Fort Tilden – A photographers dream in the Rockaways

There are few places in New York City that can combine the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean with the deep historic roots that permeate throughout the five boroughs.  While only a short distance from Manhattan, Fort Tilden is one of these places that is able to combine the beauty of sand swept beaches with the historic landmark of an abandoned army base.  Having started as a military instillation back during the war of 1812, the base was used mostly during WW1 and during the cold war but was decommissioned in 1974 and now houses Fort Tilden Park.  With Fort Tilden sporting both a beautiful beach, abandoned buildings overrun with the forest around it, and paths running through it all makes this park a perfect place for the photographer yearning to take photos outside of an urban setting.

The real draw of Fort Tilden are the old military buildings and pathways that now dissect this military base turned outdoor park.  Most of the old buildings are no longer in use and are now covered in graffiti and infested with overgrown trees that make for an eerie scene as if you were walking into a horror film.  Yet these rusted buildings have a poetic aura, drawing the visitor to ask questions of what the area must have been like in its prime.  Some of these areas and buildings have also been converted into public viewing points and artistic rallying points.  For example, by climbing around 100 steps you can visit the top of what looks like an old bunker which allows for unobstructed views as far as the eye can see and provides one of the most unique views of Coney Island and the Atlantic Ocean you are likely to find anywhere.  Walking through the park one gets excited about what new building might be around the corner and Fort Tilden really does live up to being one of the more unique parks you are likely to find anywhere around New York City.

The beach is another reason to visit this area and while slightly rocky, is a great getaway from the city.  There are beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and because the beach is located so close to Long Beach, it is actually rather secluded from crowds.  Don’t expect some spectacular California or Florida beach but considering it’s located so close to the city, the beach a great alternative during the summer.  There are also some amazing old buildings that line where the trees meet the sand which are great to explore.  Abandoned buildings covered in graffiti which are filled with sand can make some of the most amazing scenery for the photographers lens.

Fort Tilden also hosts some amazing art exhibits from all different kinds of artists and are currently sponsored by MOMA PS1, the National Park Service, and many others.  These exhibits are spectacular and have helped breathe life back in to the Rockaways after it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  These exhibits have helped bring unique artistic expression to combine with the natural beauty of Fort Tilden and it just adds another reason to go out and visit Fort Tilden.

New Yorker Tip: During the summer months there is a ferry that goes directly from Pier 11 in the financial district to Fort Tilden.  The ferry is about a one hour trip but during the trip you get a beautiful view of the city and also a great view of Coney Island and worth the trip.