While visiting the major, most popular attractions of New York City can be fun, it can also be stressful, overwhelming and full of selfie-taking tourists. However, the great thing about the Big Apple is that plenty of other attractions exist that are far less known or even hidden in plain sight. To go beyond the tourist-filled sites and tour the city like you’re seeing it for the very first time, check out 6sqft’s list ahead of the 20 best underground, secret spots in New York City.
Dead Horse Bay
Photo by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft
Covered with bottles, ceramics, and other 1950s household items and debris, Dead Horse Bay is a treasure trove in southern Brooklyn for collectors and historians. Last August, the National Park Service closed the southern part of the refuse-filled spot after finding radioactive contamination. Now, a petition has launched urging the NPS to collect and preserve as much as the debris as possible at Dead Horse Bay ahead of its planned cleanup of the site.
Dead Horse Bay is a small body of water in Brooklyn that got its name from the horse rendering plants that were on the former Barren Island in Jamaica Bay near the shoreline of Flatlands. In the late 1850s, Barren Island was the site of the largest dump in New York City, fed by barges carrying garbage and animal remains. Factories on the island used the carcasses of horses, which were put in large vats and boiled until the fat could be removed, for use in fertilizer, glue, and oils. The bones of the horses were then chopped up and dumped into the water. Starting in 1930, the island also became the site of the first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett) after the city filled in marshland to connect it to the mainland.
The last horse rendering factory on the island closed in 1935 and in 1936, the island’s final 400 residents were evicted to make way for the creation of the Belt Parkway. The City continued using the area as a garbage dump until 1953 when the landfill was capped. Since 1972, the area surrounding Dead Horse Bay has been part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We joined Robin Nagle, NYC Department of Sanitation’s Anthropologist-in-Residence for an exclusive exploration of Dead Horse Bay earlier this year with the City Reliquary Museum and had a chance to speak with her about this mysterious area, which is strewn with glass bottles, fragments of centuries-old horse bones, and mounds of trash.
The collectors of curious things at Atlas Obscura bring us the work of Underwater New York, a fascinating catalogue of all the weird stuff that’s been found bobbing, sinking or washed-up from the murky depths of the city’s waterways, from a giraffe skeleton to a grand piano, with a bag of lottery tickets thrown in for good measure. In a fascinating study in what-is-it-and-where-is-it-coming from, founder Nicki Pombier Berger and the site’s editors and contributors (artists, filmmakers, musicians, photographers and other storytellers) create contexts for the curiosities that find their way to this aquatic lost and found.
New York City waterways, like the swampy southern Brooklyn beach known as Dead Horse Bay, and their submerged treasures are the inspiration for works in this digital gallery of sorts. Berger and fellow editors Helen Georgas and Nicole Haroutunian compile a growing list (it currently contains 150 objects) of waterfront finds that they’ve discovered via everything from news articles to anecdotes. Contributors are encouraged to use the objects to weave their stories in whatever medium they choose.
Image via Wendy Perrin
In a city where hundreds of interesting happenings occur each week, it can be hard to pick and choose your way to a fulfilling life. Art Nerd‘s philosophy is a combination of observation, participation, education and of course a party to create the ultimate well-rounded week. Jump ahead for Art Nerd founder Lori Zimmer’s top end of week picks for 6sqft readers!
A weekend of adventure awaits your beckoning call. Choose your own adventure: a cruise on the high seas whilst dressed as a sea monster (or sea siren if that’s your preference), sleep amidst the taxidermy animals at an adult sleepover hosted by the American Museum of Natural History, or get dirty and explore “Old New York” through trash at Dead Horse Bay with Abandoned NYC.
Feeling less adventurous? You can always learn about our ever-changing city at Van Alen’s latest exhibition with the Gentrification Lab NYC, which reconnects the role of architecture with expansion. Try out a different kind of studio visit with dancer and artist Jillian Peña, who will perform her new architecturally-influenced dance and actually take time to explain it to visitors, or check a screening of the Swedish film making waves with its representation of transgender life at Pioneer Works. Enjoy the new José Parlá pieces outdoors at The Standard High Line while sipping cocktails from the garden. Lastly, trek to Times Square late at night as artists Os Gemeos take over the ad screens for Midnight Moment all month long.