Congratulations, New York! You are home to the worst national park in the country.
A recent report from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) revealed that Gateway National Recreation Area in Queens and its surrounding environs are in rough shape. Highly polluted water in and around the park, minimal visitor services and the "widespread loss of native species" are just a few of the problems plaguing the park, according to the report.
In the natural resources section, Gateway received a score of 53 out of a possible 100, the lowest rating of any of the 27 parks evaluated by the Parks Association. The assessment found that edges of the park on Jamaica Bay have been hardened with concrete from years of construction in the area and littered with "everything from coffee cups to cars."
Additional findings revealed that the water surrounding the park contains sewage, floating trash, industrial waste, and toxic sediments.
Gateway cultural resources did not fare any better, receiving a score of 46 out of 100. The report discovered that the majority of the 400 buildings and structures in the park have either deteriorated significantly or have been abandoned altogether. Park managers are operating on very limited resources and therefore do not have the funds or help to restore them.
There may be hope, though.
In January, the NPCA, the Van Alen Institute and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation launched a public design competition to create a new vision for Gateway. The winners of the competition will be announced in June, and may be included in the next planning phase of Gateway's General Management Plan in 2009.
For the time being, though, it might be a good idea to plan that picnic somewhere else.