By Gabriel Sandoval and Jose Martinez, Originally published in THE CITY
The MTA has begun using Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field as a makeshift bus storage facility — sealing off a vast recreational haven for socially distancing walkers, cyclists and birdwatchers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also locked out are hundreds of gardeners who till soil on the sprawling former World War II-era airfield at the foot of Flatbush Avenue, just as their plots burst with spring growth.
The National Park Service on Monday closed the public entrance to the Floyd Bennett Field section of its Gateway National Recreation Area to accommodate MTA buses out of commission because of reduced service during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Maintaining a partial closure of the site would be more difficult to maintain and resource intensive,” said Brenda Ling, a Gateway spokesperson. “Closing the main entrance is more feasible.”
With space at a premium at MTA Brooklyn bus depots with many vehicles sidelined, the transit agency received the go-ahead to stash more than 100 buses in federally owned space at Floyd Bennett Field.
“The buses at Floyd Bennett will return to their assigned depots around the city as soon as we resume normal service,” said Andrei Berman, an MTA spokesperson. “We are grateful to [the federal government] for granting us temporary access to the area during this incredibly challenging time.”
Green With Fury
The shutdown stunned the 400 members of the Floyd Bennett Gardens Association, which maintains a large community garden on the opposite end of the thousand-acre airfield from the section the MTA is using.
The gardeners question the restrictions, which have severed them from their lettuce, tomato, onions, garlic and potatoes just when the plantings need careful attention.
Garden officials say there’s no reason why members can’t tend to their 10-by-20-foot plots while the buses sit parked at a distance.
“You could be in your garden and somebody could be in the next garden and you could be far enough that it’s safe, you get exercise, you get fresh air,” said the group’s corresponding secretary, Adriann Musson, 71, of Sheepshead Bay. “And now they can’t do that.”
Said another member, who asked not to be named: “It’s just really terrible that, because of the storage of the buses, we can’t go into the garden areas, even though it’s not the same area.”
Ling of the National Park Service noted that the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has barred the general public from the city’s GreenThumb community gardens as a coronavirus measure. “The health and safety of National Park Service (NPS) visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority,” she said.
The city parks department currently allows GreenThumb gardeners to tend to their greenery behind locked gates, “only for absolutely necessary maintenance and season preparation activities.”
Musson, who has been gardening at Floyd Bennett Field for 27 years, said she will miss going to the green space daily with her dog, Loki, to work on her patch of spinach, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower. Several members of the association, she said, give away what they grow to neighbors.
“It affects their families, their neighbors,” Musson said. “And this was the one place where we could go in the midst of this stay-at-home.”