Awful Smells That Arise From the 28th Street Dumps: 1890

Pestilential odors let loose upon the soft air of Gowanus.
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The garbage fiends are at it again. The dump at Twenty-eighth street and Third avenue once more presents a lively appearance and throws off the same loud smell which worked the business men and residents in that section into such a frenzy of despair a few months ago. Business has been resumed at the old stand in the good old fashioned way, and the breezes which plunk solid stench against Third avenue cars and through the neighborhood generally are, if possible, richer and juicier than they were before.

Last Friday morning a big black garbage scow poked its nose around the point, and proceeded to the regular landing place for the Twenty-eighth street dump. A dummy engine ran down beside it shortly, with four cars and a gang of thirty or forty men, black, greasy Italians, with forks and shovels. By 9 o'clock the big steam scoop was got into working order and began to dig a hole in the contents of the scow. Before another hour had passed people in the neighborhood I knew there was something in the wind. In fact the wind was firmly running over, it had so much in it. How long that garbage had laid in the scow waiting patiently for its liberation can only be guessed, but when it did get out it spread itself. Everybody knew it had come.

Passengers on the Brooklyn city cars held their noses, shut their mouths and tried to breathe through their ears. The Twenty-eighth street goats left their daily repast of tomato cans untasted and stampeded toward Fort Hamilton. Every window in the neighborhood was closed and store doors were shut. The stench was frightful. In due time the scow was emptied and moved slowly away, but hardly had it left the dock when No. 2 hove in sight and the programme was repeated. When two cars were loaded with the contents of the scow they were pushed by the little dummy engine up toward Third avenue and the garbage was deposited on the edge of the dumping ground. Before the day was over the neighborhood was wild. Everybody wondered if the experience of the early summer was to be repeated, and there were many uncomplimentary remarks made about the board of health. A permit had to be given by the board before anything of this sort could be done, and there was the evidence that the permit had been given. Why it had been done could not be explained, as the citizens who were instrumental in having the work stopped in June had been given to understand that no more dumping was to be done until cold weather set in, and that ashes only were to be used for filling the big hole then.

Mr. Ambrose and the other capitalists who constitute the Thirty-ninth street ferry company own the stretch of land which has been used as a dumping ground, and they have found it a different job to get the section filled up. The land was generally below the street level, though a knoll opposite Thirty-first street rose considerably above. It was arranged that Mr. Ambrose might have New York and Brooklyn ashes and solid garbage to help him in his endeavor to make the section level if he would with the dirt from this knoll place over them a covering of at least two feet of earth. Nothing less substantial than ashes was to be dumped on the grounds, and two inspectors were placed in charge to see that this point should not be neglected and that all objectionable stuff should be sent to sea. The inspectors had at one time dabbled in politics and of course were unable to distinguish what was rotten and what was not. Dozens of scrow loads of filth were dumped on the grounds and the neighborhood suffered in consequence. Many complaints were made to the board of health, which were probably long since turned over tot he proper clerk and labeled "Settled." Finally a petition of property owners was sent tot he mayor and the nuisance was stopped. A few heavy rains got the air into normal condition and the people breathed again.

Since Friday morning the scows have been coming in a steady procession. Day and night the dumping had continued, and the smell which pervades the section from Twenty-fifth street to Thirty-fifth, from Third avenue up to Fourth and Fifth, is almost overpowering. Several cases of sickness are already reported, which are directly attributable to this cause. Little or no business is done in the stores on that part of Third avenue, and on Saturday, when the wind was directly from the west, there was serious talk of organizing a party and charging on the gang which was shoveling disease, discomfort and probably death into the neighborhood.

While the engine and four cars are kept going continually dumping the garbage, one man with a single horse and cart hauls dirt from the mound to cover the refuse. Instead of two feet of earth there is scarcely a six inch covering over the garbage, and many places a finger length would reach the ashes and the ashes, too, are not ashes alone. There are decaying fruit and vegetables in every scoop full of the matter, and the greatest wonder of all is that the men who work in the very heart of this rank and putrid filth do not fall dead at their posts.

At any rate, the residents and property owners in that part of the city should not suffer the loss of money, health and comfort in wholesale quantities as they are now doing, and if this stuff must be deposited on Brooklyn grounds instead of going to sea where it belongs, it is the universal opinion that the contractors should be made to hold off until December or January, when the cold weather will help to ward off wickedness and death. At present five scow loads a day are being dumped on the grounds. Unless the board of health comes in at once and stops the nuisance the mayor will again be appealed to for protection. The people affected take very little stock in the board of health as a protective body, but believe Mayor Chapin will see that they get speedy relief.

Henry Kettelbodt, butcher, at Third Avenue and Twenty-ninth street, gets the full benefit of the garbage laden zephyrs, and bitterly denounces the authorities for permitting the dumping to be commenced again. His business has fallen off 50 per cent, and all his neighboring associates are equally disgusted. He thinks a hospital will soon be needed if the thing is allowed to continue. James Cosgrove, a property owner at Third avenue and Twenty-seventh street, is another strong kicker. So are Messrs. P. Fitzgerald, of Twenty-ninth street: Gustav Carson, of Third avenue and Twenty-eighth street: Edward McCarthy, of Twenty-ninth street: John Goodwin, of Twenty-eighth street: John Stanley, of Twenty-ninth street: Mr. Remsen, who owns a block of homes between Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eight streets: George Gerhardt, James Cox and Daniel Wood, of Third avenue, and, in truth, every man, woman and child for a radius of half a mile from the Twenty-eighth street dumping ground.


Website: The History
Article Name: Awful Smells That Arise From the 28th Street Dumps: 1890
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Eagle October 9, 1890 Page: 1
Time & Date Stamp: