On the road connecting mainland Queens to the Rockaway peninsula is the island community of Broad Channel. The southern half of this island is a residential neighborhood while the rest is a wildlife refuge administered by the National Parks Service. At the southern tip of this island is a smaller city-operated park that is currently undergoing restoration. Sunset Cove carries its name proudly, facing west with views towards Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The park is under construction at this time, transforming a former marina into a restored saltwater marsh surrounding a cove that provides habitat to an oyster reef.
Where it Flows
With OasisNYC map, one can see the property lines on this vacant terrain. The island’s southern tail curves to the west, sinking into Jamaica Bay as Big Egg Marsh. This protected area is part of the federally-operated Gateway National Recreation Area, along with the nearby preserve containing East and West ponds. Sunset Cove appears as a circular inlet of Jamaica Bay. At the actual southern tip is the city-run Broad Channel American Park, which has a softball and baseball diamonds with views of the Cross-Bay Veterans Bridge that connects to the Rockaway peninsula. Sunset Cove comprises of parcels to the north of American Park.
The history of Sunset Cove begins in the 1940s when a marina operator built a dock on the island’s southeast corner. The illegal dumping and unsanitary conditions of the marina resulted in legal action and the city’s acquisition of the site in 2008, which led to the $12 million project to restore Sunset Cove to a natural appearance.
On the 1996 city aerial survey above, we see American Park, which predates Sunset Cove by a decade. The park’s name fits with the patriotic feel of Broad Channel where nearly every lamppost has a flag hanging. The small-town feel includes its own volunteer fire department, one of 10 remaining in the city. The Cross-Bay Bridge nearby has long been an irritant for residents as the only toll crossing in the city that is within one borough.
The redesigned Sunset Cove has a berm around it, topped by a walkway. As a tidal inlet, it fills with water and then recedes. Once completed, there will be benches here and informative signs describing the native flora and fauna.
One valuable aspect of this park is its view of the city with a sunset, providing a picturesque contrast between the natural and urban. Much of Jamaica Bay, its water, marshland, and islands are federal parkland. In 1972 the Nixon administration recognized that urban residents deserved a closer connection to national parks and opened up parks within the borders of large cities. That’s how two-thirds of Broad Channel island became a National Park property.
On the south side of the cove plans for the park call for an elevated walkway leading to a gazebo-like canopy, all made from recycled Rockaway Boardwalk planks destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Oct. 2012. The Sunset Cove of New York City may not be as romantic as the Sunset Cove of Lake Lanier, or the one in the Caymans, or at Key Largo. It’s a common name on maps. Once completed, I can imagine couples strolling on the promenade at Broad Channel’s newest park.
One the island of Broad Channel, one may also visit East Pond, West Pond, and Big John’s Pond, which I previously documented. Much of the credit for raising awareness and preservation of these ponds and Sunset Cove should be given to Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, NYC Audubon, Broad Channel Civic Association, and Daniel Hendrick who wrote a book and produced a documentary film about Jamaica Bay.
Both my parents grew up on Broad Channel, Everett (Smitty) Smith, on E. 9th Road, and Lilillian Barrow, on Church Road. I was born there! I love hearing everything and anything about that cherished island!!