Kensington Brooklyn is a dump

Dead Horse Bay: glitter trash from old times

Nobody goes swimming on this beach in Brooklyn. It belongs to the bottle collectors - but they are after more than just a bottle deposit. Dead Horse Bay is known for the fact that you can find glass there that is easily a hundred years old. You can find these apothecary and liquor bottles in old-fashioned shapes on the city's flea markets and in some antique shops.

The fact that on some days Dead Horse Bay just glistens from the glass has its roots in urban rubbish. The amount of rubbish today is much larger than it was 150 years ago, but even then New York was desperately looking for space for all the rubbish. And one of those places was very close to that shoreline.

Waste recycling 150 years ago

Back then, this part of Brooklyn was still an island called Barren Island. From the middle of the 19th century to the 1920s, skinners, fish oil producers and other waste recyclers sat around the bay - for a long time Barren Island was the largest waste recycling plant in the world.

And before the automobile replaces the carriage ride, you have to go somewhere with all the dead horses - they end up here. Their remains are first processed into glue, fertilizer and oil, among other things, and it is reported that the whole area stank terribly. This ultimately leads to the end of this garbage era: residents of other parts of the city successfully defend themselves against the wind blowing the stench into their area. After a protracted legal battle, Barren Island is closed.

Where the name Dead Horse Bay comes from

Before that, the boiled, chopped up animal bones are put into the water, as are the remains from all other garbage facilities in the area. At this time, the sea is considered a great residual waste dump. Hence the name Dead Horse Bay.

Also for the beauty of the salt marshes all around, which are now a nature reserve - right up to JKF Airport! - the New Yorkers have little point. They dump loads of sand, coal, and rubbish to build Floyd Bennett Field, New York's first airport. Barren Island is now connected to Brooklyn.

Urban planner Robert Moses sees the area as an opportunity for a chic park area in the 1950s, which just needs less water and more land. The park is never built, but Moses achieved his goal: what he doesn't like disappears.

Houses and their contents as filling material

He's a thorn in the side of the poor people's neighborhoods in Brooklyn. There he wants to build new roads for the automotive future! He simply has the “slums” leveled, and all the rubble - including dishes, nail polish bottles, shoes, batteries, medicine, children's toys - carts trucks as filling material into Dead Horse Bay.

This special waste dump will soon be full, it will be closed and sealed - but only with topsoil. This landfill cover broke in 1950, and since then old things have been washing into the sea and onto the beach at Dead Horse Bay.

New York has many contaminated sites and heavily polluted areas. But only this attracts people who go hunting like treasure hunters. In Dead Horse Bay you can only walk around with sturdy shoes and thick soles. With every step you step on a piece of city history - sometimes fifty, sometimes a hundred years old. Incidentally, horse bones still wash up on the beach - but only in three centimeter pieces.

The bay, mini beach and marshland around Dead Horse Bay are now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. As in all such areas, it is forbidden to take anything with you.