Flushing Airport was one of New York City’s early municipal airports and was located only a mile east of present-day LaGuardia Airport.
Opened in 1927 on city-owned land leased to private operators, Flushing Airport was briefly New York City’s busiest airfield, until the much bigger LaGuardia, which opened in 1939, superseded it. But ever since its closure by mayor Ed Koch in 1984, it has become largely forgotten, save by aviation and history buffs, and Queens old-timers.
The airport was opened in 1927 as Speed’s Airport (named for owner Anthony “Speed” Hanzlick) and became the became the busiest airport in New York City for a time. The earliest aeronautical depiction of Flushing Airport which has been located was on the 1929 Washington-NYC Air Navigation Map. As of 1929, the “Pioneer Aero Trades School, Inc.” was also evidently operating at Flushing Airport,
But when North Beach Airport (soon to be renamed LaGuardia Field) opened (at some point between 1935-37), it quickly took business away from the older & smaller Flushing Airport.
A circa 1930s aerial view looking north at Flushing Airport, with hangars & several monoplanes & biplanes visible. Photo courtesy of The Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, Long Island via Leo Polaski
The Airport Directory Company’s 1937 Airports Directory described Flushing-New York Airport as having a total of 4 clay runways, with the longest being a 3,000’ northeast/southwest strip. The hangar was described as having “New York City Airport” painted on the roof.
According to Civil Air Patrol Major Peter Turecek, Flushing Airport was used by the Civil Air Patrol during the early days of WW2 to operate target towing & tracking missions. Two CAP pilots were killed in 1943 during tow target & tracking exercises from Flushing.
The airport was closed in 1984 by the Koch administration, and today the field has lost its aviation significance and acquired a new one as a contested development site. A 70-acre triangle, it is one of the last large vacant tracts in the city, and the only one near a high-density area. Downtown Flushing, a frenetic retail and banking hub and the largest of New York City’s five Chinatowns, is one mile to the south. In between, atop the wetlands, are light industry, parking lots, city services and the new police academy.