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Nautical, Overgrown, Wild Places

Brooklyn Wild: Gravesend’s Accidental Park

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An abandoned boat wades in a narrow cove between Calvert Vaux Park and the vacant lot.

It seems like every square inch of New York City has been categorized, labeled, and filled beyond capacity.  But if you know where to look on the fringes of the city, you can still find places without names.

On the waterfront of Gravesend, Brooklyn, such a place still stands. It’s an all but untraveled wedge of vacant land, nestled between aging marinas and the northern border of Calvert Vaux Park on Bay 44th St. It’s a place I can only call “the secret park,” but there’s no mention of it on the department’s website. In its place, the all-knowing Google maps shows only a dull gray transected by the mysterious Westshore Avenue, though no such road exists.

A praying mantis seeks refuge in the tall grasses of the secret park.

A praying mantis seeks refuge in the tall grasses of the secret park.

The small peninsula was born out of the construction of the Verrazano Bridge in the 1960s when excavated material from the project was deposited on the shore of Gravesend Bay. Most of the new land was incorporated into the existing Drier-Offerman Park, but for some reason, this small finger of land was left out of the plan. Through the 1970s, it served as an illegal junkyard, but by 1982, developers came forward with a plan to construct a seaside residential development at the site. Apparently, the project never came to fruition. The city of New York suggests environmental remediation as a condition for future development.

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Concrete construction debris can be found throughout the lot.

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The peninsula has few trees aside from these saplings.

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The ruins of an old marina rot on the northern edge of the property.

Inside a wooded section behind the baseball fields of Calvert Vaux Park.

Lush foliage thrives in a wooded section behind the baseball fields of Calvert Vaux Park.

On the north shore of the peninsula, decaying pilings show the outline of a former pier and odd construction debris lie scattered throughout the landscape. A family of squatters lives comfortably out of industrial containers near the lot’s entrance, where a handful of abandoned watercraft comes to the surface at low tide. Beer cans and fire pits point to recent nights of youthful revelry, but by daytime, fishermen flock to this desolate place to cast their lines into the muddy gray waters of Gravesend Bay. At the shoreline, a few minutes of rock flipping will fetch you dozens of small green crabs. On a recent visit, I was amazed to meet two hunter/gatherers harvesting these fruits of the sea by the bucket, though I wasn’t tempted to try one.

I’d wager that it won’t be long before the development potential of the site is realized, but for the time being, the unkempt wilds of the secret park offer a rustic alternative to the paved walkways and manicured lawns of our city parks. If you’re ever looking to live off the land in New York City, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable spot to pitch a tent.

A local man hunts for crabs under the rocks.

A local man goes crab hunting.

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The sun sets on a creek at the north side of Gravesend’s secret park.

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Discussion

10 thoughts on “Brooklyn Wild: Gravesend’s Accidental Park

  1. Will, your photos really capture the mysterious and wild beauty of this forgotten piece of land.

    Posted by Shelley Montague Ellis | 2-2-14., 4:36 pm
  2. Thanks.

    Sent from Windows Mail

    Posted by Ligor Bass | 2-2-14., 7:48 pm
  3. This is totally amazing, So was this place just forgotten or man made with debris?

    Posted by Lisa Newmarch | 2-2-14., 10:21 pm
  4. Will, thanks so much….it was a short time since your last post and I was delighted to get an email about this new one…..always look forward to them.

    Posted by Frank | 2-3-14., 5:50 am
  5. GREAT FIND. I have lived in area for 36 years. Knew something was back there but never sure what was. Great Photos & find.

    Posted by ed | 2-24-14., 12:21 pm
  6. This place is is awesome to walk around in, its full of cool stuff, especially old derelict boats. If you want to see it then you should go now since its slowly turning into a park due to its popularity with some soccer leagues.

    Posted by SeaMammal | 3-1-14., 9:53 pm
  7. My family and I familiar with this place since 1996, We named this area: “There, where the grass is tall.” Up to the construction Calvert Vaux Park here was real wild live: I myself have seen rabbits, peacocks, herons. In winters there were a lot of Canadians gees. Now it is the past, that cannot come back. But what can be done that to keep empty spaces, trees and bushes as they are. One more thing: this place should clean more often. Many times I put there my tent and slept in it. It was great!

    Posted by Aleksandr Bystritskiy | 4-14-14., 5:15 pm

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  1. Pingback: Linkage: SI’s Turkey Nat’l Park; Why Americans Hate Commuting; More! – insiderater.com - 2-4-14.

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