2010-08-26 / Top Stories

YESTERDAY & TODAY: Canarsie Pier

By Dara Mormile

Canarsie Pier has always been one of the best local spots to relax and enjoy a day overlooking Jamaica Bay. The site has undergone numerous transformations over the past century.

Before the Belt Parkway was completed, a fully functioning beach along the pier, known as Canarsie Beach Park, was available to visitors until the 1920s, when pollution and dumping along the shore became a rising problem. Subsequently, clamming, fishing and swimming were banned by the N.Y.C Board of Health because of the waters getting heavily polluted caused by the City's improper dumping of sewage and the rapid increasing population.

In the 1940s and 1950s, recreational fishing was still enjoyed by residents as a favorite pastime. Fishermen once stood directly off the pier until years later, when wooden railings were put in place.

In 1973, the jurisdiction of the pier was managed under Gateway National Park Service and complete renovations at Canarsie Pier were planned for the mid 1990s.

Construction of Canarsie Pier grounds, 1992. BayView Houses can be seen in the background. Construction of Canarsie Pier grounds, 1992. BayView Houses can be seen in the background. Major changes included a 200 car parking lot, new landscaping with brick, stone and granite pavement, the addition of trees, water fountains, barbecue grills, steel benches, a play area for toddlers and wooden railings were replaced by wrought iron.

The new Canarsie Pier would also have a visitor station, complete with restrooms and a band shell for performances. And the new bronze-lettered entrance sign was a welcome sight to visitors. The project cost approximately $12 million.

Those who frequented the pier also enjoyed boat rides and short cruises out to Jamaica Bay. Boats ceased docking at the pier shortly after Abbacciamento’s Restaurant closed in the late 1990s.

Today, Canarsie Pier is still in need of overall structural repairs but offers more on-site amenities than it ever has in the past, such as fish-cleaning tables and the staff offering recreation programs like canoeing and kite flying. The pier’s public hours have also changed in the past year and it is currently closed to residents from dusk until dawn. A service gate was recently installed at the main entrance to enforce the new hours of operation, which would help deter overnight crime and allow Park Service officials to clean the parking lot.

Two above photos show views of Canarsie Pier 1940s through approximately 1960s. Two above photos show views of Canarsie Pier 1940s through approximately 1960s. Earlier this year, Gateway officials met with Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Ed Towns, whose constituents use the pier, in an effort to encourage more revitalization plans. Gateway is currently taking bids from groups or organizations interested in building something recreational at the abandoned site where Abbacciamento’s once operated.

Current entrance to Canarsie Pier. Current entrance to Canarsie Pier. According to officials with Gateway, the City of New York built the 600-foot pier that exists today as a commercial dock, but the goal of turning Jamaica Bay into a seaport never reached fruition.

(Photos, above left, courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library Collection and Gregg Wieder).


Fishing at Canarsie Pier over the years: (left to right) 1940s, 1970s and 1980s, and 2010. Fishing at Canarsie Pier over the years: (left to right) 1940s, 1970s and 1980s, and 2010.

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