Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dead Horse Bay

For my last photojournalism assignment I wanted to do something a bit different from your typical New York City landscape shoot.  After lots of researching, I came across Dead Horse Bay.  Thousands upon thousands of bottles, both broken and intact, litter the landmark just north of Brooklyn.  Because the beach is usually empty, I thought the eerie, post-doomsday scene would be the perfecting setting for an unique shoot.  After taking more than 800 pictures, I've narrowed it down to my favorite ten.
Just north of Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay sits at the western edge of a marshland once dotted by more than two dozen glue factories.  In addition to remnants of dead horses, the beach is littered with a plethora of vintage garbage, like bottles, household nicknacks, decaying boats, and (reportedly) old hand guns. 
New York is the most populous city in the United States.  Its five boroughs are home to more than eight million people, so finding a quiet, isolated location can be quite a challenge.  However, Dead Horse Bay is an untapped destination, where treasure from yesteryear is up for the taking. 
With two decaying boats to chose from and not a soul in sight, Ryan  Weldon couldn't resist reenacting an "I'm the King of the World" moment. 
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Dead Horse Bay began to be used as a landfill.  Filled with trash by the 1930s, the  garbage heap was capped, only to have it burst in the 1950s with trash spewing onto the beach.  Today, tiny shells and sand have found their home in miniature perfume bottles. 
Instead of searching for sand dollars or conch shells, Dead Horse Bay visitors can pick up every color under the rainbow bottles, both broken and intact.
Although human visitors may be limited, that doesn't stop sea life from washing ashore.
While exploring one rainy afternoon, I came across two beached stingrays. 
As the tide goes down, more treasures are revealed.  My favorite finds up for grabs are Made In New York Coca Cola containers  and
up to your ankles, purple Kings Beverage bottles.  When planning your own trip, definitely don't forget to wear your wellies! 
From the 1850s until the 1930s, the carcasses of dead horses and other animals from New York City streets were used to manufacture glue, fertilizer and other products at the landmark.  But, as the car industry grew, horse and buggies--thus horse carcasses--became scarce.  By the 1920s, there was only one rendering plant left.  Even to this day, metal from the factories intermingle with broken glass, littering the beach of Dead Horse Bay. 
Who needs IKEA when you've got Dead Horse Bay?  Ryan was so excited when he found this cup.
Unfortunately, it's handle wasn't attached, but he says it'll make the perfect bowl.  
This place is all sorts of amazing!  But, don't come here with a picnic blanket and open-toed shoes.  Instead, show up with a sense of adventure and an appreciation for history.  Although there's lots to see regardless of the time of day, I'd suggest visiting when the tide is low.
And, don't forget to bring a thick bag or box to hold all your take-home goodies.
Want to plan your own trip?  To get to Dead Horse Bay take either the 2 or 5 train to the end of the line at Flatbush Avenue/Brooklyn Avenue.  Then, you need to catch the Q35 bus going towards Rockaway--its pickup spot is right in front of the Target.  Ask the bus driver to let you off at the last stop before you cross the Marine Parkway Bridge.  You'll see a path to the bay directly in front of you.  

Happy hunting! 


  1. LOVE this place. It was by far my favorite off-the-beaten path (accidental pan) place I visited in NYC. I can't wait to go back and spend more time there. Such beauty in a place with a dark history.

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