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That Fresh City Air: New York Plans the Nation's Biggest Urban Campground

The Big Apple is set to build an enormous campground in the middle of the concrete jungle. What does this mean for urban camping across the country?

New York City is the last place that comes to mind for a camping trip. But U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar sees tents and s'mores in the city's future. Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, once the city's first municipal airport but now virtually unused, is set to become the country's largest urban campground. The national parks service plans to convert the space once used by Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes into an oasis with 90 campsites within two years, and eventually building 600.

"You don't even realize you're in the middle of the city," Salazar said.

For real?

Judging from efforts in San Francisco and Seattle, it is possible to have campsites in the city surrounded by (carefully planned) nature. Sort of like a mini-national park experience. But New York's plan seems like a different beast; it's more ambitious than either of those, in a location that's renowned for its skyscapers and frenetic energy, not its natural beauty.

I am all for creating more green space in a somewhat green-starved city, but my question is: Who is the campground for? I can see hipsters digging on the idea of city camping, but this field is nowhere near hipster Brooklyn—or any public transport. And it's not central for tourists or most families, either, even if they rented a car. Judging by the government fanfare, I can't imagine New York will let it turn into a tent city for displaced people. Perhaps South Brooklynites looking for a vacation on the cheap will forgo a trip to Coney Island and head east instead?

But assuming Floyd Bennett Field does prove to be a pleasant and practical place to spend the night, it's a model that more urban centers could follow, especially since hotel costs are rising by the day. New York and pricey cities like it are in dire need of a cheap getaway alternative for those of us low on cash.

photo (cc) from Flickr user KayVee.INC

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