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

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 we 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.

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

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

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.

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 peninsula has few trees aside from these saplings.

The peninsula has few trees aside from these saplings.

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, we were amazed to meet two hunter/gatherers harvesting these fruits of the sea by the bucket, though we weren’t tempted to try one.

Concrete construction debris can be found throughout the lot.

Concrete construction debris can be found throughout the lot.

Lush foliage thrives in 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.

We 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 goes crab hunting.

A local man goes crab hunting.

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

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

For more history and photos of mysterious places across the five boroughs, check out AbandonedNYC.com and the Abandoned column on Untapped Cities. Follow Abandoned NYC project on Facebook for updates.

3 Comments

  1. Linus Ly says:

    Thx for the info. I already explored the wilder section of Calvert Vaux and recently got curious about Westshore Avenue.

  2. Will Ellis says:

    You’re right phredd, looks like you can still make out the curb, but I didn’t notice it at the time. It’s interesting to see how clearly the footpaths are defined in the satellite view.

  3. phredd groves says:

    If you look carefully at the satellite photos on google maps, it appears that a road matching the course of “Westshore Ave.” did exist there at one time.

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