Some 1.2 million drones were wrapped up under American Christmas trees last month, according to the Consumer Technology Association. But good luck finding a spot to fly that gift in NYC – which has banned drones most everywhere, including all of Manhattan. If you didn’t know this, you’ve just been saved a potentially hefty fine. (You’re welcome.)
Thankfully, there are a few parks in the other boroughs that allow model aircrafts, granting even the most casual drone hobbyist the opportunity to capture breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings.
Before lifting off, be sure to register your drone and download the B4UFLY app, which is sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration and displays no-fly zones and safe flying areas, as well as a list of rules and regulations that remote-control operators need to keep in mind while flying.
Once you’re ready to pilot, here are the five most scenic, sprawling – and legal – fly zones in NYC.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens
Just south of Citi Field, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park boasts multiple soccer fields, a baseball field, basketball courts and, of course, a model aircraft field. This Queens-based park sits on just under 900 acres, and in the morning, you might catch crews rowing on the river. Flushing Meadows’ designated flying field is wedged between Meadow Lake and Van Wyck Expressway, meaning you’ve got tons of glorious cinematic scenes at your fingertips. Alas, because of the fly zone’s limits, you won’t be able to get any shots of the iconic NY Pavilion and Unisphere.
Calvert Vaux Park, Brooklyn
Calvert Vaux Park’s model aircraft field, maintained by the Seaview Rotary Wings RC Helicopter Club, is the perfect setting for rookie fliers to embark on their maiden voyage, due to its secluded, wide-open landscape set-up. Take flight from this park and you’ll capture stunning images of neighboring Coney Island Creek Park and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. You may even catch a passing cruise ship, if you’re lucky.
Note: As an Academy of Model Aeronautics affiliate, Seaview Rotary Wings requires pilots to be a paid member of both the local club and the national club in order to fly at Calvert Vaux.
Marine Park, Brooklyn
Like Calvert Vaux, Marine Park is located on the water in Brooklyn (which automatically makes for some killer aerial shots), and you must have a membership to fly here. The drone-safe area in this park dwells in the Radio Control Society’s field just behind the Seba Playground and skate park. Fly above the wooded area and you’ll discover Shell Bank Creek flowing between Marine Park and Plumb Island.
Forest Park, Queens
Known for its luscious green golf course and winding, scenic paths, Forest Park – straddling Brooklyn and Queens – has a secluded model aircraft field on the western end of the park at Jackie Robinson Parkway and Forest Parkway. Fly out of the narrow, circular field and soar over eye-catching Mt. Hope Cemetery. If skies are clear enough, you’ll catch a faint glimpse of Manhattan’s skyline. Throttle your aircraft east above the golf course and you’ll feel like a PGA championship broadcaster.
LaTourette Park, Staten Island
LaTourette makes up nearly one-third of Staten Island’s enormous 2,800-acre Greenbelt. If you’re a fan of the green, LaTourette is set up to please your inner Tiger Woods – from above. Take off from the designated airfield tucked behind the golf course, or buzz over Richmond Creek to look for wildlife.
This article has been updated to clarify the fly zone in a listed park.