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'Boat Graveyard' Draws British Tourists to Staten Island

By Nicholas Rizzi | May 31, 2013 7:05am
 The Staten Island boat graveyard houses dozens of decommissioned boats, and can be a popular tourist spot for adventurous photographers.
Staten Island 'Boat Graveyard'
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ROSSVILLE — A graveyard filled with the rotting hulks of decommissioned boats is drawing British tourists to Staten Island.

The city is promoting the place where ships go to die — a marshland holding rusted testaments to the borough's maritime heritage —  to visitors from the United Kingdom.

On Thursday the city added the spot, tucked away in a marsh off Arthur Kill Road, to its summer guide for British tourists and promoted the post on Twitter.

"It may not have the #MaryRose, but NYC does have a rather spooky Boat Graveyard on Staten Island," the city's official U.K. account tweeted.

The city already has a listing for the spot on its NYCgo tourism website, something Tony Conssean, 55, who's backyard leads directly to parts of the graveyard, isn't surprised about.

Conssean, who grew up in the home and recently moved back to take care of his elderly parents, said on weekends he sees about 15 to 20 people in the morning going to check out the ships.

"I've had people from California, from Michigan, a guy from Wisconsin comes back repeatedly," he said. "This isn't necessarily No. 1 on the itinerary, but it's on the itinerary."

The graveyard, which also contains the battered remains of a former dock, serves as an official dumping ground for disused and decommissioned ferries, tugboats, barges and more that sit in the water until they are dismantled or salvaged, according to the city's tourism website.

The spot, also known as the Witte Marine scrap yard and currently owned by Donjon Recycling and C & M Metals Recycling, is the only place in the city to dump unused ships. It once even housed a submarine that dated back to World War II, Conssean said.

The city does recognize that the spot isn't for every visitor, but can be a great location for adventurous photographers.

"Naturally, this is not a place for casual sightseers, but the location is known as a photographer's dream for the few who dare to trek out there," the city's tourism site reads.

Traveling to the site isn't for the faint of heart. After a nearly 13-mile bus ride from the St. George Ferry Terminal, the real journey begins.

A makeshift path of street signs and wood planks takes visitors from the Sleight Family Graveyard into a muddy, wet marsh to see a portion of the graveyard.

To get some of the best views, however, trekking through Conssean's yard is the easiest way.

But since the number of visitors has risen recently, he has put up signs to ward off people and block access to the paths.

"I don't mind people going out there, it just got so crazy," he said.

Others have suggested kayaking to the spot to get closer to the ships, as the marsh doesn't have the most secure path and the docks nearby are dangerous from years of saltwater corrosion, Conssean said.

The dangerous aspect of the journey doesn't stop many intrepid visitors, Conssean said.

And while some might not be thrilled with the idea of the city promoting a tourist attraction near their backyard, Conssean said the addition of the site to the British guide doesn't bother him much.

"It doesn't faze me," he said. "They're going to come anyway."