GEL 2010 Conference trip to Dead Horse Bay

Walking along at low tide

The highlight of the GEL Conference was an amazing trip to Dead Horse Bay, which is on the outskirts of Brooklyn towards JFK airport. You can read about the place on wikipedia and here's a google map of the place.

Anthropologists Robin Nagle (her 2009 GEL talk was amazing) and Howard Warren took a group of about a dozen attendees on the journey, telling us the history of the place all along the way. At the turn of the last century, it was a place where literally dead horses were brought for processing into products (rendering, using their hides, etc). Later in 1953, when an expressway was being built through Brooklyn, they bulldozed straight through apartments and homes, dumping the refuse on Barren Island where Dead Horse Bay is located.

The trash from 1953 is still all around, as we happened to catch the beach at a low-tide revealing a quarter mile of coastline covered in old bottles and jars. It's pretty fascinating stuff and fun to think about how you'd interpret what life in 1953 was like given what was left behind. Of course, most all the fabric, paper, and plastics have deteriorated and gone, leaving behind mostly glass. If it was hundreds of years into the future, you'd think the people of 1953 Brooklyn sat around drinking soda all day, eating food that required loads of maple syrup, and spent most of their time bleaching things with Clorox (when they weren't applying nail polish or face cream). Those kinds of bottles compromised almost everything you see.

I put 17 shots on Flickr from the day here, check them out and if you get a chance, I can't recommend a trip to Dead Horse Bay enough. Two things though: there were loads of ticks in the trees and bushes above that dropped on top of us as we walked towards the bay, and please don't take things from the bay so others can enjoy it.

4 Comments

  • WTF?! Homage to garbage?
    Photograph it, document it, memorialize it; but then clean it the fuck up.

  • At this point, it’s more of an archeological find than just a garbage pile. It represents a historical event and serves as a window to the past.

  • I sense we are not going to agree. I say collect up worthwhile material and put it in a museum. Return the zone to the natural ecosystem rather than continuing to let lead and other toxic products of the post-industrial era leech into the sand and water. At least in pre Victorian archaeological sites there are less likely to be so many man-made toxic material. (still, I get why it’s interesting, I’m not saying it’s not)

  • I have lived in Brooklyn most of my life and never knew this place existed. I must say that I agree with unpoison. We really need to clean it up. Items of importance should be documented, not just left there to pollute the environment. Sorry for disagreeing with you Mr. Haughey. I hope you are doing well. My good thoughts and prayers are with you.

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