Barren Island is a former island on the southeast shore of Brooklyn in New York City. Located on Jamaica Bay, it was occupied by the Lenape Native Americans prior to the arrival of Dutch settlers in the 17th century. Its name is a corruption of Beeren Eylandt, the Dutch-language term for “Bears’ Island”.
From the 1850s to the mid-1930s, the island was an industrial complex with plants for rendering fish and processing the carcasses of the city’s dead horses, converting them into industrial products. Because of this, the body of water on the island’s western shore was nicknamed “Dead Horse Bay”. By the 1920s, most of the industrial activity had tapered off, and most residents were evicted in the late 1920s for the construction of an airport called Floyd Bennett Field.
Since 1972, the former island’s site has been part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service.