Wednesday , May 22 2024
An old landfill leaches vintage 1950s bottles onto the bone-studded beach.

Alive and Oystercatching in Dead Horse Bay

Before the intarwebs had stretched their infofingers into all corners of the world and long before there was such a word as "blog," an aspiring writer had to struggle to find an outlet. Back in the 1990s my friend Tim Hall worked at an alternative monthly paper called The New York Hangover (memorably fictionalized in his novel Full of It). Tim gave me a chance to publish in the Hangover a column I called "Dead…From New York."

You can't read those columns online anywhere—and maybe that's a good thing, I can't remember!—but here and now, in the early doldrums of what Paul Krugman is projecting to be a Third Depression, it seems like the perfect time to revive (or re-animate?) "Dead…From New York" here at Blogcritics. And what better place to start than Dead Horse Bay?

Dead Horse Bay is a small bowl of water on Brooklyn's underside. An old landfill leaches vintage 1950s bottles onto the bone-studded beach. (In the old days the city's economy ran on horses, and when they died they were dumped here, hence the name.) A springtime tramp through the area revealed one of the many fascinating, mostly-forgotten corners of the greatest city in the world.

Everything's always dying in New York City. Building's not tall enough? Rip it down and build a new one. Local stores and restaurants can't afford to stay open? Bring in a new (shudder) Friday's to Union Square. Legendary clubs closing? Turn 'em into stores that sell designer crap and regurgitate the old scene as a smarmy fetish. Dusty neighborhoods actually picking themselves up and building themselves into something? Eminent-domain 'em, tear 'em down, and give 'em to greedy developers in sweetheart deals (and then watch the developers renege on their promises before they even start digging).  The city's best blogs are all about how things are terrible and getting terribler. You can read it in their very names. Jeremiah's Vanishing New York chronicles the death by a thousand cuts of once unique, character-driven neighborhoods. EVGrieve grieves. Forgotten New York is more history-minded, but often sighs about what's dead and dying—some of the "old New York" sights it celebrates aren't very old at all.

Well, "Dead…From New York" predated almost all of them, and now it's back. But I'm not focusing on the negative. What many bloggers and commentators sometimes lose sight of is that this city is too huge to be ruined. Not by the likes of John Varvatos, and not even by terrorists flying planes into our buildings. Parts crumble, parts get overbuilt, parts get gentrified and lose everything that made the funky people want to be there in the first place. But life goes on. It just moves around.

One of my main activities is reviewing theater. If I had the time and energy, I could see a different show every single day of the year and still not see everything.

I could go to a different city park every day this summer and not see them all.

I wouldn't be surprised if I never went back to Dead Horse Bay. Why? Too many other sights to see, and only one life in which to see them.

Meanwhile, enjoy these Dead Horse Bay photos. The geese are Brant Geese, and the shore birds are oystercatchers (there are no more oysters here, but clearly there is something they find delicious.  Just like all those bloggers who keep complaining…but I don't see them moving to Peekskill!)

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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