2009-06-05 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Ocean Dumping Of New York City's Garbage, Dead Animals, and Refuse
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

The ocean dumping of garbage, trash, street sweeping, dead animals, butcher shop waste, ash from factories, wood, etc. reared its ugly head during the last decade of the 1800s. The beaches of the Rockaways, Coney Island, and those of eastern Long Island were all noted in newspapers of the time as being strewn with all of the above, and then some.

Even articles written about the big hotels in Rockaway Park told of this unhealthy condition at Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway. The reporters told of invisible beach inspectors and health inspectors supposedly appointed by the city, or was it Tammany Hall.

Ocean tugboats were supposed to tow their line of two or three garbage scows out to one hundred miles off shore, most likely over the Hudson River canyon, into the coastal plane eons ago, by the river of the same name.

Although the practice was ended in 1924 with the opening of … garbage landfills … there were many instances of repetitions, but investigations into the matter turned out to be a lot of garbage in the New York bight was the reason given.

In the latter years of the last century, medical syringes, medical waste and body parts were found on our beaches, and all has been quiet since washups stopped.

Today's view is of a garbage scow being dumped of its pleasant cargo that was published in Harper's Weekly, in September of 1892. The article with same was titled, "Defilers of the Beach."

When our sewage disposal plants went into operation decades ago, photos and articles in newspapers told of solid wastes from these plants being dumped closer to shore by the "Honey Boats" used for this purpose. Oh well!

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