3. Jacob Riis Park

Jacob Riis bath house in the Gateway National Recreation Area

When most people think of the Rockaways, the first thing that comes to mind is the beach. Jacob Riis Park is one of the most historic seaside recreation facilities in the entire Gateway National Recreation Area. The park was named in honor of the journalist Jacob Riis in 1914 and was originally used as a military base extension from Fort Tilden up until the late 1920s. A runway on the base was actually the takeoff site for the first-ever transatlantic flight in 1919.

After the initial construction of bathing facilities began in the early 1930s, Robert Moses was hired to oversee the project as commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation. He proposed the creation of a causeway, an Art Deco style bathhouse, parking lot, golf course, playing fields, and a boardwalk for the park. Moses designed the facilities in the Beaux-Arts style, intending to amplify the grandeur and magnitude of one of his many public works projects.

Neponsit Hospital in the Gateway National Recreation Area
The abandoned Neponsit Beach Hospital on the edge of the park property.

Jacob Riis Park also has a certain appeal to urban explorers due to the abandoned Neponsit Beach Hospital. The land surrounding the former tuberculosis sanatorium was integrated into the park in 1956 after a compromise was reached between city officials and Robert Moses. Most of the rooms are decently preserved and the facility itself is pretty large, with two separate buildings and five floors in each. It’s been a little over three decades since its closure as a nursing home, so a lot of the old equipment (coffee machines, catalogs, powered bathtubs, bathrooms, etc) is still there. Much like many of the other popular abandoned locations covered by Untapped NYC, it’s a great place to photograph or to just explore with friends.