Gerritsen Beach may be one of the quietest and most tight-knit neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Located between Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach is a secluded peninsula in the southern part of the borough. The neighborhood consists primarily of quaint, tightly packed bungalows and homes on narrow, short streets. Many have described the community as family-oriented and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. Gerritsen Beach boats a handful of businesses, views of the Plumb Channel, and Gerritsen Creek. Despite its relative insularity from the rest of the city, Gerritsen Beach has quite a few fascinating historical secrets. Here are eight secrets of Gerritsen Beach.
1. There is an uninhabited island off the coast of Gerritsen Beach that hosted a mock naval battle
Off of Gerritsen Beach is an uninhabited island named Mau Mau Island, or White Island. The island sits in an inlet between Gerritsen Beach and the Marine Park Golf Club, visible from a rather secret beach at the east of Gerritsen Beach Park. The abandoned island is actually manmade and is potentially under 100 years old. The area was originally a salt marsh, 150 acres of which were donated by Frederic B. Pratt, the son of Pratt Institute founder Charles Pratt, and Alfred Tredway White, the Wall Street philanthropist behind Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Some sources say the island came into existence after 1917, though it likely formed as late as 1934. Robert Moses created nearby Marine Park by taking the city’s trash to fill marshlands, as ocean dumping had been banned a few years earlier. Funnily enough, Moses took sand from the excavation of the Belt Parkway and layered it on top of the garbage of Mau Mau Island, which restored some of the greenery.
In 2011, NYC Parks began a restoration project that would restore the salt marsh and bird habitat. Also in 2011, a mock naval battle on Mau Mau Island made local headlines. A small artists’ collective called Swimming Cities hosted the naval battle that included “gangs” like Notorious G.I.G. and S.S. Botulism that assembled makeshift sea vessels. The gangs competed in boat jousting and rowing races around the island. The island is now considered a bird sanctuary and can also be viewed from a nature trail at the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center.