Ever heard of a Brooklyn neighborhood called White Sands? If you haven’t, no big deal…most Brooklyn historians haven’t either!
Perched in the no man’s land between Bath Beach and Coney Island, White Sands, settled around 1925-1930, lies between Cropsey Avenue on the east, Dreier-Offerman Park on the west, the Belt Parkway on the north, and Coney Island Creek on the south.
Up until 1999, it was a collection of modest homes and bungalows arranged neatly on four dead-end streets. The bungalows were originally built on stilts above white-colored sand, which was eventually removed to fill the Coney Island beach, decimated by a hurricane in 1938. (Broad Channel still has houses on stilts). Landfill replaced the white sand, but the neighborhood’s name has remained.
In late 1999, most of White Sands began to evacuate.
Why did most of White Sands clear out? Mosquitoes? Malathion? Asbestos? No, the answer is much more prosaic. Money.
This area of Brooklyn is becoming attractive to big-box retailers, who erect vast stores on as much acreage as they can find. With its handy location next to the Belt Parkway and Cropsey Avenue, White Sands attracted the notice of Home Depot.
Quiet Bay 54th Street was the heart of White Sands.
West 20th Street
Home Depot purchased the 41 of the 68 homes located in the tight-knit neighborhood, in which some families have lived for generations. It planned to raze the homes and construct a huge Home Depot and an equally large parking lot in their place. Home Depot reportedly offered market rates or slightly above for the homes.
West 21st Street had been abandoned before Home Depot came knocking. In 1999, the brush had pretty much taken it over.
While I was in White Sands I surprised a colorful wild pheasant, which ran into the brush before I could aim my camera. Stray dogs are also a common sight in the area.
This bungalow, near what was West 22nd Street, had been burnt down for many years.
In 1999, White Sands was in transition as deteriorating, boarded up homes contrast with homes that were still occupied on Bay 54th Street.
View of White Sands from Coney Island Creek
These were probably the last views of White Sands in the condition it had been in for the last 70 years.
ONE YEAR LATER …
The residents of Bay 54th Street are gone and the bulldozers have indeed moved in.
What remained of West 20th Street.
Bay 53rd Street awaits Home Depot.
Bay 53rd looking east toward Cropsey Avenue.
Homes on Bay 52nd and 53rd have been spared the wreckers’ ball and will be the only remnant of White Sands remaining.
The Parachute Jump is visible across the empty lots where homes used to be.
By 2003, White Sands had been cut in half with homes on Bay 52nd and 53rd Streets still standing, but those on Bay 54th and West 20th Streets forever disappeared.
In 2002, this is what had been Bay 54th Street.
Peter Duffy, New York Times, October 10, 1999. “Swept Away”
10/29/99; rev. 2000, 2002