Though it borders the East River, no one really thinks of Williamsburg as a beachside community. But go behind some of the buildings on Kent Ave, climb down this rickety ladder taking care not to kill yourself on the rocks below…
…and you’ll find that Williamsburg does indeed have its own beach!
Sure, it’s not particularly large…
…but it’s got a great view of the Williamsburg Bridge:
And if there’s any question to its legitimacy, a little farther down the beach…
…someone has a boat moored!
At least, I think it’s moored. It may have just washed in with the tide.
And topping off the seaside air, three buoys hang artfully on a rusty chainlink fence:
OK, it’s not a particularly impressive beach, but there’s just so many in this part of Brooklyn!
There are actually a few of these scattered throughout the East and Hudson Rivers – random outcroppings of sand and decaying dock wood, which are among my favorite “abandoned” New York properties (I wrote about one at East 20th Street several months ago). There’s something endlessly fascinating to me that the land right up to New York’s coastline is worth untold billions of dollars – and then you hit the beach, and it’s just forgotten decay.
But this all clearly meant something to someone once – what was it?
HUGE thanks to reader Brooks for explaining this one – this is the former site of the Brooklyn Ferry Company’s Williamsburg Branch! From here, you could catch ferries to 23rd Street, Grand Street, and Roosevelt Island (map from 1886):
I’ve labeled where the docks used to be below:
The largest remaining portion is this enormous rock outcropping, which is visible on the 1886 map as separating the Grand Street and 23rd Street docks:
The Brooklyn Ferry Company began service on May 4, 1857.
In fact, at one point, the Broadway El train (now the JMZ) ended at the ferry!
On October 14th, 1907, the NY Times reported that the Brooklyn Ferry Company had unexpectedly announced that all Williamsburg service would be discontinued. Now, over 100 years later, it looks like a new ferry will soon be operating.
So fascinating to think that millions of Brooklyn residents once crossed the river into Manhattan here, and yet you’d have no idea by looking at its current state. The random flotsam and jetsam is pretty interesting, like this massive concrete frame:
Lots of ancient wood and iron:
A weird piece of God-knows-what perched on some rocks:
And of course, tons of tires:
More junk from the river:
The beach eventually tapers off into the rocky outcroppings that make up most of Brooklyn’s coast:
More post stubs poking up through the rocks:
This withered post is firmly embedded in a hunk of cement.
An old stopped up drain pipe:
It’s always kills me that water plays such a major roll in New York’s geography, and yet it’s completely off limits for swimming. I remember visiting Chicago for the first time and being blown away that people were actually swimming in Lake Michigan.
I always wonder if someday (a distant someday), future New Yorkers will look back on us with pity for having only been able to enjoy the river as a view.
PS – One of my most difficult scouting assignments – trying to figure out which city agency controls these little beaches. As far as I can tell, none.