by Kevin Walsh

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.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Shari B July 29, 2020 - 6:23 am

This amazing novel takes place on the fictional Barren Shoal next door, but it is an amazing view of life on Dead Horse Bay between WWI and WWII.
Also, the cap did not so much break as was never placed. Most of the trash is from Robert Moses’ evictions for Cross Bronx and BQE. Poor people just took their best few things and left the rest behind…no money for storage, moving van, etc.

Shari B July 29, 2020 - 6:24 am

Oh, and I saw a horse bone there last year.

Bruce Appelbaum July 29, 2020 - 1:30 pm

I took a stroll through Dead Horse Bay a few years ago on a photo expedition. What a mess, but lots of interesting detritus washing up on the shore. Glass bottles and containers from years ago, household goods, trash that appeared to come from boats and ships. I did not find any horse remains, but there was a homeless community living in the bushes. Following the shore northward from Flatbush Avenue, the area exits into a marina.

Nunzio July 29, 2020 - 10:17 pm

Oh! One of my favorite walks c.1979, was to take the (then) D train to Sheephead Bay, and walk east on Emmons ave….and eventually it brings ya to a path alongside the Belt Pkwy- from which you could easily access Dead Horse Cove. Except for the traffic on the pkwy, it was about the best solitude one could find in NYC! I’d then proceed to Flatbush Ave. and either walk to Kings Plaza and hop on a bus, or I’d go the other way and walk over the Hodges Bridge to the rockaways and up to Beach 116th St. and catch the subway.

Kevin, it’s always been my dream that you’d one day do such a walk, and take plenty of pics, and of course include vintage images. When I saw the title of this article on the main page, I nearly crapped myself! Oh, so close! (I’ll never forget, walking over the bridge on a very hot day, and a woman who was a passenger in a car that was stuck in stop-and-go traffic asked me if i wanted a beer, and handed me a Heineken! (I don’t even like beer…but that one hit the spot- and encountering such a kind person was even better than the refreshment!)

Kevin Walsh July 30, 2020 - 7:01 am

There was a FNY tour at Dead Horse Bay and Floyd Bennett Field in April 2018

Nunzio July 31, 2020 - 12:25 am

Thanks, Kevin. How did I miss the page on that one??!! (Wouldn’t be able to do Barren Island in person, as I’ve lived next-door to Barren COUNTY KY for the ;past 19 years…and have had no desire to set foot in NY since!)

redstaerefugee August 7, 2020 - 9:35 am

Welcome to the (growing) club

Paul Deceglie August 29, 2020 - 4:47 pm

A recent article in the Brooklyn Paper:;; noted that the site is closed due to
radioactive contamination, among other unsavory things.


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