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Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Named by naturalists Ron and Jean Bourque, Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve is home to four native species which require undisturbed marshland for nesting: Sharptailed, Seaside, Swamp, and Song Sparrows. Because of its relative isolation from residential areas in Brooklyn, Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve has been allowed to remain in a fairly natural condition. This makes it ideal for many permanently nesting species, including several types of ducks, gulls, and wading and woodland birds, as well as for the common seashore mollusks and crustaceans which feed those birds. It is an important part of the Jamaica Bay estuary system.

Jamaica Bay was formed over 5000 years ago as the Laurentide Glacier retreated and melted, depositing fresh water and sedimentary rock. The bay remained relatively undisturbed until the early part of this century, when much of its surrounding wetlands were filled in for development. On the north shore, only two original salt marshes remain. As the larger and older of the two marshes, Four Sparrow serves two critical roles: as a rest stop for up to 326 species of migrating birds on the Atlantic Flyway, and as a “kidney” of shorts, filtering pollution and excess nutrients from the Bay.

From approximately 800 to 1400 A.D. southern Brooklyn was inhabited by members of the Canarsie tribe who probably used the marsh as hunting and fishing grounds. These people were centered at the Keshawchqueren settlement, near present-day Kings Highway and Flatbush Avenue. Archaeological evidence suggests that they dug for oysters and clams, spear-fished, and hunted deer and rabbit. The first Europeans to settle in this area were the Dutch who found the marshy landscape similar to Holland. They formed the town of New Amersfoort in 1647, and established farms to supplement their diet with corn, squash, beans, and livestock. The colonists’ cattle fed on salt hay, unique to coastal areas.

Four Sparrow Marsh Preserve contains several types of habitats besides salt marsh, including low brush; deciduous forest consisting mainly of cherry, elm, locust, poplar, sumac, and willow; open meadow; intertidal mudflat; and high clusters of reed species. The open meadow is largely covered with mugwort, an aggressive, exotic species common in landfilled areas.

This site was transferred to Parks by the City of New York on March 3, 1994 and dedicated on October 29, 1997.

Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

Know Before You Go

There are currently 2 service interruptions affecting access within this park.

PlaygroundsSeba Playground

Seba Playground will be closed to reconstruct the current Seba Tot Lot into a playground for children of all ages. The new design will enlarge the toddler area by adding a custom spray shower, seating, and two new tot play units. Additional play spaces will also be added for 5 to 12 year olds, and will include a large accessible play unit, a second spray shower and seating area. These two play areas will be joined by 15 additional swings for both age groups. The site will also feature an accessible drinking fountain, attractive plantings, and a bicycle rack.

BeachesRockaway Beach and Boardwalk

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has resumed pumping sand onto Rockaway Beach in efforts to repair and restore the beach. Access to the beach area from Beach 61st Street to Beach 19th Street may be limited while the pumping operation continues. The Corps expects sand placement work to be completed by the end of October, weather permitting. Swimming is not permitted at Rockaway Beach, or any NYC beach, after Labor Day. Please visit the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ website for more information.

Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways Weather

  • Sat
    Sunny
    65°F
  • Sun
    Breezy
    63°F
  • Mon
    Sunny
    64°F
  • Tue
    Partly Sunny
    69°F

7-day forecast

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