Saturday April 20, 2019

New York City’s first municipal airport ‘Floyd Bennett Field’ now lies in ruins

HARP works hard to restore the planes in Hangar but unfortunately, Floyd Bennett Field is not recognized as important by either the Smithsonian or New York

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Aerial shot of Floyd Bennet Field. Wikimedia Commons.
  • During World War II, much of Floyd Bennett Field became a Naval Air Station
  • Amelia Earhart, was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean
  • HARP, a volunteer group, works hard to maintain the vintage aircraft

Well known aviators such as Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Roscoe Turner, Wiley Post, and Howard have graced the runways of New York City’s first municipal airport, Floyd Bennett Field. The most amazing part is that during World War II, much of Floyd Bennett Field become a Naval Air Station.

Opened in 1931, the airport was named after aviator and Brooklyn native, Floyd Bennet. Bennett was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1926 after he flew to the North Pole.

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Neither JFK nor LaGuardia were the first airports in New York. You heard that right! Hidden on Brooklyn’s Atlantic coastline lies what was once a glistening airport; Floyd Bennett Field. This airport was far from being considered trash, aside from the fact that it was built on about six million tons of landfill. Nonetheless, this is the airport that witnessed the completion of many aviation records. The history in this small abandoned airport is richer than its frequent flyers once were.

Inside Floyd Bennett Field (NOP). Image source: Wikipedia
Inside Floyd Bennett Field (NOP). Image source: Wikipedia

Many of the most renowned aviators started their journeys from Floyd Bennett. Amelia Earhart, was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. Charles Lindbergh, was the first pilot to complete a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Roscoe Turner, was recognized for his speed and was known to fly with his pet lion cub, Gilmore. Wiley Post, was the first to fly solo around the world, and he did so in front of a crowd of 50,000 at Floyd Bennet. Howard Hughes set the world record for flying fastest around the world.

Much like today’s airports, Floyd Bennett Field bolstered an attractive terminal. Inside flyers could find the Aviation Bar & Grill, a newsstand, and even a radio studio. In this studio broadcasts of the newest aviation records and attempts were told to those who would listen.

Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Image source: Wikipedia
Floyd Bennett Field in New York. Image source: Wikipedia

Records were broken and the wealthy flew out of Floyd Bennett Field. That seems like a lifetime ago, as what was once a glistening airport, now lies in ruins. The airplane hangars are empty (except one very special Hangar B). The control tower has been abandoned. The runway, which was the first one to be concrete and electrically lit, is now covered in weeds. These facts are disheartening. Luckily, for the vintage aircrafts that still reside at Floyd Bennett, there is a trusty group of volunteers working hard to maintain and repair some of the aircraft.

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In Hangar B lies all the vintage aircraft. The volunteer group, the Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP) consists of dedicated volunteers. Many of whom are ex-Air Force mechanics, and some of whom are simply history enthusiasts. Each volunteer exhibits passion about the aircraft and works hard to keep the spirit of Floyd Bennett alive today.

In 1970, the National Park Service took control and started restoring Floyd Bennet. The first floor has been restored to almost all of its original design. A small museum has also been put in to tell guests of the legends and lives that once graced the terminal and runway. Unfortunately, the second floor is a different story. The second floor was put aside as the pilots quarters. The bedrooms and bathrooms found here are completely disheveled. Up even higher, you can find the control tour which is completely void of any aviation equipment.

Captain James A Mollison at Floyd Bennett Field, 23 October 1936 in front of his Bellanca Flash. Image source:Wikiwand
Captain James A Mollison at Floyd Bennett Field, 23 October 1936 in front of his Bellanca Flash. Image source:Wikiwand

Unfortunately for Floyd Bennet, convenience is what eventually led to its demise as an airport. A new tunnel that connected Queens and Manhattan was built in 1940. Soon after, LaGuardia took home in northern Queens.

Once LaGuardia took over as New York’s main airport, Floyd Bennet took on the role of Naval Base. More buildings were built so the Navy had gymnasiums, a place to store munitions, and dormitories. Even today some of these buildings are used by the Coast Guard and the NYPD.

Today HARP works hard to restore the planes in Hangar B as best as they can. Unfortunately, Floyd Bennett Field is not recognized as important by either the Smithsonian or New York. The volunteers that work on the aircraft are old and harbor specific sets of aircraft mechanical skills, skills that are nonexistent today. HARP volunteers hope to open Hangar B as a museum this summer, but are still working on repairing some planes.

Floyd Bennett Field is a historic treasure. The wealthy were attracted to its novelty. The daring aviators who broke records used it for takeoff and landing. When LaGuardia was built, and Floyd Bennet seemed as though it had run its course, it took on the role of Naval Base. Many of the volunteers seem to believe, Floyd Bennet Field is an aircraft’s haven that should be seen and recognized by visitors.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @abby_kono

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New York City’s Mandatory Measles Vaccination Order Stands Still

The health department's lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces. VOA

Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons, or cite concerns — debunked by medical science — that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

He also dismissed assertions in the petition disputing the “clear and present danger” of the outbreak. “Vaccination is known to extinguish the fire of contagion,” the judge said.

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019.
A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg in New York City, April 11, 2019. VOA

Secret identities

The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine.

The court challenge was brought in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court by five people identified only as parents living in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect their children’s’ privacy, their lawyers said.

In court on Thursday, they told Knipel the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

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The vaccination order, which was extended this week, requires residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to obtain the MMR vaccine unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a fine. Pixabay

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak.

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The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week. (VOA)