Dead Horse Bay

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Gerritsen Inlet and marina on left; Dead Horse Bay center; Rockaway Inlet, Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and Rockaway, Queens on right
Bottle Beach, the western shore of the bay

Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water off Barren Island, between the Gerritsen Inlet and Rockaway Inlet in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.


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.[1] Periodic clogging by carcasses from the adjacent glue factory with 200 foot chimney gave the bay its name.[2][3] A millstone used to grind horse bones can still be found along the Millstone trail.[4]

In 1926, much of the salt marsh surrounding Dead Horse Bay and the rest of Barren Island were pumped with sand from Jamaica Bay.[4] 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.[3] 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.[5]

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.[6] This coast contains many exposed broken glass bottles and other non-biodegradable material.[7][8]

Current use[edit]

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.[9] 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."[10][11]


  1. ^ Schneider, Daniel B. (18 July 1999). "F.Y.I. Defunct Equine Estuary". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Roberts, Sam (2010-04-25). "New York Harbor Muck Used to Restore Jamaica Bay". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  3. ^ a b Porcelli, Richard V. (2015-08-31). Floyd Bennett Field. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781467133678.
  4. ^ a b Authors, Kathleen Cuzzolino and Dennis Skidds/Web Page (2003-10-19). "Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay Institute". Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  5. ^ Letzter, Rafi (25 August 2016). "The National Park Service just turned 100. We visited one of its filthiest, most forgotten sites". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
  6. ^ Williams, Keith (July 6, 2017). "When Dead Horse Bay Was True to Its Name". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Delights of Collecting Trash at Dead Horse Bay". Slate. 2014-01-06. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  8. ^ Simon, Evan; Smith, Olivia (October 26, 2015). "Dead Horse Bay: New York's Hidden Treasure Trove of Trash". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-01-07.
  9. ^ New York City Department of Environmental Protection and Jamaica Bay Watershed Protection Plan Education Coordinating Committee (2010). "Jamaica Bay Education Resource Directory" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Dead Horse Bay Environmental Cleanup Projects". National Park Service. 6 Aug 2020.
  11. ^ "New York's Favorite Trash-Strewn Beach Is a Wee Bit Radioactive". Atlas Obscura. 20 Aug 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°35′0.6″N 73°54′14.7″W / 40.583500°N 73.904083°W / 40.583500; -73.904083