NYC Exploration: Dead Horse Bay Beach
Despite the rampant loss of character New York City has been undergoing for decades now, there are still lightly treaded, special places in the corners and underneath the rocks–or in this case, underneath a layer of broken glass. Dead Horse Beach–part of Floyd Bennett Field, a park in the broader Gateway National Recreation Area–is very much a special place and most definitely worth the adventurous trip to its shore. Adjacent to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and in between the Gerritsen Inlet and Rockaway Inlet, Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water that got its name in the 1850’s when horse-rendering by-products from the then-surrounding glue and fertilizer plants were dumped into its waters, leaving the land and water rancid. Once the auto boom trumped horse and buggy as main transport, Dead Horse had its second wind as a landfill. Since a bursted cap in the 1950’s the beach has been the home to thousands of bottles from yesteryears, as well as, oddly, shoe soles… and, as reported in 1999, horse bones. (source) Nowadays, Dead Horse Beach’s rich, morbid history is long gone, but the glass remains. A quick hike through the lush, overgrown trail–teeming with for brave birds and hopping cottontail bunnies–and you are transported back in time.
Though isolated, it isn’t very hard to find. However, I would have appreciated visual directions. For your reference: 1) Turn into the ranger station that says “Welcome to Floyd Bennett Field” right before the toll booths for the bridge, Aviation Rd & Flatbush ave. 2) Park at the lot and walk back, crossing Flatbush ave, looking for this temporary sign: “Park Entrance.” 3) Follow that trail until you get to a clearing. You’ll see three trail options, as illustrated by Google maps on the bottom right. I chose the one to the left, which seems to be the shortest distance. It is about a ten minute walk that is flat and not strenuous. It is, however, a bit creepy. Enveloped by the green overgrowth and sounds of nature, you are on your own–walking gingerly into the unknown in a very isolated place. It doesn’t have that very creepy feeling some remote places have, mostly in part to their litter–signs of other humans who may be threatening, intoxicated, opportunistic. As an adventurous woman, I have these kinds of fear to deal with from time to time, but am almost always pleased with the outcome of risk-taking in my life. And did I mention that this trail has bunnies? That certainly set me at ease in some naive way.
Upon exiting the trail, the glass started immediately. I had arrived with my large bucket and work gloves, ready to explore. Here are some pictures of my hunt:
Glass everywhere. But not like this beach in California, that has been in my “to go” folder for years, tumbled and smooth. These shards are very able to puncture. It’s almost impossible not to break glass with every step, which must be why there are so few complete glass items at Dead Horse. Mazel tov!
Your messages have all gone to sea; all that’s left are the bottles.
My collected goodies…
Though overcast, I headed over the bridge to get to Jacob Riis Park Beach, another part of Gateway National Recreation Area. I wanted to check out the Riis Park Beach Bazaar when not infiltrated by hipsters. But first some time on the sand.
The beach was empty and glorious, though not as exciting for the bored life guards.
I packed a spectacular fruit/veggie salad, a mix of everything I had in the fridge: watermelon, cucumber, blueberry, grapes, yellow pepper, pineapple, and cilantro. Perfect hydrating snack after the arduous task of lugging all my glass bottles back to the car.
Riis Park Beach Bazaar had a few colorful characters door-busting, but there were plenty of tables and available hammocks. I can only imagine how swarmed this place on weekends. There are no vegan options of savory eats at the Bazaar, unfortunately. Unlike Rockaway Beach in pre-Sandy 2011 (Aaah, remembering the Babycakes outpost, Rockaway Taco, & Ode to the Elephants–see V.V. post here)…
But there is Ample Hills and their coconut fudge sorbet on a pretzel cone….
Now I’m ready to head home.