Dead Horse Bay
From the nineteenth century to the twentieth century, the area has been used in a variety of ways, including manufacturing fertilizer from the remains of dead animals, producing fish oil from the menhaden caught in the bay, and more recently a landfill for the disposal of New York City’s garbage. Periodic clogging by carcasses from the adjacent glue factory with 200 foot chimney gave the bay its name. A millstone used to grind horse bones can still be found along the Millstone trail.
In 1926, much of the salt marsh surrounding Dead Horse Bay and the rest of Barren Island were pumped with sand from Jamaica Bay. This raised the land to 16 feet above the high tide mark and connected the islands to each other, and the mainland of Brooklyn, in order to create Floyd Bennett Field as New York City's first municipal airport. The entire area, including the historic airfield, is now managed by the National Park Service as part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area.
In the 1950s, urban planner Robert Moses attempted to expand the now-peninsula to the west using garbage covered by topsoil, but the layer of soil eroded, and garbage can be seen on the coast during low tide. This coast contains many exposed broken glass bottles and other non-biodegradable material.
School groups are taken to Dead Horse Bay on a regular basis to walk the Millstone trail, seine for a variety of fishes, and learn about the natural and cultural history of the area. Its shores are also a popular sport fishing spot, and home to a marina operating in Deep Creek as a National Park Service concession. Today one can find a large array of glass bottles and pieces of broken glass on the beach, along with old shoes and construction materials, many from the landfill which is now leaking. It is a popular place for artists and crafters to collect strange decorative materials.
On August 6, 2020, the National Park Service announced that Dead Horse Bay would be closed "due to the presence of radiological contamination at the site" and noted that the cleanup "may last many years."
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- Authors, Kathleen Cuzzolino and Dennis Skidds/Web Page (2003-10-19). "Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay Institute". www.nature.nps.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
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- Williams, Keith (July 6, 2017). "When Dead Horse Bay Was True to Its Name". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- "The Delights of Collecting Trash at Dead Horse Bay". Slate. 2014-01-06. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
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- New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Education Coordinating Committee (2010). "Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory" (PDF).
- "Dead Horse Bay Environmental Cleanup Projects". National Park Service. 6 Aug 2020.
- "New York's Favorite Trash-Strewn Beach Is a Wee Bit Radioactive". Atlas Obscura. 20 Aug 2020.
- Sicherman, Miriam (18 November 2019). Brooklyn's Barren Island: A Forgotten History. The History Press. ISBN 978-1467144315.
- "Dead Horse Bay". atlasobscura.com. Photos.
- "Dead Horse Bay: New York's Hidden Treasure Trove". ABC News. Video on the history of Dead Horse Bay
- "Jamaica Bay Institute". nature.nps.gov.