Barren Island, at one point, was an actual island, but was landfilled to create what is now the airfield. In the 19th Century and early 20th, Barren Island was home to glue factories (as reflected in the names of nearby bodies of water: Dead Horse Inlet and Dead Horse Bay). Nonetheless, the glue factories were a bustling industry and supported a small community on the island.
There was once a small community here of well-kept small homes with porches, and the people who lived here ignored the unholy stench of the animal rendering plants (the first one built in 1859) that once dotted the island, as thousands of deceased Dobbins were turned into a number of products including glue, fertilizer, and commercial gelatin in a process founded by Peter Cooper, for whom Manhattan’s Cooper Union school is named.
In the 1920s, Barren Island was attached by landfill to Long Island in anticipation of Floyd Bennett Field’s construction. The horse rendering plants were closed and the homes razed, but the smell remained for several years. What was Dead Horse Bay can be found by walking a trail at the very end of Flatbush Avenue just before the Marine Parkway (Gil Hodges) Bridge tolls.
After the rendering plants were closed the Dead Horse Bay shoreline became a landfill in the 1930s. Thousands of tons of trash were buried under a narrow cap. In the 1950s, this cap came apart and detritus of the decades, including thousands of bottles and plastic products that don’t biodegrade have filled the beach ever since. There are those who say that equine bones can be found amid the garbage.