This is the entrance to New York City’s ghost airport: Floyd Bennett Field.
Before LaGuardia and JFK, Floyd Bennett Field was New York City’s first airport, at a time when nearly all air traffic was based out of Newark.
Floyd Bennett Field was built at the southern end of Brooklyn on what was once known as Barren Island. At the time, Barren Island consisted of a marsh with dozens of smaller islands surrounding it. A small community existed on the island, and in fact, one man had even set up his own runway to take passengers on pleasure flights. The marsh was filled in in the late 1920’s…
…and Floyd Bennett Field was opened on the site in 1930. Named for the famed Arctic pilot (who in fact lied about reaching the North Pole), the official dedication was marked by the flyover of 672 army aircraft.
Today, the aerial view of Floyd Bennett looks very much the same:
FBF was declared part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in 1972, with a number of its buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places. What this means is that when you visit Floyd Bennett Field today…
…It’s like stepping back in time:
Floyd Bennett Field is a great place to explore by bike, because the enormous expanse has so many neat things to discover.
The crown jewel of the bunch is the old Administration building (seen below on bustling Flatbush Avenue)…
…which looks as though it were built yesterday:
Originally, this single building served as passenger terminal, air traffic control, baggage and freight distribution, and sleeping quarters for air crews.
One of my favorite details in all of Floyd Bennett Field is the insignia on the roof:
The building’s clock, also from another era:
But probably the most fascinating element is the control tower…
…which was actually added when the Navy took over the field in the 1940’s.
At the time of Floyd Bennett’s construction, Newark was the primary airport serving New York City. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia pushed hard for the airlines to switch to Floyd Bennett, offering waterplane service directly to Manhattan (seen below – what an amenity!).
However, at the time, passenger travel was a luxury, and in fact most air travel was centered around freight and postage. When the US Postal Service refused to move out of Newark, so did most of the other airlines.
I have to admit – when you’re parked at one end of Floyd Bennett’s 4,000 foot runaway, it’s really, really hard not to ignore those pesky 25mph signs and see if your car can take off (doesn’t work, sadly).
Over its 9 years of operation as a commercial airfield, numerous important and record-breaking flights left from Floyd Bennett – see the very impressive (and often amusing) list here. However, LaGuardia Airport’s opening in 1939 sounded the death toll for Floyd Bennett Field, and it was purchased by the Navy in 1941.
The Floyd Bennett historic district consists of the Administration Building, as well as a number of hangars and repair shops.
The below picture taken in 1931 offers a better idea of the layout – the Administration Building is in the center, surrounded by hangars.
Two of the hangars have been beautifully maintained and repurposed as a sports and events center:
In fact, one wonders if Hangar 8…
…is the hangar in the background of this picture featuring Amelia Earhart at FBF (note the arched corner):
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the remaining buildings, which are all in pretty terrible states of decay. Take Hangar 5, for example…
…and compare it to this photograph taken in the 1930’s. The man in the picture? Howard Hughes.
Interestingly enough, the degradation has revealed just how many entities have called these hangars home over the years, as seen in the overlapping signage:
I love the old emblem of “NYC” in wings…
Connecting the two hangars is a central building…
…which has some really great art deco details:
Above the door…
…a very cool rising sun motif…
Meanwhile, at the roof, the same insignia seen in steel on the gates:
Unfortunately, as bad as those hangars are, these are even worse:
It appears they’re doing some level of stabilization to the interior…
Next door, the entire roof is gone:
This is the former garage and maintenance shop…
Inside the entrance:
Ouch. Really doesn’t get any worse than this:
You know a building’s been forgotten when the trees start gaining height…
The other side of the building…
I wonder if this was a bay for repairs:
Behind the garage are a series of buildings I haven’t been able to identify. I’m guessing they’re offices or barracks dating to the field’s Naval usage, which lasted until the site was decommissioned in 1971:
At some point, I think this also was used by a police operation, perhaps the United States Park Police.
Today, of course, it’s as abandoned as everything else:
Inside, your standard municipal color scheme:
Room after empty room:
Old parking spaces marked on the ground:
I love finding old sidewalks in overgrowth:
Inside one of the larger rooms – note the enormous National Parks sign on its side:
Same room, different angle:
In between buildings (ha, I actually dropped my keys here while I was exploring; I still can’t believe I managed to find them!).
Another building, its roof collapsing:
Clear across the field are a few more buildings of note. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked to find a warehouse like this for hitmen to meet in.
OK, seriously. You’re a hitman. You’re probably paid very highly for your work. This is quite possibly THE most suspicious place you could be caught meeting a client in. WHY DO PEOPLE INSIST ON REPEATING THIS CLICHE OVER AND OVER AGAIN?? I mean, look at this – would you want to meet someone here if you were a hitman??
Another dilapidated warehouse…
I love the old wooden doors:
A bench in profile:
This particular warehouse looks creepier from the side:
Inside the entrance to the warehouse…
…and how it looks further in (obviously split into two floors):
Finally, I took a swing by Hangar B, built in 1941 by the Navy to house sea planes.
It doesn’t have as many details as some of the other buildings, but Hangar B houses its own secret inside…
A volunteer aircraft restoration program, in which airplane experts and enthusiasts gather to save the flying machines they love. The hangar is often open to the public, and it’s definitely worth checking ahead before visiting:
Here’s my recommendation. As soon as the days start getting warmer, pick a Saturday, pack a lunch, get a bike, and head out to Floyd Bennett. BUT DON’T PLAN A ROUTE!! Instead, feel your way to FBF. Starting from, say, the Brooklyn Bridge, your goal should simply be to head South and East. Try to resist checking your map as much as possible. I’ve done this twice now, and each time I’ve found myself on streets and in neighborhoods I had no idea existed.
Once you’re there, have a picnic, then go exploring.
PS – A mishap at Floyd Bennett Field (according to the notes, the plane flipped forward while trying to take off):
PPS – To answer some questions in advance, 1) no, you cannot film in any of the buildings that are run down, as they would most likely collapse and kill you, and 2) no you can’t go exploring in these buildings either.
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