New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Hole

Do you really want to be a pioneer? Do you want to find a place that may not quickly become overbought or overhyped? Then welcome to the Hole, a "'hood" that I can assure you will not become the "next neighborhood" or be dotted with interesting cafes and nightclubs like Williamsburg, Brooklyn. See the photo gallery of my excursion here.

I recently was forwarded an article by a friend on an small, virtually unknown area on the Queens/Brooklyn border known as the Hole. A handful of articles have been written, with features on sites such as Gothamist, Impose Magazine, Satan's Laundromat, and Forgotten New York, which referred to it as "the true New York, this is NYC with pretense and artifice stripped away."

This wasteland certainly lived up to my expectations. I anticipated spending considerable time there, walking around, and photographing the area, but after a few minutes there, I realized that this did not have the charm of an abandoned ghost town in the West. This place truly was blighted, with outsiders clearly seen as outsiders.

The Hole is a small triangular neighborhood bounded by South Conduit Boulevard, Linden Boulevard, and Drew Street. The area is roughly five blocks by three blocks, surrounded by the neighborhoods of East New York, Ozone Park, Spring Creek, and Howard Beach. Straddling Brooklyn and Queens, it was called "the closest thing New York has to a border town" by the New York Times in 2004. Ironically, it also contains the "jewel" streets: Ruby, Emerald, Amber, and Sapphire Streets (now 78th Street).
There are a handful of houses, inhabited and uninhabited, strewn across an area of weeded open lots, flooded streets with stray garbage, and no sidewalks. At one time occupied by farms and horses, this was also the former home of the Federation of Black Cowboys.

The term "Hole" has a literal meaning in this neighborhood, which lies below grade and only a few feet above the water table. It is built on landfill over Spring Creek and is subject to frequent flooding, as seen in today's photo. The area is also not incorporated into New York City's sewer system - the handful of homes here use cesspools.

Any apprehension or creepiness you may feel here is not unfounded - the area is most notorious as a dumping ground for bodies in Mafia mob wars for over 50 years. There are stories of 200 bodies being found. According to the New York Times, a lot on Ruby Street between Blake and Dumont Avenues was a suspected Gambino family burial ground. Alphonse Indelicato, Phillip Giaccone, and Dominick Trinchera, of the Bonnano family mob, were murdered and buried in a vacant lot in the Hole.

There has been real estate speculation here - see the new row houses here on Ruby Street. However, projects here have stalled. The mountain of rubble in my photo series is an 8-acre plot which was slated to become Cobblestone Estates, a gated community. It is now in limbo - you can read about it here.


An Honest Man said...

Brian, a stupid question. What size is a block?

Brian said...

An Honest Man - Blocks vary, but these in The Hole are approximately 200 ft x 500 ft.

Anonymous said...

I have a feeling this area is a dangerous Hole. I would not walk around there, too.

Mary said...

This area of Queens, and a lot of others on the way to JFK airport have had flooding problems for many years. Some time ago a co-worker of mine had her car entirely swallowed up by a collapse in a road nearby that had been completely undermined by subterranean water flow.

Andrew said...

Brian -- Just stumbled across your site, and wanted to thank you for the heads-up on this remote Queens spot. I'm always looking for new areas to explore. Keep up the good work, and keep the great photos coming.



Naomid said...

20 street blocks in a mile right?

Wm. Todd Tripp said...

Wonderful post, Brian. This is just the kind of place I would find intriguing and disconcerting in the same moment. Emotion surfing.