One man’s trash is another man’s tourist destination in New York

Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:16pm EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

ON THE ARTHUR KILL, N.Y. (Reuters) - Bright colored kayaks bobbed around the rotted hull of a World War II submarine chaser that was rusted into a ghostly shell and lapped by water as salty as tears.

The kayaks paddled by tourists then glided a few feet away to a decayed, partly submerged ferry, part of the "Graveyard of Ships" tour, which winds through a marine salvage yard in New York City that is the final resting place for dozens of working boats and military vessels.

Once considered eyesores to steer clear of, some junkyards, underwater scrap yards and landfills are being recast as sight-seeing attractions.

Sometimes dubbed "ruin tourism" or even "ruin porn," dramatic photographs online showing deteriorated boats emerging at low tide or automobile carcasses swallowed up by lush moss are enticing the public to see the decaying sites for themselves.

"These sites are often appreciated for their authenticity or novelty value as a contemporary ruin," said Karl Kullmann, who teaches landscape architecture, environmental planning and urban design at the University of California at Berkeley.

Ruin tourism draws visitors to such famously dilapidated landmarks as the Michigan Central Train Depot and the former Packard plant in Detroit. In White, Georgia, a crumbling repository of more than 4,000 discarded automobiles encased in trees and kudzu vines known as Old Car City USA draws paying crowds from around the world. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, cycling enthusiasts flock to a re-purposed landfill that features mountain bike trails known as “Tour-de-Trash.”

"This type of tourism attracts people interested in the detritus of capitalism," said Rebecca Kinney, assistant professor in the Department of Popular Culture and School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University.

The Detroit structures are "decades-old reminders of the precipitous rise and fall of industry," she said.   Continued...

John Pagani, owner of Kayak East, paddles by a decaying vessel during the "Graveyard of Ships" kayak tour on the Arthur Kill, New York, July 7, 2015.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton