Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remains of the Bay

As part of Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Dead Horse Bay is now a protected environment along with the other historic and natural sites in the area like Floyd Bennett Field, Fort Tilden, Jacob Riis Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Though hardly pristine, the stretch of beach is a far cry from its years as a garbage dump for New York. From the New York Times:
Dead Horse Bay sits at the western edge of a marshland once dotted by more than two-dozen horse-rendering plants, fish oil factories and garbage incinerators. From the 1850's until the 1930's, the carcasses of dead horses and other animals from New York City streets were used to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products at the site. The chopped-up, boiled bones were later dumped into the water. The squalid bay, then accessible only by boat, was reviled for the putrid fumes that hung overhead. A rugged community of laborers, many of them Irish, Polish and Italian immigrants, lived in relative isolation on neighboring Barren Island, which shared the bay's unsavory reputation. (story) 
You can read about life on Barren Island in even greater detail, in this New York Times article from 1939. It is a report on the last 25 families to remain in the area as it was being cleared for construction of the Belt Parkway.

Here are some finds from a hot sticky early summer outing ...

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