Staten Island Boat Graveyard
The Staten Island Boat Graveyard—also called the Witte Marine Scrap Yard, the Arthur Kill Boat Yard or the Tugboat Graveyard—is located in the Arthur Kill waterway near the Rossville neighborhood in Staten Island. The scrapyard was founded in the 1930s by John J. Witte and today it is still managed by his son.
To really see the remains of nearly 100 cargo ships and tugboats, you technically have to do a little trespassing. There is no public access to the graveyard and probably for good reason—I've explored some rickety buildings, but nothing compares to the twisted, slippery piles of rusty metal and wood that you'll find here surrounded by quicksand-like muck and mud. I put my faith in the tetanus shot I had less than ten years ago (when I passed out on a pile of rusty antiques ... in my own bathroom) and luckily the only causalities were my sneakers, which will forever be caked in stinky mud.
Although it's still privately owned, the boat graveyard has accidentally evolved into an outdoor boat museum over the years. Notable ships include the first WWII US Navy ship to have a predominantly African-American crew and a New York fireboat present at the 1904 sinking of the General Slocum, the worst disaster in the city's history until 9/11.
You'll see the most at low tide—or if you're really brave, a kayak (or at the very least, rubber boots) would be the ideal accessory. We mostly scrambled along the shore and carefully ventured out onto slimy planks when they were available. In addition to climbing on rusty, unstable piles of scrap, you'll have to do a bit of bushwacking through the tall weeds and brush, but the views are definitely worth the effort (and risk). There was so much more in the scrapyard than I expected, and my only regret is that we couldn't get closer to, or even inside of the ships.