Tucked alongside Jamaica Bay and hard up against an abandoned military airplane hangar and a baseball diamond lies the Floyd Bennett Field Campgrounds. This little-known spot—built on the site of New York City’s first municipal airport—is a winner by default: It happens to be the only legal campsite in the city. It’s named after Floyd Bennett, a decorated aviator who attempted to fly to the North Pole in 1926. The grounds themselves—two buggy fields surrounded by thickets of unwelcoming shrubbery—don’t conjure up the sort of pastoral image that inspired the likes of Frederick Law Olmsted, yet it possesses a charm that is entirely its own. After sunset, you can make a drunk fool of yourself running around on the airstrip, snoop around the old hangar (once used by the NYPD), or take a midnight swim in the phosphorescent waters of Jamaica Bay (pollution doesn’t look as bad in the dark). Floyd Bennett Field seems like the kind of place where you can still get away with things after-hours—a rare and gleeful sensation in Michael Bloomberg’s sanitized, gentrified, public relations–driven New York.
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