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Gateway Is In Need of Two Major Upgrades: Historic, One-Of-A-Kind Jacob Riis Bathhouse Has Potential to Be Center of Attraction Along Rockaway Beach, Yet It Has Been In Disrepair & Underused for Decades; Jamaica Bay’s West Pond Was Seriously Breached During Sandy, Destroying Unique Freshwater Habitat 

Schumer Urges Dept. of Interior to Provide Federal Funds to Improve Gateway National Recreation Area By Renovating Jacob Riis Bathhouse Into a Full-Functioning, Resilient Facility for Food, Bike Rentals & Other Amenities Needed in the Park 

Schumer Also Pushes Feds to Provide Funding to Reestablish Visitor Access to West Pond & Restore Important Freshwater Habitat for Birds, Fish & Other Species


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Department of Interior (DOI) to provide federal funding to improve the Gateway National Recreation Area by renovating the iconic Jacob Riis Bathhouse and restoring the West Pond. Specifically, Schumer is urging DOI to refurbish Jacob Riis Bathhouse as an adaptive, full-functioning facility with a redesigned, resilient ground level for food service, bicycle rental, and other concessions that are currently lacking at the park. Schumer is also urging DOI to redesign West Pond in a way that will reestablish access to the pond for all visitors and provide greater storm resiliency in the future. Schumer said that West Pond should restore freshwater habitat that will help benefit birds and aquatic species.

Schumer said that despite the enormous population surrounding Gateway National Recreation Area, the unique potential of this invaluable urban park is inhibited by inadequate attention to natural and visitor-serving resources. In advance of the National Park Service’s Centennial and implementation of Gateway’s recently completed General Management Plan, Schumer is urging the DOI to dedicate federal resources this year and in FY2016 to improving Gateway National Recreation Area.

“The Department of Interior should do everything possible to improve the treasures of Gateway National Recreation Area, and that includes both the iconic Jacob Riis Bathhouse and Jamaica Bay’s West Pond. For instance, the historic Jacob Riis Bathhouse has so much potential, yet we’ve allowed it to be underused for far too long. The Department of Interior should provide federal funding in order to transform the Jacob Riis Bathhouse into a full-functioning facility that can provide much-needed amenities to beachgoers. In addition, we need federal funds to restore West Pond and protect it from future damage. Animals in our ecosystem rely on West Pond and we should do everything to make sure they can continue to call it home,” said Senator Schumer.

Jacob Riis Park, as part of Gateway National Recreation Area, is located in Rockaway Beach, Queens. The 40,000-square foot Art Deco bath house opened in 1932 and since the 1990s, has been under construction and practically abandoned. The Jacob Riis Bathhouse was seriously damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, and then again by Superstorm Sandy. Schumer today urged DOI to provide federal funds to transform the iconic Jacob Riis Bathhouse into a multi-functioning facility that will be able to offer a variety of services to beach goers.

West Pond, a 45-acre freshwater body at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, was seriously damaged by Superstorm Sandy when a breach was formed, connecting the Pond tidally to the Bay. While the storm also breached the East Pond, it has already been repaired as part of the project to restore subway service to the A and S lines. For many years, the West Pond has provided nesting, foraging and loafing habitat for some of the 330 species of birds found in Jamaica Bay. The western-most end of the pond has been important for terrapin nesting. Schumer today urged the DOI to provide federal funds to help enhance protection of the West Pond from severe storm events and storm surge in the future. Schumer said that a freshwater marsh habitat provides unique and important habitat for birds, fish and other species.

“Senator Schumer has long been an advocate for Jamaica Bay and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers applaud his effort to see this most critical National Urban Park receive the funding that it so rightly deserves. The West Pond has long been the “Crown Jewel” of this park and the only National Wildlife refuge that can be accessed via a subway ride. Once a favorite visiting experience for thousands of New Yorkers it has been mostly off limits since suffering major damage after Hurricane Sandy. The West Pond with its famous “Loop Trail” and critical fresh water environment must be restored as soon as possible. Working with our partners in the National Parks Service and with assistance and leadership of Senator Schumer we believe that the West Pond , and the entire Gateway National Park, can be not only restored  but become a symbol of what a great National Urban Park can be for the millions of Americans who live within but a few miles of this National Treasure”said Dan Mundy Jr., Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers

Having a large freshwater pond in the middle of a saltmarsh estuary has made the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge a mecca for birds and birders alike”, said Don Riepe, Jamaica Bay Guardian for the American Littoral Society. “Repairing the West Pond is critical to maintaining the Refuge’s international reputation as one of the East Coast’s premier urban hot spots for birds and other wildlife.” 

Curt Collier, National Youth Programs Director at Groundwork USA said, “Jacob Riis Park was named for an early advocate who used photography to show New Yorkers how, “the other half lived;” that is, how unfairness, neglect, and the impoverished conditions of New York in the 1890s diminished the human spirit.  Parks such as these were remedies for the challenges of city life and a space where all could gather to play, recreate, and renew.  We cannot let these monuments to our better ideals fall further into disrepair.  This is not simply a beach bathhouse which has been left to deteriorate….but a reminder of what else we have failed to uphold.” 

Paul Curiale, President of the Mill Basin Civic Association said, “Hurricane Sandy destroyed our homes, crippled our parks and forced Brooklyn and Queens to rebuild itself from the ground up.  Right after the storm, Jacob Riis Park was used as a dumping ground where tons of trash sat for months.  It’s time we reverse this horrible image and bring life back to our national park and beach as an indication of our strong, resilient community.  Funding is desperately needed to complete refurbishments to the historic Riis Bathhouse.  This restored iconic attraction would welcome local residents year round while helping our merchant businesses by bringing families to our shorefront.”

Annette Fisher, Coney Island Beautification Project said, “The need for the Riis Bathhouse and West Pond is that more amenities increase desired home ownership which create business development all of which increase tax revenues that help us all.”

Cortney Worrall, Northeast Regional Director of National Parks Conservation Association and co-chair of the NY-NJ Harbor Coalition said, “investments in areas within Jamaica Bay at Gateway National Recreation Area will improve resiliency from climate change and future storms like Sandy and improve wildlife habitat for many species that call this urban national park home. The restoration of Riis Bathhouse and West Pond are well worth the investment and are long overdue. After overcoming devastating hits from Superstorm Sandy and the ongoing chronic underfunding for the National Park Service, now is the time to improve Gateway. Millions of urban park visitors and surrounding communities enjoy the recreational opportunities the park provides, as well as the open green space and connection to nature and wildlife -- all just minutes outside of Brooklyn and Queens. With the National Park Service centennial in 2016, there is no better time to invest in Gateway to make it the true iconic urban national park it was intended to be.”