Dead Horse Bay: Brooklyn’s Best Secret Beach

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Photos by Austin McAllister


No. 1

Dead Horse Bay

Brooklyn’s Best Secret Beach

Tucked away amid the marshy coastline of southeastern Brooklyn, Dead Horse Bay is one of the borough’s best kept secrets. Assuming, of course, that you like your secrets to be somewhat dark and disturbing.

The small beach is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, but it was once the site of horse-rendering plants, fish oil factories, and garbage incinerators. From the 1850s to about 1920, the marshland was mostly known for its noxious fumes, and its insalubrious aura inspired the bay’s macabre name. Even following the advent of the automobile and the corresponding end to most of the city’s equine-related industries, Dead Horse Bay was seen as little more than a blight on Brooklyn and was used as a makeshift landfill for several more decades.

Why then are we recommending this spot as Brooklyn’s best secret beach? Partially because we like our beaches to have a sense of despair surrounding them—there’s nothing quite like seeing the damage that civilization has wrought on nature’s beauty to really make a person think, you know? But mostly it’s because—due to decades and decades of detritus piling up—this hidden spot is the perfect place to walk around and discover abandoned treasures. What kind of treasures? Mostly antique glass bottles (many more than a century old), scraps of shoe leather, and, of course, a horse bone or two. Perhaps these don’t sound like treasures to everyone, but then perhaps everyone isn’t really invested in the complex, uncomfortable history of this city. That’s fine. There are more than enough beaches in Brooklyn for everyone. We’re ok with keeping Dead Horse Bay as desolate as possible. That just makes it seem even more apocalyptic, which is exactly how we like it.