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Vote for a new vision of Gateway - Contest is an open call for ideas

Sure, the public has a chance to vote for its next American idol or top supermodel, but it also has an opportunity to weigh in on headier matters, like the future of the region’s only national park. The international public design competition called “Envisioning Gateway” is that chance. The contest is an open call for ideas to transform Gateway National Recreation Area and begin “a real dialogue about its future as an iconic national park,” according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Oliver Spellman, program director with competition co-sponsor the NPCA, a nonprofit organization, last week told Community Board 18 that the goal of the design contest is to “raise the profile” of the national park. The hope is to transform the park into a “global model of public space as well as a great regional resource,” the NPCA states. Along with the NPCA, the competition is sponsored by the Van Alen Institute, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. It’s not too late to vote. Designers worldwide were invited to enter submissions, and the six finalists may be viewed and voted on at www.npca.org/gateway/finalists.html. Entrants include “H2grOw” which focuses on the using water as a revolutionary resource, and “Urban Barometer” which envisions the park’s transformation into an educational and scientific research center. The competition directed entrants to focus on Floyd Bennet Field, the former airfield within the Jamaica Bay unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. Spellman said his group, which lobbies for funding for parks, hopes the contest will raise the profile of Gateway, a park that spans from Jamaica Bay to Sandy Hook in New Jersey nut often goes unnoticed in a city filled with unnatural wonders. The winner will be announced some time this year, and could ultimately see its design adopted by the National Parks Service, according to a report. The park can certainly use the attention. Spellman’s organization released a report last year that found Gateway to be in the poorest condition of all the national parks. Despite some “inspiring elements,” such as Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay’s Wildlife Refuge, and the remnant maritime forest at Fort Tilden, the park’s surrounding waters are still polluted, visitor services are limited, and the loss of native species is widespread,” the report stated. The subpar conditions are attributed to the historic land uses prior to Gateway’s establishment as a park in 1972, the ongoing pollution of the park’s surrounding waters, and a lack of adequate funding and staffing to protect the park. Dorothy Turano, the district manager of CB 18, which encompasses the park, said the board supports any and all efforts to improve the park. “We would like to see the water used for recreational activity,” she said. Lisa Eckert, the superintendent for the park’s Jamaica Bay Unit, said information culled from the design competition could be incorporated in the general management plan for the park, which will be crafted in 2009. The last plan was crafted in 1979, she said. The National Parks Service has just started “internal scoping” in preparation for the plan. Public meetings on the matter are anticipated this summer, she added.

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