Visiting Glass Beach in Astoria Park

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Astoria Park is your last stop in Queens, at which point you’ll be getting wet. The waters which lie off the shore are a section of the formerly industrial East River called Hell Gate. The park offers no water access, of course, but there is a nice walkway along Shore Road which allows one to stroll and observe.

It’s a lovely spot, and quite popular with those lucky enough to live nearby. One is always struck by the polychrome nature of the rocky shoreline, which is deposited to and subtracted from on a daily basis by the tides. On a sunny day, the amount of color one experiences here can literally dazzle.

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Heavy rip rap keeps the shoreline in place, of course, but what has always fascinated me are the aforementioned colors of the small pebbles which fill in amongst the larger stones. It’s unnatural.

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You can get down there, actually, as children have demonstrated repeatedly to their panicked parents over the years, but I prefer to use a zoom lens instead.

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On closer examination, you’ll notice that the material found in the littoral zone is not 100% rock at all.

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Instead, it’s broken glass. Glass polished by the action of tide and river.

That’s why I call this spot Glass Beach.

Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.