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Barren Island

- CartLegger - Friday, August 3rd, 2007 : goo

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image 22415
In this city, in this world, just about everything is on the map.

image 22418
But maps can't capture everything.

image 22416
Barren Island is close, as shown on the map, but so far away from everything else in the city.

image 22421
Its past--as the city's trash dump and rendering plant--is just beneath the surface, and always washing up.

image 22419
If you are after treasure of a trashy kind, this is the place to go. Here's my stash, which I just gave away yesterday.

image 22420
But you can make it there on your own. Just follow this handy google treasure map.,-73.892792&spn=0.013853,0.028925&z=15&om=1

Make Barren Island's treasure a part of your own home--and help clean up this beautiful and forgotten beach.

This article has been viewed 33854 times in the last 9 years

jack: 3rd Aug 2007 - 15:05 GMT

too dirty and trashy, i was there many years ago when it was an ok place to run around, floyd bennett had air shows that were spectacular, the beaches were clean, breezy point was nice and clean and the water was not yet pollutted, time changes everything, people have to believe they want change and must take responsibility and clean up their act.

jack: 3rd Aug 2007 - 15:07 GMT

good pic's cart. nice to see that area again. thanks, perhaps we will run into each other taking pictures and we will know by our cameras or the big letters on my tee shirt that say's, "smile, your on citinoise".

jack: hey i'll buy a tee shirt to support citynoise.

CartLegger: 3rd Aug 2007 - 15:32 GMT

great idea Jack! A CityNoise T-shirt. I love it.

kayak girl: 3rd Aug 2007 - 19:15 GMT

Barren Island is the coolest. At the height of the rendering plants' days they had their own schools, hospitals, etc. It was a real community and had a majority of African American citizens. Some of the other islands in Jamaica Bay were also habitated. Ruffle Bar, for instance, had hotels, Oystering companies as well as some houses - the children that lived there had to row to the Rockaways for school. That island is also very good for finding remants from the past. I have found intact clay pipes and lots and lots of bottles. I reach the island by kayak, out of the Sebago Canoe Club in Canarsie, we're on Paerdegat Basin. Look us up: Cheers!

CartLegger: 3rd Aug 2007 - 21:46 GMT

here's some more historical background, compliment's of PBS POV program--the Spambot won't let me attach a link, so read below:

Barren Island, which appears on few modern maps, holds a special place in the city's garbage history. In the late 1850s, the first of many factories opened on this previously uninhabited island and began turning menhaden, an oily herring-like fish caught in local waters, into fertilizer

Scheming city politicians soon arranged to send household garbage this way, too. In the busy season, laborers unloaded seven or eight scows -- large, flat-bottomed boats with square ends -- a day, a total of 3,000 tons of refuse from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, in addition to the daily horse boat, which held as many as fifty dead horses, plus cows, cats, dogs and pigs. Workers picked through the garbage for valuables, then boiled or steamed the rest in fifteen-foot-high steel cylinders

By 1860, writes Benjamin Miller in Fat of the Land, the island had "the largest concentration of offal industries in the world," producing 50,000 tons of oils, and tens of thousands of tons of grease, fertilizer and other products (bone black, hides, iron and tin) worth more than $10 million a year.

Politics and economics closed manufacturing plants through the 1920s, and by 1935 the single remaining factory on Barren Island was dismantled.

In 1936, the city planner Robert Moses evicted the last residents of Barren Island in order to build his Marine Park Bridge, which brought motorists over the Bay to the Rockaway Peninsula

BelRoC: 3rd Aug 2007 - 22:30 GMT

I never knew about this.
Sounds like my kind of place.

colavitos ghost: 3rd Aug 2007 - 23:57 GMT

jack: you say this beach is "too dirty and too trashy"...

do you believe you want change? if so, go clean up this beach!

in related news, all cleveland area readers: this sunday i'm organizing a beach sweep at the old perkins beach (to the west of edgewater). anyone who believes they want change is welcome to come help clean up! just email me at for details.

steve di pierdomenico: 7th Aug 2007 - 22:03 GMT

I arrived at Barren Island in 1929 as a 5 yr old. In the late "30rs,as a teen.I would screen the old dumps, and many summers dig up a coffee can of gold--from baby rings to chains which we sold. Commish. Moses moved us all out of there in about 1939 to make room for Floyd Bennet NAS.

CartLegger: 8th Aug 2007 - 12:00 GMT

Thanks so much for writing. I did not know I was joining in a local tradition. Too bad I did not find any gold!

But there is still so much else there to be found, and not just in the sands, but in the folks who dug there. If you have any other memories, please consider sharing them here.

steve : 10th Aug 2007 - 00:24 GMT

Cartlegger; I'll try to be brief with some details. Please don't hold me to the exact dates because I am going back from memory and not researching. Barren Island as we knew it was bordered by the south boundary of Floyd Bennett Field and east of Flatbush Avenue. Halfway between the airport fence and the ferry slip(before the Marine Parkway Bridge) there was a road about a mile long that went from Flatbush Avenue east to Jamaica Bay. That was called Main Street. It must have been the only Main Street in Brooklyn because we received our mail as Main Street, Brooklyn. Prior to 1936 there were many families who lived on Barren Island. You said that the city planner, Robert Moses, moved the people out of Barren Island. What he did was move only half of them out. We lived at 49 Main Street which was about the eviction line, and we moved farther east to #3 Main Street. So between 1936 and 1939 there were about 30 families still on Barren Island. Our school --P.S.120 (I remember 2 teachers, the principal, Miss Shaw, and another teacher named Miss Contillo) -- was torn down in or about 1936 when the west half of the island was evicted. Our church was left and used by the remaining people. After P.S. 120 was torn down we had to walk to Flatbush Ave to catch the bus that took us to P.S. 207 or 208. At that time, about 1936 they also tore down the remaining "horse" factory that was near the ferry slip. The "garbage" factory (that received hotel garbage from NYC)was closed down right before the expansion of Floyd Bennett Field, about 1929. This garbage from the city hotels was rendered to recover the oils and fats. In the garbage there was much silverware and other refuse from the hotels which included many coins and good jewelry. Most silverware and larger items were picked out by the workers on its way to the rendering. Many coins and jewelry went thru the rendering process and then were dumped out in an area called the "dumps". It was in this area, as a teenager, I would screen the dirt for "valuables." From Indianhead pennies, to gold pieces and even diamond pins. When reading the comments from others, I sense that we are talking about 2 different garbage "dumps." After the oil factory shut down in the late 20's, Barren Island was very, very clean. No garbage sites! So the garbage that is talked about along the beaches has to be manmade in the past few years! If you have any specific questions, I will try to answer them.

CartLegger: 11th Aug 2007 - 05:44 GMT

STeve: I think this makes sense. As I have heard people refer to BI as a dump in the 30s-50s. I wrongly assumed this was a continuity from an earlier time, but I see I am wrong. Thanks for illuminating my misunderstanding, and letting me know that we are bigger slobs than I suspected!

viola grand-daughter of carl willis: 4th Sep 2007 - 03:19 GMT

My sisters and I are trying to find the burial site of our great-grandfather, Smith Foster. It is rumored that Miss Shaw (P.S. 120) gave permission for him to be buried in her plot. We are trying to find out where she died and where she is buried. We have reached so many dead ends...can you help us? Please email me directly ay and please cc my sister Vicki at If anyone reading this blog has any information to help us we would appreciate your information. Thanks!

Flo Lindstrom: 4th Jan 2008 - 23:52 GMT

my mother was born in 1912 and raised on Barren Island. I'm 68 yrs old and my earliest memory is of a being attacked by a "giant" chicken. In retrospect, since I was only 2 yrs old, guess the chicken was normal size. From what I can remember being told, when the island was turned into Floyd Bennet Field, all existing graves were exhumed and moved. My mother had a brother buried there.

Barbara Schneider: 2nd Feb 2008 - 11:09 GMT

My Grandparents had the first store on Barron Island the Hilinski General store and butcher shop. in the early 1900's. I have and old picture of it, but I have heard there is a picture of it in a book about Barron Island I want to find the book. All of my family settle on Barren Island, The Hilinski, The Schneider's & The Gunyans. My other grandfather was a captin of his own tug boat. If any one has any information on this please leave a msg. thanks

Ronald V. Regan, Sr.: 12th Feb 2008 - 22:12 GMT

My mother (Paula/Polla) Zelius (married nams Regan) was born on BArren Island in 1906. HEr mother was Genevive, and dad was Vincente' Zelius.
There were a total of five children in the Zelius family. By age they was Benjiman (Benny)... a real fisherman and newspaper figure and great stripped Bass sportsman, those many years ago. When he died, the Long Island Daily Press wrote a nice article on him. Then there was Josie, More on her later... then Polla (my Mother) who ran away from home at age 14 as a baby-sitter for a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and his wife and three siblings. Mom traveled on U.S. Navy ships from Brooklyn, Philedelphia, to Hawaii... Later to unmapped ___ Island. When she returned some 4 years later, she was always asked about her journey. Even her Dad and Mom forgave her unsolicited travels.
The remainder of the siblings consisted of sister Bertha, and Vincente' Jr. (known as Willie to everyone).

There is so much and I fail to read any good info on Barren Islanders. Your recent group had a few neat and informative pieces of information on the fish/horse rendering business (Pew !) But the Zelius clan loved the life there until they were told to move !


Ronald V. Regan (Old Glendale, L.I. boy)


Linda Larson Brooks: 19th Feb 2008 - 04:34 GMT

I grew up in Flatlands Bay. Some of the people from Barren Island moved to the bay. Schnieder sounds familiar. I know the Lissenden's moved there too. My uncle Bud Ackermann delivered groceries from Rolston's on Flatbush Av. to the island. The whole area is no longer, thanks to Robert Moses!!!

Lorraine whitford: 26th Feb 2008 - 00:23 GMT

My grandfather grew up on barren Island. My grandmother worked at her aunts candy store during the summers.My graet grandmother bought the jailhouse on Barron Island and moved it to bergen beach. I grew up in that old jail house. I would love to find pictures of life on BI back in the day!

Michael Aronne: 16th May 2008 - 15:31 GMT

I grew up at Barren Island Marina in the early 1980's thru late 2000 and still go back. I grew up sein netting and combing those beaches from the one bridge the belt Pkwy goes over to the Marine pkwy bridge. I believe there is stuff that gets washed out in that whole area. We used to find old dishes and ll kinds of trash there when I was 12. Even an old marble once. We used to smash the dishes over the oyster shell beds on the beach at low tide. Who knew they were old. Probably china dishes. They were all patterned. Live and learn I guess.

Barbara Schneider: 21st May 2008 - 10:20 GMT

I just visited my Great Aunt Veronica Hilinski Maiden name (Zawatzki) Nick name (Fanny) She was lived on Barren Isand before she married, she is now 93 she said that her house was the first house to burn down on Barren Isalnd, She was at the Cathlic church at the time.She said that she remembers the horse factory and that it smelled bad. I think her father was hust or killed in that fire. If anyone has any infor please leave MSG. thanks

steve : 22nd May 2008 - 22:24 GMT

To Linda Larson----Joan Lissenden was my age and schoolmate at P.S.120 on Barren Island. She passed away about the start of WW2. I remember her as a very nice girl who was left-handed

Vincent Luisi: 5th Jul 2008 - 11:47 GMT

I guess we as consumers consume to much. It has to go somewhere and the Barren Islands of this world are there for the dumping. I for one will try to consume a lot less.

Rareity: 21st Jul 2008 - 20:21 GMT

I live in Marine Park- not too far from what was Barren Island. I'm 25 now but years back a friend and I stumbled upon a reference to Barren Island and had to go down to grand army plaza to find out any further info. Since then I've been hooked. I see more information is slowing coming to light, and I think it's great those who had first hand experience with BI shared their knowledge. I would like that to continue- especially in the wikipedia article devoted to Barren Island- so we never lose the experiences of those there and everyone can share them.

jan: 28th Sep 2008 - 20:37 GMT

My grandparents (Rankin) and my Mom later (Raney) lived on Barren Island for a lot of years-they brought their houses by boat to "Bergan Beach" to continue living, They had to leave because of Floyd Bennet Field. I have heard many stories expecially about the mosquitos that were like horse flies! If anyone recognizes my family, I'd love to "talk with you". Thanks!!! :-)

Linda Larson May 29, 2009: 30th May 2009 - 03:08 GMT

To Steve,
The Lissenden family lived up the street from us on Kimball St., in Flatlands Bay. They were wonderful people. The baby Betty is the only one left and I haven't seen her in years. She looked very much like Joan and was still beautiful when I last saw her. Joan passed away in about 1950 at age 24.

SanZay: 11th Jun 2009 - 02:48 GMT

Thingy similar to the one in the aforementioned image
image 22416
is rusting somewhere between the bicycle lane and not far from scenic view on Belt Parkway. What it might be? submarine? Wooden spaceship?

Sanzay: 11th Jun 2009 - 03:52 GMT

kayak girl, is this you on the following picture? Or someone you know?
image 32668
Originally from "Plum Beach"
She is from too.

Joan Mason: 29th Jul 2009 - 21:57 GMT

To Linda and Steve -

I believe the Joan Lissenden you speak of is my grandmother. I was lightly researching to find any information about her as she passed away when my mother was only 2. She was 25. I would love any memories you have of her. It made me cry to read your comments as it made me feel such a connection... to hear of someone who actually knew her. Thanks!

Mcgee: 23rd Aug 2009 - 11:14 GMT

It's true that all cities and towns create trash/pollution to one degree or another. A certain amount is inevitable. And each era has its own particular concerns regarding what's actually garbage and what is not; based on a host of different reasons too numerous to go into here. New York City in general has gone from one of the more 'polluting' cities on the planet to one of the 'cleanest' run in the entire western hemisphere (obviously we are not done yet). No doubt this amazing transformation took a lot of hard work, ingenuity; etc., and many different mindsets were and are involved with its continued progress. The small group of volunteers I work with salvage what we can in our spare time from building/property renovations and assorted development projects around the city and elsewhere. I was particulary struck by the person who wrote in and mentioned sifting through the old trash dumps during the summer while growing up on Barren Island back in the day. What a time that must have been when some of the old buildings were still around and no doubt many stories were being told regarding the origin of the various 'dumps', and 'smells' too. Though most of the trash washing out along the beach near Barren Island today was deposited in the 1940s and 50s (occasionally mixed in with older things), and the old smells are pretty much long gone, many people I run into have had their first encounter with 'old' bottles, etc., in this magnetic spot. My specialty is antique bottles from about 1840-1910, and the related artifacts I come across on my historical salvage digs in old privies and dumps for the past two decades but I still make several trips each season to BI. Old bottles in general are one of the most collected small antiques in the world and we humans have been picking them up (in one manner or another) and admiring their shapes, colors, etc., for literally thousands of years. The thrill of discovery and an ongoing sense of adventure are what help keep us sufficiently motivated and mobilized during our hectic lives. Old timey places like Dead Horse Bay and Barren Island may have been renovated many decades ago to make way for 'progress' but the assorted artifacts and remarkable personal accounts of life there still surface from time to time. In some cases the 'progress' of today, in a frenzy to over sanitize, rebury, or perhaps over enthusiastically attempt to make up for past mistakes, can haplessly wipe out any residue of the day to day history of a place. For a century and a half the beaches there may not have been the prettiest or cleanest but the soul of the place is still as captivating as ever. Along with the small handfuls of various seekers showing up each weekend, with any luck the distinct jingle one encounters as the small tidal waves ceaselessly roll over the bottles and shards scattered all along bottle beach...will be heard for decades to come, unhindered by progress.

Mcgee: 23rd Aug 2009 - 11:48 GMT

image 35432

image 35433

Walking Bottle Beach Spring 2009

image 35434

Marbles circa 1930-50, with an 1890-1910 "bennie" back center.

image 35435


dan mcgee --

Linda Larson Brooks: 10th Sep 2009 - 22:50 GMT

To Joan Mason,
Where did you grow up? What was your mothers' brothers' name. And what was your mothers' maiden name? I may have information for you. Have you been in contact with your aunt? Please let me know. I have not seen her for many years.
The Joan Lissenden I knew as a little girl was very, very pretty. She had dark hair and I think her eyes were dark too. Her mother and sister had dark eyes and hair. She married a local boy and they moved away. It would be nice if this is part of your family. I will check the site again in the near future. I don't always do so but I will look for your message.

anon ( 22nd Sep 2009 - 02:40 GMT

Hi Linda -

Thank you so much for responding. For so long I've been eager for a connection to my grandmother and who she was as a child and in her younger years. I grew up in Cornwall, NY. My grandmother Joan Lissenden Cavalari married John Cavalari and moved to New Windsor, NY a town next to Cornwall. She had two children: My mother Diane and my Uncle John. She then passed away when my mother was only 2 years old at the age of 25 or 26. Thank you so much for the information that you shared about my grandmother. I love to look her pictures. She was beautiful and my mother is just as beautiful. If you don't mind it would be great if we could exchange emails. My email is


Jethro: Aww. : (

CartLegger: 21st Nov 2009 - 04:19 GMT

The rail aspect of Barren Island is nothing I'd ever thought about before, but now I know!

Michael Aronne: 30th Nov 2009 - 18:55 GMT

The reason Barren Island is giving up its treasures is because of the dredging that occurred about a 1/4 mile off the beach in front of the marina. They dug 60-80 foot holes which we marked in the early eighties with our depth recorders while fishing. These holes naturally filled themselves in sucking in the surrounding beaches and marshlands. These beaches would have never eroded as fast as they have if that fill wasn’t removed. Now the waves hit the landfill cap and have exposed the dumping that occurred on Barren Island from 1950-1955. The worst “under the table” chemical dumping in our cities history. I have watched this unfold since 1981. That when we started seeing plates and bottle show up very slowly. Now the cap is wide open.

Michael Aronne: 30th Nov 2009 - 18:56 GMT

The dredging took place to extend the land to build JFK airport.

CartLegger: 30th Nov 2009 - 20:12 GMT

Thank you for the utterly fascinating explanation of this phenomena!

I would love to see more formal studies to research this process!

But all good science starts with observation!

CartLegger: 28th Jan 2010 - 03:30 GMT

the City just published an aerial map from 1924. checking it out gave me a whole new idea of the actual layout of the village of Barren Island.

see it for yourself:,151716&c=orthos1924

Michael Aronne: 6th Apr 2010 - 22:17 GMT

Amazing. If you notice the teardrop shape bay that was actually deadhorse bay. Deadhorse bay no longer exists, all the land south of the bay is in the ocean. The north side of the bay (the tear drop) is directly exposed to Jamaica Bay There were huge trees on the south side. It was a large piece of land. I was There on Saturday. Garbage is wose than ever. Please becareful as the things you pick up have been in that dump with many chemicals for 55 years.

regina holden: 28th Jun 2010 - 00:18 GMT

I'm responding to an odl posting from Barbara Schneider. I was searching for Barren Island online because my dad's side of the family all settled there. Not much info around about this once tight-knit community of immigrants that was so loved by my Dad who had a happy childhood there. His sister Anna married Casmir Hilinski (1920s?) (Uncle Sticks) and I remember Dad saying they ran the only store on the Island. I wondered if my uncle by marriage was a son of your grandparents and your uncle too. I would like to see the picture of the general store if you could send it. I know this web site is about the garbage out there not a genealogy site, so I will add that my mom said they used to find all kinds of good stuff at "the dump."

Steve: 14th Aug 2010 - 18:24 GMT

Regina--It is nice to keep Barren Island alive.I remember the Hilinski name and as a kid I remember "Sticks". On Jans post,she mentions the Rankins.I remember George Rankin. I believe he tried to put out a newsletter out in the 1950s or 60s. Then there were the Hagen family with Ethel and Susan both about my age that resetteled up in Manhatten when we moved from B.I. I did not keep up with all that moved out of B.I.due to I worked oversees for about 20years after WW2

Mary Willis: 18th Aug 2010 - 22:17 GMT

I am responding to a very old post (2007) that my 1st cousins wrote. Viola and Vicki, I am the daughter of your Uncle Emmanuel (otherwise known as Richard Willis). If you come back to this site, please email me at as I would love to talk to you. My mother may be able to share information about Barren Island as that's where my dad grew up.

Theresa Rallo: 19th Aug 2010 - 12:13 GMT

Was born in 1934 and remember going to the "country" which of course, was Barren Island! Guess after reading all the comments, I was younger than I thought since Robert Moses dismantled it in 1939. Just went on line and put in Barren Island and found all these stories. How great this is!!! My parents are dead so no way of getting any info. If anyone remembers the Rallo family would love to hear from them!! Email me at as I would like to talk to you.

Phillipski: 11th Oct 2010 - 19:49 GMT

Does anyone remember the Phillipski family? My father was born on Barren Island in 1915. The family had moved from there before 1920.

Steve: 16th Oct 2010 - 05:05 GMT

Theresa--According to my old memory,the Rallo family were not "permanent".They would come for the summer then goback to the city like when school started.Many families would come down for the summer.I am thinking there was a Tony--a few years younger than me--I'm 85.
Were they in the construction business?

To Phillipski, I do not recall that name

Phillipski: 22nd Oct 2010 - 16:39 GMT

The other side of the family was Pawloski, also living on barren Island. Immigrants from Poland/Russia. Anyone recall them?

regina holden: 17th Nov 2010 - 00:18 GMT

Steve- Did you know my dad? He was the son of Conrad Salvastion. His name was Henry Salvastion(born 1924-died 2008). He lived with his dad and sister Jenny on Barren Island. His two older adult half sisters - Josie and Anna Checkowa on the island too. I think my grandmother Annie Checkowa died a few years after my dad was born. I don't know much about her. Dad loved telling us stories of Pauley Rizzo, the pilot and all his trick stunts. Dad later became a paratrooper in WWII.

Steve: 19th Nov 2010 - 04:39 GMT

Regina----I knew your dad well. We grew up together.I just turned 85 and will try to remember the past. your fathers nickname was "Sonny". He would live with his father Conrad some of the time in Center Moriches, Long Island.When he was at Barren Island,he would stay with his sister who was married to a nice guy. The name JOE CALLA comes to mind.
They lived at #2 main st.----we lived at #3. #2 Main St was a large 3
family building.Your Uncle "Sticks" lived on one side and the Kubash family lived in the middle and the Callas lived on the other side that was next to us. Sometime in the 1960's, my wife and I went to Long Island and in meeting some of the old-time Barren Islanders names came up and I got your father's number. I think he was working for an electrical, or electronic company and he was saying that he might move to Florida. We looked him up and I believe that we had lunch with him at his house, but my wife does not remember that. We exchanged old time stories and our World War II experiences. I was in the Amphibious forces in the South Pacific, and he told me that he was a paratrooper in the 82nd. If I remember right, he told me that a German hand grenade ex-ploded right in front of him and blinded him. He woke up in a German hospital and the German doctor told him that he would go blind if he stayed in Germany. The doctor told him they would try to send him to Sweden. Do you know anything about that? I think that it is very nice that the owner of this sight is letting us use it as a central point for ex-Barren Islanders. It would be nice if all of us could send our email addresses to the owner of this site "CartLegger" so everybody doesn't have to post them in public. How do we contact "CartLegger"?

regina holden: 20th Nov 2010 - 23:56 GMT

Steve - Wow! That is great that you knew my dad! The family is having a party for dad sister Jenny who will be 90. I would love to hear some of your memories and maybe even copies of photos to make up an album for her. It is nice that this site let's the Barren Islanders connect, but it really isn't their purose. Here is my email address, Hope to hear from you!

CartLegger: 21st Nov 2010 - 22:27 GMT

And as for me, I really appreciate that you are communicating here! I'd love to hear more, or see some photos. You can find me at cartlegger @



harleenkaur_7: 23rd Nov 2010 - 14:57 GMT

i have also done many things
hahahahah...... i was joking
ok serious ...
we should do many things for our world

Phillipski: 1st Dec 2010 - 03:53 GMT

Does anyone have Barren Island pictures from the 1890s through the 1920s? Three generations of my family were living there during that period.

regina: 19th Dec 2010 - 00:05 GMT

The New York Public Library Digital Gallery online (search Barren Island on their site) has some great old pictures.

anon ( 12th Jan 2011 - 11:51 GMT

Two pirates - Gibbs and Wansley beached their ship on Barren island in the early 1800s. Gibbs was later hanged on Ellis Island several years later.

The 3-10-1842 edition of the Brooklyn eagle newspaper reported that people were still recovering various Pirate Treasure in the form of "mexican dollars" from Barren Island and attributed these finds to the pirates Gibbs and Wansley.

Bob C - Massachusetts

Anthony: 12th Mar 2011 - 01:57 GMT

My grandmother arrived at Ellis Island in 1913, and the records indicate she was picked up by her brother in law that lived on Barren Island. Pictures from that time would be great. Is there census info available from 1910/20 for that Island?

Howard: 23rd Apr 2011 - 22:46 GMT

I've been researching Barren Island and Dead Horse Bay for more than twenty years and have been taking my students to study the artifacts that have been washing out of the landfill for twnty one years. This landfill was the result of payback by Robt. Moses who was declaring emminent domain in areas such as the East Tremont section of the Bronx to make way for highways (the Cross Bronx Expressway) that would provide greater access to Long Island commuters (from places like the newly formed Levittown). The planning started in the late 1940's, but the buiding projects did not happen until the early 1950's. Park expansion was promiced by Moses. Riis Park, Jones Beach and Barren Island were all "transformed." All evidence points to the Barren Island beach fill as happening in 1953. The entire area is dynamic. So much contributes to the eroding of the landfill cap. In 1877, the General of the Army Corp of Engineers reported that Rockaway grows at a rate of 246 feet a year. If you compare historic maps, you will see the advance of Breezy Point. This narrowing of Rockaway inlet created and creates incredible current throughout the area that affect the sand throughout Southern Brooklyn. These currents even caused one of the offals at the time to slide into Jamaica Bay on the South side of Barren Island. The filling in of all the Channels created an imbalance of the wetlands as early as the 1870's. There have been business enterprises on Barren Island since the early 1700's. Since that time, we the people have done everything to make a magnificent marshland into a place that can make money for corrupt politicians. The victims are the offal workers who created a thriving community out of the land that had been destroyed by the industry that provided them their living. The fishing industry was killed off by the effluence of the factories that drined their waste water. The oyster and clam beds were also destroyed by this activity. Their are many areas on Barren Island that yield evidence of the offals and even the homes that housed the workers. These areas do not give up their secrets easily. And may I remind or inform any of you who COLLECT or PICK, that it is illeagal to do so. Barren Island and Dead Horse Bay are part of Gateway National Recreation Area. It is a Federally protected area and taking anything from this place is a NO-NO.Please leave the ARTIFACTS for all to wonder about.This is not archaeology in the strictest sense, It is NEOchaeology.

Ellen: 6th May 2011 - 16:09 GMT

Anthony: We have been researching our family tree and were at a dead end on my dad's family - until now. Our family name is Smith, but was Misciewicz/Mysevich prior to the official name change in the 1950's. Dad was born and raised on Barren Island until some time in the 1920's. There were five kids that I know of: Theresa, Cornelius (Neil), Anna, Howard and Rita. My brother located the 1905 census and two generations of the Misciewicz/Mysevich family are listed. My dad doesn't show up until 1920 (he was born in 1914). If you give me your family name I can see if they are listed on the census I have in front of me. If you want, I can also email you the PDF of the census that I have.

If anyone has any info/stories - or if you knew the Smith/Misciewicz/Mysevich clan, we'd love to hear from you. The only info I can share is a family story that that my Grandfather, Charlie (Adolf) ran a speakeasy on a houseboat during Prohibition. Not positive it's true, but it would not surprise me. You can email me at

Phillipski: 8th May 2011 - 15:01 GMT

The census for 1910 and 1920 can be found online through or other sources. I know specifically that the 1910 census can be found by looking for Kings County, Supervisors district 2, Enumeration district 1002, Ward 32. It has about 24 pages. I only saved the page that contains my family.

kr: 2nd Jul 2011 - 13:01 GMT

My Grandparents lived on Barren Island. My fathers uncle was Charlie, who later moved to Canarsie. He rented rowboats to crabbers and families for the day. Rita ran a candy store. My family name is Reitz. Joseph and Marion had 5 children. Joe, Edward, Mary, Kenneth and Bobby. Ms Shaw was their teacher and my grandmother loved living there. They relocated to Canarsie and then to NJ. Uncle Charle stayed in brooklyn and raised birds in his basement. Anyone have history on this family?

Ken: 3rd Aug 2011 - 21:24 GMT

Kenny Reitz if you remember me I am Anna Smith Naylor's son Kenny.My mother & Rita are the only living children of Charlie. If this is the Kenny Reitz I knew you can contact me @

Ellen: 22nd Aug 2011 - 19:30 GMT

Hi Ken! Got Denyse's email. Good to see I'm not the only one in the family looking into our history. And Hi to Kenny Reitz - I'm Ken's cousin. My dad was Rita and Anna's brother Neil (Cornelius).

anon ( 1st Sep 2011 - 20:27 GMT

My father William Penn lewis was born on barren isl in1905 and along with his brother Sam, told me stories of their childhood there and. my grandfather also made trips to the mainland to resupply the store. my grandfather and grandmother had a dry goods store on the island. great stories an interesting time in America, no electricity or running water in the early days.

Michael Lewis 1 Sept 2011: 1st Sep 2011 - 20:31 GMT

The previous comments were mine

John Willis: 28th Nov 2011 - 17:30 GMT

Both my mother Genieveie (Jenny) Kishkill and father Carl Willis Jr (buddy) both born and raised on Barron Island. Would like to here from anyone that has any picture they would like to share.

anon ( 10th Mar 2012 - 15:33 GMT

My grandfather grew up on Barren Island. His name was John Bruno Ostopowitz. Does anyone have any memories? I would greatly appreciate it!
Suzanne Ostopowitz-Killen

H: 9th Apr 2012 - 19:56 GMT

I went there a couple of days ago and got covered in ticks! Did you guys have any problems with bugs?? We had to leave early there were so many. It was around 3pm too! 4th May 2012 - 00:30 GMT

I am trying to find the arial view mentioned from 1924. The URL given only shows a current schematic. I am interested in a map of the the island pre Moses.

Eddie: 29th Jul 2012 - 21:47 GMT

Go to that link and click the photo icon and you can pick the date on a bar. The 1924 date shows the earliest photo.

David Diamond: 30th Jul 2012 - 17:12 GMT

There is an island that is submerged at high tide that someone bought a year or so ago. Was that this island?

Jeff Smith: 31st Jul 2012 - 00:16 GMT

Ellen. If you come over you can help me go through all the pictures. Maybe some of them are from BI..

Regina: 24th Sep 2012 - 15:12 GMT

Above link is photo and article about Barren Island and Miss Shaw, teacher. 1931 Brooklyn Eagle

The Don: 30th Oct 2012 - 00:36 GMT

My late grandfather was born and raised on Barren Island back in 1901, unfortunately, he passed away in 1968 and all the stories and family history on that island died with him. I remember asking my folks about it and was told it was washed away little by little until the 1938 hurricane....I would greatly appreciate more stories and any links to pictures, news stories and the like about Barren Island.
My email is:
Thank you.

Robert Boehm: 7th Sep 2014 - 11:24 GMT

Barbara Schneider we must be related my Grandmother Lillian was daughter of Henry Schneider .
Email if you read this

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