The southern third of the "neck" is used as a firing range by the New York City Police Department; the remaining wooded section is part of Pelham Bay Park. The north side is joined to what used to be Hunters Island and Twin Island to form Orchard Beach and a parking lot.
Rodman's Neck has three meadows. One is a natural salt water meadow; the other two are manmade freshwater meadows, one of which was created by Robert Moses' projects. The City Island Traffic Circle and several small ballfields also exist, while every original building has been razed. A landfill area for City Island Road crosses Turtle Cove Saltwater Marsh with a culvert made of concrete pipes connecting it to the salt water Eastchester Bay. A second land berm built for horsecars, that was long forgotten, had its always-clogged three foot diameter culvert removed, and a trench with a stainless steel bridge was installed.
Rodman's Neck is named after a local man, Samuel Rodman, while the southern tip, known as "Pell's Point", is where the British landed during the Revolutionary War's Battle of Pell's Point. It was originally named "Anne's Hoeck" after Anne Hutchinson, who was killed in a Native American massacre at nearby Split Rock. Rodman had owned a ferry that ran between Minneford Island (now known as City Island) and Anne's Hoeck where the bridge is now. Then L.R. Marshall built a Southern-style mansion on his estate, renamed “Hawkswood”, at the southernmost tip of Rodman’s Neck. His mansion was converted[when?] and used as an inn until 1888, when the New York City Parks Department acquired the property for Pelham Bay Park.
The story of the open firing range began when the New York City Parks Department acquired the property for Pelham Bay Park. In 1903, the Parks Department opened Rodman’s Neck to the public with public bathhouses, showers, picnic tables, and cooking facilities. During World War I (1914–1918), the United States Navy used the site as a training facility. In the 1920s, Rodman’s Neck was once again used for park purposes.
Between 1930 and 1936, the southern tip of the peninsula was used by the New York City Police Academy for summer training and explosives detonation. It was an ideal site to make bombs safe. The fact that the area was mostly surrounded by Eastchester Bay was considered good, so that any fragments from exploding bombs would not strike people at the remote site.[when?]
In 1941, during World War II, the U.S. Department of War began to use the area as a Navy base, and in 1950, the United States Army drained the site and built barracks for soldiers at Fort Slocum. When the Army finished using the land, the site was turned over to the New York City Police Academy, where the police reestablished the permanent training facility and firing range in 1960. Early signs at the entrance said, "NYPD Pistol Range". In 1976, one NYPD Officer was killed and another was badly injured in The Pit when a bomb went off accidentally.
NYPD firing range
A 54-acre police training facility is operated by the NYPD Firearms and Tactics Section and is used for handgun and rifle practice and qualification by the NYPD, the FBI, ICE, and training probationary police officers, as well as for antiterrorist, disorder control, Emergency Service Units, and OCCB training. The base has seven rifle ranges with a 230 total firing points for trainees. The base has a school with lecture hall and seven classrooms with teachers. The base also has training area designed to look like a city neighborhood for practical training exercises. It has one of the world's largest police armories and a firearms machine shop for maintenance and experimental weapons development.
The grounds include mock buildings called Urban Training Center /Tactical Village and Tactics House used for urban training scenarios, and a FireArms Training Simulator building (FATS) including an interactive video simulator that was all paid for by the FBI. There is also a specially equipped vehicle armed for disorder control nicknamed "The War Wagon" in case of rioting. The base was used during the 1960s by the National Guard to train riot troops and was an emergency base of operations during the September 11, 2001 attacks. This area is restricted for police and military use only. It has a helipad and police boat docks. The area is also used for destroying unexploded bombs. Many bombs have been detonated since 1930, including ones made by George Metesky, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, the Animal Liberation Front, and al-Qaeda. These explosives are always detonated at the southernmost point that juts out into Eastchester Bay in a crater called "The Pit". Around July 2 every year, impressive impromptu volcanic displays are put on as seized illegal fireworks are destroyed.
The range was intended as a temporary facility, according to the plans laid out by Robert Moses and Mayors Robert F. Wagner, Jr., John Lindsay, and Abraham D. Beame. However, Mayor Ed Koch favored it becoming permanent. The range was previously part of Pelham Bay Park. In the late 1980s, Governor Mario Cuomo signed an eminent domain law separating this land from the park and giving the NYPD the right to stay permanently. The range was to have been converted into the Olympic Firing Range for the unsuccessful New York City 2012 Olympic bid. The range has Biohazard Safety Level 4 lab facilities to deal with radiological devices, bioweapon bombs and gas chemical weapons.
According to The New York Times a widely used paper target figure officially known as "Advanced Silhouette SP-83A" or target "B-60" may have been developed in the early 1960s as a likeness of Sergeant Fred V. Worell, an instructor at the range. The target is colloquially known as "The Thug".
In April 2007, the NYPD announced it was moving to a new indoor facility in Queens. What this means for the base and area is uncertain. An article in the Island Current says the area will still be used for destroying unexploded bombs and fireworks, but all gun practice will move to a new indoors facility in College Point, Queens.
Early in 2015 the move to College Point in Queens was canceled and upgrades were planned for the Rodman's Neck facility.
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Local birdwatchers say that allowing saltwater flow into northern Turtle Cove is chasing away freshwater drinking birds. Also, locals are bewildered that the parks department would waste money to build a pedestrian bridge, instead of removing the unused land berm. Many residents dislike the parks department's plans to restore all flora and animals to indigenous species that are pre-Columbus.
Additionally, City Island residents have been complaining for years about the noise from gunfire and the detonation of weapons at NYPD's Rodman's Neck Firing Range. In March 1998, city officials determined there was no solution to the noise problem, as there was no other practical venue at which to locate the NYPD range.
- "SKYJACKINGS: Bombs for Croatia". TIME. September 20, 1976. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
- "Cops' Favorite Target Thug, but Just Who Was the Guy", The New York Times, February 17, 2005
- * Ex-Tenant Is Sought in Bomb Case
- "Community leaders tour Rodman's Neck NYPD range and facility". Bronx Times. Retrieved 2015-11-18.