Dead Horse Bay

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Dead Horse Bay

Across the street from Floyd Bennett Field are the remnants of an earlier piece of history, a bit of beach called Dead Horse Bay. Before there was an airport here, this piece of land was a separate island called Barren Island.

From the middle of the nineteenth century through the early twentieth, this was the remote area of town where New York City shipped its garbage, to be transformed through a process known as waste reduction. Factories on the island basically boiled animal carcasses and other organic materials down into grease, oils, and fertilizer, substances that could be reused. Dead Horse Bay refers to the dead animals brought here on barges to Jamaica Bay to be boiled down into new industrial products. An entire community lived out here, isolated from the rest of Brooklyn, working in the factories that dealt with the inevitable by-products of city living.

After the waste reduction factories were closed to appease communities living upwind, there was still a landfill on the island, a landfill which closed in the thirties when Robert Moses evicted the remaining inhabitants and bulldozed their homes. The topsoil cap on this landfill burst in the 1950’s, and decades of trash started leaking into the sea.

Today scavengers flock to the beach to collect things; they find a small beach covered in old bottles, stockings, leather shoe soles, an engine or two, the occasional boat. You can hear the tinkling of glass as the water laps the shoreline.

There’s a debate online about whether these people are removing history, taking archaeological items of interest from a National Park, or helping to clean a beach. Though it seems abandoned and neglected, this bit of land is technically under the auspices of the National Park Service, and it is technically illegal to take things from a National Park.

Not that anyone seems to be paying attention. And there are streams of people taking old glass bottles and carts of random finds.

Would you like to know more? Luckily, new pamphlets are here, just in time to answer all your lingering waste reduction questions. Many have gone in the mail already, and more are about to go out soon enough. I hope you enjoy them, I think they turned out quite nice. The first pamphlet of the year covers Floyd Bennett and Dead Horse Bay, and I hope will be a decent introduction to Jamaica Bay in general.

And more importantly, would you like to see these places for yourself? Next Sunday, May 21st I’m going to do a walking tour of Dead Horse Bay and Floyd Bennett Field. We’ll look at some old airplanes and listen to the glass tinkle. Email me at sarah at sarah nicholls dot com to RSVP so I know that you’re coming. We’ll meet at the 2 train station on Flatbush to take the bus down Flatbush together at 11am. I hope you can make it.


The Last Mile is the Hardest Mile

Category : type, Uncategorized

Everything is coated in ice, I haven’t run regularly for weeks, there’s always more snow in the forecast, and I have a serious issue with that groundhog.

2014-12-18 17.49.55

And why haven’t I been blogging? Too busy furiously setting type. And distributing. And setting. And distributing. Repeat. Repeat again.

The end is nigh. More soon.

This week

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benefit madness

I’m frantically trying to finish 2000 invitations to the Center for Book Arts Annual Benefit and Auction (which you should come to! or donate to! or bid on the online auction which I’m also frantically putting together! Among a multitude of other things! Like a spring schedule! And a summer schedule!). I am also trying to understand why my internet service is so terrible, and why it’s snowing in March, and trying to make time to figure out where to stay in Berlin, and failing, and attempting to start training for the Brooklyn Half.

So I have very little to say about birds this week, other than go look at this! and go read this!


In the interest of research for my new book, I went to the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday; it’s a strange place, which I haven’t visited in years. I thought I knew what natural history was, but perhaps I’m wrong about that. In any case, I enjoyed taxidermy at its finest. Birds of the World! (and also of NY State.)

passenger pigeon


Also some mammals:

Buffalo and friend

Again and again and again and again and again and again

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1. You know why I’m writing this post? So that I can distract myself from hitting ‘refresh’ on over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. Why does the internet turn me into one of those lab rats they feed cocaine to?

2. Hello, I’m fine, my family’s fine, everything’s fine. I survived the natural disaster fine. Many other people aren’t fine; please consider helping them. No, I’m not sad we didn’t have a marathon.

3. Commuting:

Why I hate the bus:

New Pamphlet!!:

3. I’m going to try to concentrate on working on a new book tonight, if I can keep myself away for long enough from election results.

4. Also, this:


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My last 20 mile training run is done; I’m ready to go for the Marathon. Bam! I took 10 minutes off of my half-marathon time last week at the Staten Island Half and am feeling good. Well, sore at the moment, but in a good way.

First of two.

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I ran 20 miles today like a beast. Rawr.

One more 20 miler to go before the marathon. I would tell you about the exciting productive weekend I had, but I always feel slow and stupid after a long run. I”ll save it for tomorrow.