Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn is home to Vintage 1950s Treasure Trash

Old landfill from the early 20th century washes debris and treasure trash onto the golden shores of this beach. Too bad I forgot my sunscreen and swimmies.

Dead Horse Bay is a vacant beachfront, located in South East Brooklyn. It is home to no one, set right off Barren Island (appropriately named) and you can’t even get there by train or subway. It’s a little known nugget within the confines of New York City which makes it perfect for Bittynyc, and let me tell you, we are glad we discovered it!

Less of a beach and more of a graveyard, Dead Horse Bay has the remnants of an earlier 20th century landfill…Literally. In the late 1800’s it was home to many manufacturing plants turning horses into glue and fish carcass into fish oil. Closed down later due to stench and improbable usefulness (as the rise of auto-mobiles and the descent of dead horses occurred) the landfill was closed right up.

I ventured to Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn, almost immediately upon hearing about it. I knew it would be not only a great adventure but one that is slightly off the beaten path of New York City landmarks. You cannot get there directly by train or subway, you can get close though! Take a look at the below New York City transit map, notice the big red circle around Dead Horse Bay and the area surrounding it, what do you notice? (hint: NOT subway lines)


I took the 2 train to Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn College then hopped right on the Q35 bus getting off around Floyd Bennett Field area. The entire trip was something of an adventure, since I haven’t been to a New York City Beach and have very rarely even ventured into Brooklyn.

When you get to the entrance of Dead Horse Bay, there are three paths. They are clearly routed on a smart phone, but if you are not armed with a smart phone just be sure to seek the path furthermost to the right and you’ll be fine.

So what’s this place really like?

I arrived on an overcast, shadowy, chill-in-the-air kind of day, which only added to the experience for me. There were blue and beige, Nautical style tug boats buried in the sand close to the shore wall. They were covered in graffiti and made a good prop for some ironic pictures we took later. Closer to the ocean’s shore we found the 1920’s garbage we came for: Scattered glass from old bottles, Clorox containers, old nail polish bottle containers, Coca Cola bottles, shoe soles, all equally spread about as if they thought they were fancy 21st century trash. It’s a bizarre scene and while I expected the scene, I was still in awe at the strangeness before me.

You would think, with all this trash, with all these New York City dwellers preaching, “save the planet” and “clean up our city” that someone would do SOMETHING. But, the funny thing about it is, people do pick up this trash. Visitors from all over come and collect the trash for creative/art projects of the “vintage” variety. And the ironic thing? If even there was an effort to actually clean up this beach, it would not remain that way for long. The bottles and trash littering this area come from the beach itself. Take a close look at the photos of the beach wall, and the glass bottles buried deep within it. Each time the tide washes up, like clockwork, a bit of the remaining sand holding together the history beneath its surface is unearthed. It is left to it’s perpetual trash-filled existence. Reminds me of the earth itself, and of people. We scurry about to preserve ourselves and other’s perceptions of us. Some parts we can, but what lies beneath the sand, waiting to be unearthed?

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Dead Horse Bay - Brooklyn Retro Trash

Dead Horse Bay – Brooklyn Retro Trash

Related reads:

Watch a video of the beach from BrooklynInk: Dead Horse Bay Living Museum

Atlas Obscura’s Dead Horse Bay Description

And, of course, the Dead Horse Bay Wikipedia Page

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