If you look closely through the garbage that carpets Dead Horse Bay, you can actually find equine remains. But these water-worn vertebrae and dislocated sockets aren’t some quirk of the ecosystem. The marshland — situated on the western shore of Brooklyn’s Barren Island — got its morbid moniker after local horse-rendering plants began dumping leftover bones there in the 1850s.
It’s also been called “bottle beach” in recent decades due to the mantle of mostly glassware that has swept ashore from a nearby 1920s landfill project. Besides the stray Bud Light Lime, most of the flotsam and jetsam date back to the 1950s and earlier.
Of course one era’s junk can be another’s treasure, or at least our staff hoped so during a recent field trip. Summer fellow Yvette Cabrera pitched the idea for a photo essay after she’d salvaged serving trays, utensils and mostly intact glass jars on a trip with friends. Our team agreed that the prospect of functional housewares washed up on a semi-obscure, nearby beach seemed like visual storytelling gold.
The findings, which will run in our next issue, aren’t typical lifestyle magazine material. They’re trash, to be sure, but they’re also food-and-drink-related time capsules, chock-full of our local past (as well as acrid sludge and live crabs, as we soon discovered). The antiquarian who agreed to demystify our wares — and who we found after over 10 others turned us down — said it best: “It is junk. That’s what it is. But it’s junk that’s part of our history … [it tells] a story.”