first Municipal airport) Naval Air Staion NY as well as Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn. When it was NAS NY it was home to the top Naval Air Reserve Squadron on the east coast (rating based on % of flight line ready aircraft for a given period) for three straight years (twice beating their own record)which netted them the Noel Davis Award. They were an Attack Squadron. There were the main Hangars (still are) A and B, as well as an additional one at the waters edge that handled amphibious aircraft. The Administration Bldg on Flatbush was also the ATC Tower. There were also large helicopters flying out of there as well as (if I recall) transport and antisubmarine/patrol aircraft as well.

    Meanwhile thats where my parents met while in the Navy Reserve.

    G R E A T pix….thanks very much!~

    • bobhowe says:

      Re: gasssssp

      If that parking lot full of nostalgia was on the southbound side of Flatbush on the north side of the Belt…

      Negatrons, BH: the pictures of police cars were taken in the Toys-Backwards “R”-Us parking lot on the east side of Flatbush, just across from the Highway Patrol precinct.

      Great history about Floyd Bennett Field, thanks!

      • balloonhedz says:

        Re: gasssssp

        wellllllll the Sqadron in question was my parents. If I dont add the *twice beating their own record* part I have this morbid fear my late mom will hit me in the ass with lightning from the *other* side 😉 She was always very specific about that point.
        Pop was Leading Chief Petty Officer. Which basically meant he was head honcho on the Enlisted (as opposed to Commissioned Officer) level.
        Meanwhile, Im thinking the Helos I used to see as a kid were Marine Corps. More than likely since it WAS a NAVAL Air Station. And while I dont remember seeing any of the Patrol/ASW aircraft actively around the Field, I DO remember as an adult seeing the remains of what was probably a P2 Neptune on display.

        The personnel of NAS NY stood their final uniform inspection in 1970 (I was there….it was a family event as if we were at a wake. Ma was out before they were married, Pop got out in 68) and a short time later the facility was no longer an NAS(though support functions still exist there I believe).

        An interesting sidenote for contemporary times:
        during a recent show on 9/11 I think it was INSIDE 9/11, one of the commentators specifically made input as to the fact that had NAS NY not been closed the events of 9/11 wouldve been dramatically different. I almost fell outta my chair cuz *I* never thought of that.

        • bobhowe says:

          Re: gasssssp

          …had NAS NY not been closed the events of 9/11 would’ve been dramatically different.

          I’ve heard people say that. In the pre-9/11 mindset, I’m not sure whether the Navy would have given pilots the go-ahead in time to shoot down a civilian jumbo jet, Dick Cheney’s unconstitutional authorization notwithstanding. I read an account of a (I think) a Massachusetts ANG pilot who was given weapons-free, but who arrived on the scene too late. In retrospect he wasn’t sure he could have pulled the trigger, either.

          Here’s the chain of events as I see it. In the 18 minutes between the time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower:

          An NAS NY (NAS Brooklyn?) flight of Tomcats or Hornets would have to be already airborne or on very short alert, and be armed with live weapons.

          The NCA would have to authorize the downing of a civilian airliner.

          The Navy would have to pass that order down the chain of command to the pilots.

          The pilots would have to acquire and identify United Airlines Flight 175 on radar, and possibly visually, and be sure (enough) that it was heading for the WTC (or at least under the control of hijackers).

          The pilots (or at least one of them) would have to pull the trigger.

          The missiles would have to hit the target (this is likely: a 767 is big and relatively slow as air combat targets go).

          The missiles would have to damage United 175 sufficiently, and sufficiently far from the WTC, to prevent the crash (this is probable, but not a given because of the aircraft’s size, and because it could still fly with one engine destroyed).

          There’s a lot of room for error in that scenario, especially given the 18-minute window (practically speaking, more like a 5- or 10- minute window by the time everyone up and down the chain of command has their head in the game.

          Even if everything worked out perfectly, of course, everyone on United 175 would still have died, along with an unknowable number of people on the ground, depending upon where the flight was intercepted.

          • balloonhedz says:

            gooooooooood points

            I think Id be pretty damned hard pressed to fire on a US commercial flight. Itd be easy for me to armchair quarterback and say *well it was a choice of a couple hundred people over several thousand* As for the extent of damage on the ground, I operated with my unit at the Rockaway air crash in November 2001. It was, to my astonishment, a lot more contained than Id have ever imagined, especially with the magnitude of the cloud of smoke we saw over the area when we came around the horn by the Verrazano Bridge.

    • ken says:

      Re: gasssssp

      GREAT story — thank you!

  4. crazyzim says:

    i love fort tilden & floyd bennett field. a good friend of mine used to work for the nat’l. park service @ gateway and we hung out there a lot — good times. he even got to ride in the blimp once and took AMAZING photos up there of the bay and the marine park bridge.

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