By Jose Martinez and Gabriel Sandoval, Originally published in THE CITY
The National Park Service pledged Wednesday to let community gardeners back into Brooklyn’s shuttered Floyd Bennett Field — and signaled the public could also return if there’s a deal to remove MTA buses now stored there.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, meanwhile, added his voice to calls to reopen the social distancing haven, saying “it doesn’t make sense” to exclude New Yorkers.
Since Monday, the thousand-acre former airport has served, at the request of the MTA, as a parking lot for 100 city buses sidelined by reduced service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Park Service deemed it necessary to close Floyd Bennett Field to the general public for as long as the buses remain parked in a small section of the vast space.
“We are working to get the gardeners access to their site,” said Brenda Ling, a spokesperson for Gateway National Recreation Area, who added that the 400 members of the Floyd Bennett Gardens Association would be able to access their plots after presenting a plan to limit coronavirus risks.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” said Adriann Musson, 71, the Garden Association’s corresponding secretary. “I’m walking on air.”
The risk mitigation plan Musson submitted to the Park Service Wednesday asks gardeners to remain in their plots, wear masks and other protective gear, sanitize equipment, and only spend as much time as necessary in the garden to perform work.
Musson said she’s hopeful the paperwork can be approved so gardeners can return to their plots by the end of the week.
“Once it’s accepted, we’ll be up and running,” she said.
Buses Not Budging
Hazier is whether Floyd Bennett Field will reopen to visitors who want to walk, bike, fish or birdwatch safely distant from crowds.
“People do need access to that recreation, people do need access to community gardens,” said de Blasio Wednesday.
Floyd Bennett regulars fervently agreed.
“Floyd Bennett Field has lots of extra room,” said Brian Hedden, 43, who cycles there from his home in Bay Ridge. “And assuming this goes into the summer, and assuming running an air conditioner 24/7 isn’t a practical option, having spaces with extra capacity like that seems important to me.”
Park officials say they hear the call loud and clear.
“We in the National Park Service appreciate the important role of our parks for the public, which is more evident than ever under the current circumstances,” said Ling. “We also want to do our part as a federal agency to support the COVID-19 response.”
The Park Service had received a request “through the agencies managing the coordinated emergency response effort” to store the MTA buses. Should those agencies change course, the Park Service will too, she indicated.
“If there is a collective decision that the public open space is more critical in this situation, and that there is another location to move the buses to, we will continue to work with everyone to support those priorities,” Ling said.
De Blasio declared his administration “happy to work with the MTA on other alternatives.”
The MTA, however, has no apparent plans to move its buses. A spokesperson did not provide any comment to THE CITY following the mayor’s overture.
Andrei Berman, an MTA spokesperson, previously told THE CITY: “We are temporarily storing some of our buses in a [federal] space at Floyd Bennett Field so that we can preserve space needed at our depots to maintain a modified service plan during the pandemic.”