Measuring some 26,607 acres of coastal uplands, freshwater ponds, marshes, bay, and mudflats the National Park is comprised of three units: Sandy Hook in Monmouth County, New Jersey, and Jamaica Bay and Staten Island in New York City. Within these are eleven distinct park sites, including Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fort Tilden, Breezy Point, and Riis Park in Queens, and Floyd Bennett Field and Canarsie Pier in Brooklyn. On Staten Island, it includes Great Kills Park, Miller Field, and Fort Wadsworth; and in the Sandy Hook Unit, Fort Hancock and Gunnison Beach. A pioneering example of large-scale ecological reclamation within an urban setting in America, the Gateway National Recreation Area possesses a great diversity of historical, ecological, scenic, and recreational resources, and offers myriad active and passive opportunities to the nation’s most populous urban center, hosting ten million visitors per year.
Established as a National Recreation Area in 1972 (the same day that the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California was established), the creation of this large-scale park was part of a strategic effort to create more National Parks in the east and nearer urban centers for every-day, recreational and leisure purposes rather than solely for tourist destinations. The park was one of the first parks to be purchased with federal funds, rather than being donated or re-appropriated from federally-held lands. The Gateway National Recreation Area also signaled a new and significant direction for the agency – a large eastern park would be added to a portfolio that had large parks concentrated in the West and Mountain states, as those were the locations where Federal lands were typically held.