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Abandoned, Nautical

Talking Trash in Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary

Yellowing remains of a small vessel permanently docked in Dubos Point.

Yellowing remains of a small vessel permanently docked in Dubos Point.

Take the A train past JFK. You’ll be one of a handful of travelers left on a car that seemed well over capacity a moment ago; the babble of the crowd fades to the soft hum of an unimpeded machine.  Nobody asks you for money, or directions.  If you’ve made it this far, you know where you’re going.

Suddenly, the ground drops out and you’re gliding over the silver Jamaica Bay.  The train runs just above sea level, skimming over a surface that teems visibly with diving cormorants.  Clustered with skeletal boat frames, aged marinas jut from a neglected shoreline across the water, to the west, a row of painted houses stand on stilts. There’s no place like the Rockaways to experience New York as a city by the sea.

Head east at Hammels Wye, and a brief walk through the quiet neighborhood of Averne will lead you to a little known peninsula called Dubos Point, one of the last fragments of salt marsh left in a city that was once ringed with tidal wetlands.  The marsh was filled with dredged materials in 1912 in preparation for an ill-fated real estate development, but over the last century, the area has reverted to its natural state.  In 1988, the land was acquired by the Parks Department, deemed a wildlife sanctuary, and given an official name for the first time (Rene Dubos was a microbiologist and environmental activist who coined the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally”).

Parks officials envisioned marked nature trails and boardwalks for community use, and planned to build nesting structures and employ part-time patrol staff to encourage wildlife and keep the place clean, but none of this came to be.  The Audubon Society of New York maintained the grounds sporadically until 1999, but abandoned its post citing a lack of resources.  Since then, the area has been largely neglected, leaving its care up to volunteers.  Green Apple Corps and the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance have orchestrated several clean-up events over the years, but they’re facing an uphill battle.

Garbage piled up on the bank.

Garbage and driftwood piled up on the bank.

Every day, the shores of Dubos Point are bombarded with an onslaught of garbage, and it’s not coming from park visitors (the preserve is technically not open to the public).  Most of the refuse is washed up from the bay, after a long journey through storm drains that began in the littered streets of New York City. Familiar objects are made strange, touched by a long encounter with an invisible world, caked with green algae, eroded with salt, barnacle-burdened and bleached by the sun. The entire peninsula resounds with the constant susurration of wind through grass. For all these reeds are hiding, perhaps they whisper secrets; mud-moored vessels, decaying toys, and saltbored furniture lay half-concealed in the tidal growth.

A boat moored in a reedy grave.

A boat moored in a reedy grave.

Standing water in old tires and plastic debris makes for a perfect breeding ground for the area’s most populous species.  My first steps onto the grounds of Dubos Point seemed to disturb some ancient curse, as great swarms of mosquitoes rose from their stagnant hollows to draw my blood sacrifice. The Parks department has been criticized in the past for neglecting its duties at Dubos Point while mosquito infestation reached “plague proportions” in the late 90s, rendering backyards unusable from April to October.  After years of complaints and little improvement, some residents resorted to building outdoor shelters for brown bats, a natural insect predator.  Today, the only visible improvement made on the grounds of Dubos Point is a line of Mosquito Magnet kiosks, placed every 100 feet along the boundary of the preserve.

A toy car abandoned in the marsh

A toy car abandoned in the marsh

Despite decades of pollution, the Jamaica Bay harbors hundreds of species of wildlife, and the water is cleaner today than it was 100 years ago.  As one of the last remaining pockets of undeveloped land in New York, the estuary supplies an essential resting place for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway; egrets, herons, and peregrine falcons are spotted here. Looking past the garbage, you can still make out the natural beauty of Dubos Point, and imagine what this whole region was like 400 years ago. Neck-high cordgrass is abundant, trapping bits of decayed organisms to fuel a thriving, though limited, ecosystem.  Throngs of fiddler crabs crowd the soggy ground, scuttling sideways with one collective mind, crunching underfoot like eggshells. The breezy silence is only interrupted by an occasional splash from a jumping fish, or the roar of a plane, taking off from the crowded runways of JFK just across the water. Off the curling tip of Dubos Point, fishermen still cast their lines in the Sommerville Basin, affirming a bond we’ve all but lost.

12,000 of the original 16,000 acres of wetlands around the Jamaica Bay have already been filled in for development, and sources predict that the last of the saltwater marshes could disappear in the next 20 years. It’s a shame to see one of the few protected areas in this condition, when its potential for education and recreation is so apparent. New York needs to protect its wild spaces, and sometimes that means getting our hands dirty. To learn about volunteer opportunities with the Parks Department, visit their website.  And check back for information on the next Dubos Point clean-up.

Decaying Hull festers in the noonday sun

A decaying hull festers in the noonday sun.

A beach shelter built from salvaged garbage and tarps.

A beach shelter built from salvaged garbage and tarps.

A single shoe stranded amid nautical debris.

A single shoe stranded amid nautical debris.

Skeletal remains of a water vessel.

Skeletal remains of a water vessel.

Rotting pilings show that this land was once used for something.

Rotting pilings point to an earlier use for the land.

Barnacled motors stuck in the sand.

Barnacled motors stuck in the sand.

Desolate Marshlands

A desolate area of the marsh.

Dead ends abound where the street meets the water in quiet Averne.

Dead ends abound where streets meet the Sommerville basin.

Not a wildlife sanctuary, this is a actually a sidewalk.

This may look like a wildlife sanctuary, but it’s actually a sidewalk.

An overgrown lot advertising yet another housing development.

An overgrown lot advertising yet another housing development.

Don't Litter

Don’t Litter.


 

 


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2 thoughts on “Talking Trash in Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary

  1. Love it

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    Posted by ellis3000 | 12-12-12., 1:14 pm

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  1. Pingback: Abandoned NYC: Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary | Street Ethics - 4-13-13.

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Another view of the Kreischer Street worker's houses through the seasons.
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#abandonednyc #abandoned #abandonedplaces #oldhouse #nyclandmarks #statenisland #outerboroughs #anotherplace #somewheremagazine #newyorkcity #seasons #timelapse #snow Kreischer Street, Staten Island.
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A row of landmarked workers' houses stand frozen in time on Kreischer Street, in view of the famous (and haunted) Kreischer Mansion in Charleston, SI. They were provided to employees of the Kreischer Brick Works, which operated on the waterfront here in the late 19th century.
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Check out the blog for more on the history of "Kreischerville." (link in profile)
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#arthurkillroad #arthurkill #nyc #outerboroughs #somewheremagazine  #picketfence #abandonednyc #oldhouses #oldhouse #oldhouselove #nylandmarks #nyclandmark (2/2) Enterprising beachcombers can still find colorful Atlantic tiles if they hunt long enough, but regular bricks are more common.  Strangely, their manufacturer's marks point to a wide range of origins, some from as far away as Texas and Missouri.
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(🔗 in profile for more views of NYC's "South Pole")
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#brickcollecting #brickhunting #beachcombing #tottenville #arthurkill #abandonednyc #abandonedplaces #statenisland #urbanexpliration #abandoned #nychistory #nyhistory (1/2) This unassuming patch of waterfront in Tottenville holds the remains of the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company, which made colorful architectural ornaments for many notable NYC buildings, including the Woolworth and the Flatiron.  The rubble was piled up on the edge of the Arthur Kill after the factory was demolished in the 1940s.
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(🔗 in profile for more views of NYC's "South Pole")
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#brickcollecting #brickhunting #beachcombing #tottenville #arthurkill #abandonednyc #abandonedplaces #statenisland #urbanexpliration #abandoned #nychistory #nyhistory A view of the Arthur Kill at dusk, with Outerbridge on the horizon.
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The name of the waterway is an anglicized version of the Dutch "achter kill" meaning back river or channel, referring to its position at the "back" of Staten Island.
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In an area rife with supposed hauntings, the Arthur Kill is itself a kind of ghost. The route was formed by an ancestral iteration of the Hudson River.
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Glacial activity altered the course to its current position but the vestigial strait remained, isolating a sneaker-shaped landmass. Staten Island was born.
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The Arthur Kill is home to several lesser-known "boat graveyards" in addition to the world-famous ship graveyard in Rossville.  This one sits off the Charleston waterfront.
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More photos and history on the blog (link in profile)
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#abandoned #abandonednyc #abandonedplaces #shipgraveyard #lostplaces #urbanexploration #urbex #outerboroughs #statenisland #silive #shipwreck #boatgraveyard #originstory #arthurkill #arthurkillroad #nycprimeshot #nyhistory #nyhistoricalsociety #nyc #newyork Outerbridge Crossing happens to be the outermost bridge in NYC, but it's named for Eugenius Outerbridge, first chairman of the Port of New York Authority, now the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "Outerbridge Bridge" wouldn't do, so they deemed it a crossing.
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See more in my latest post on the blog outlining the remote edges of Tottenville and Charleston, the "South Pole" of New York State. (Link in profile)
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#urbanexploration #bridges #nycbridges #bridgesofinstagram #arthurkill #tottenville #urbanwilderness #nyc #newyorkcity #silive #urbex #underthebridge #longexposure #daylightlongexposure #topnewyorkphoto #statenisland #outerboroughs #newyork_ig New post up on the blog today highlights a few areas of interest near the "South Pole" of New York, including this little-known bus graveyard. 🏚🚌 (link in profile)
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I might not have been the first to discover this place, but it was new to me when I stumbled across it in May 2015.  I revisited a few times to capture it in different seasons, it's a beautiful scene any time of year.
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#abandoned #abandonedplaces #urbex #urbanexploration #graveyard #exploreeverything #nyc #statenisland #abandonedworld #seasons #snow #urbandecay #abandonednyc Disappearing into fog, from the Brooklyn side... Any Bay Ridgeites remember what used to be on these signs?

#verrazanobridge #verrazano #bayridge #brookyn #nyc #newyork #newyork_ig #newyorkcity #fog #foggy #moodygrams #water #longexposure #weather #nycprimeshot #bridgestagram Borough residents speak longingly of Staten Island before the opening of the Verrazano Bridge in 1964.
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Country roads meandered through sweeping forests, quiet beach communities, and open expanses of farmland crawling with nanny goats.
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More history up on the blog (🔗 in profile)

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