The Hole

August 25, 2009 -

Locals call it The Hole. But few agree on where The Hole is located. Some say The Hole is in Howard Beach, others say it is in Spring Creek or Ozone Park, or maybe East New York or Lindenwood. Residents do agree on one thing - The Hole is famous. Mostly because of the bodies. Or maybe the horses.

The Hole is a small triangle of land divided in half by Brooklyn and Queens, and is located west of the intersection of Linden and Conduit Boulevard. The Hole is literally a hole. It is "30 feet below grade," according to the NY Times, sunken down from the busy roads around it. The neighborhood floods often and is only a few feet above the water table, so its homes are "not incorporated into the city sewer system. They all have cesspools," according to the NY Times. Streets are threatened by reedy marshes, and many residents keep a boat parked in the driveway.


Marshes, Reeds & Road

The Hole is well known for its holes. The New York Times has called it a "reputed mob dumping ground" while Wikipedia refers to it as "an infamous mob graveyard." People living in the neighborhood tell stories of how "200 dead bodies" were found up the street in a now-abandoned development, or how bodies are frequently "found by the side of the road." These stories are rooted in truth.

In 2004, the FBI descended on the neighborhood, searching for the bodies of up to four men believed to be buried in an empty lot. They began digging in the same location where - 23 years earlier - "the body of a Bonanno crime family captain" was found dead, wrapped in a "yellow carpet," according to the NY Times. Investigators sifted through the soil "like prospectors panning for gold," said the NY Times. Eventually, they discovered what may have been the remains of "two mafia captains" from "the Bonanno crime family" that were buried by "several members of the Gambino family who were close to John Gotti," said the NY Times.

"200 Dead Bodies" Development

Other residents of The Hole reminisce about how it was once populated by vast fields of horses. Many belonged to The Federation of Black Cowboys, who hold an annual rodeo nearby. It was "the closest thing New York has to a border town" with "all the characteristics of a frontier town in the Old West.... dusty streets, stray dogs, ramshackle corrugated tin structures and even a few cowboys," according to the NY Times. There are no longer any horses in The Hole. Beginning in 2002, according to the Village Voice, "about 100 horses" were evicted to make way for a new development. 40 horses still live nearby at Cedar Lane Stables, but there is no evidence that the horse-pasture-development ever happened. Instead, an abandoned house sits at the center of The Hole in a huge empty field. As one local said to The Voice, "it's tough being a cowboy in East New York."

Empty Fields

Today, the neighborhood has been torn apart by failed development schemes. Besides the empty horse pastures and abandoned houses, the edges of the The Hole are dominated by two large, apparently abandoned real estate projects. At the western edge is a trash strewn, boarded-up row of new homes, and towering above the eastern edge of the neighborhood is a stalled development once named "Cobblestone Estates." According to the NY Times, construction here stopped in 2007, and the remaining mountain of debris has given neighbors below in The Hole "nightmares about avalanches" and a "constant fear of a rockslide."

Flooded Lot For Sale


Western Development


"Cobblestone Estates"

Although the future of The Hole is uncertain, it still stands - like The Iron Triangle - as one of the most unique neighborhoods in New York City. Satan's Laundromat once enthusiastically called this area "the most obscure neighborhood in New York" and according to a 2005 article on the area in Forgotten New York, "this is the true New York, this is NYC with pretense and artifice stripped away."

These photos were taken in collaboration with Nate Dorr of Impose Magazine, who says of The Hole "few spots in the five boroughs... feel further from the crowds and activity of Manhattan."

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Since the publication of this original photo essay in 2009, which established the history and proper name of The Hole, many articles have featured this work, including pieces in The Village Voice (2009), Gothamist (2009), Curbed (2009), Brownstoner (2009) and The Brooklyn Paper (2010). In 2010, this coverage of The Hole led to at least two documentaries being made about the area: "The Hole: A Border Between Brooklyn and Queens" (2010) and "The Hole" (2010). Additional references to this photo essay have also been published at Bldgblog (2011) and Architizer (2011).



At Home in The Hole


Dead End


Neighborhood Guard

White Truck


Runic Grafitti


Abandoned in The Hole


Living Room Ruins


Pink & Boards


In the Kitchen


Whirlpool at the Center of The Hole


Above The Hole


"Nightmares About Avalanches"


Escape from The Hole

56 comments:

  1. Fascinating. It looks more like Georgia or Mississippi than New York City.

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    1. You are ignorant.

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    2. not really. being from that area... yes it really DOES look like something you'd see there. not all over the place, but in the more rural areas. it's simply astonishing that this is in NYC!

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    3. I live in GA and it does look like GA. Quit being uptight babies. It wasn't even meant as an insult you fragile girls.

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    4. I live in the South (AL/MS) and many areas are run down and semi-abandoned like this. It's true - I'm fucking sorry to ruin your day.

      PS OP Anon needs to take a road trip around the deep south sometime.

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    5. I was born and raise in Hattiesburg, MS; currently reside in Mobile, AL; and have worked throughout south Louisiana for two decades. The first thing I thought was how these photos reminded me of so many areas I've seen down here. You can go to the run down part of nearly any old Southern town and find places that look like this. If anyone's ignorant, it's the one who doesn't know enough about the South to see these resemblances. It's truly surprising to see photos like this out of Queens.

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    6. I was born in the back of my moms car. It looks oddly similar to the middle cup holder.

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    7. It seems that everyone from the south takes pride in their run down buildings.Poor and run down but we don't care cuz we suhthurn!!

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  2. We use to ride our bikes over there as kids...we also heard rumours of Klan rallies and cross burnings. I wonder if the Black Cowboys and the KKK ever rumbled?

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  3. Great post! What a bizarre place!

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  4. Yojimbot - I'd find your outlandish claim about Klan rallies more believable if spelled "rumor" like an American (you do imply you grew up in New York - not Britain).

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  5. As always, amazing choice of subject and stunning photographs.

    Thank you.

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  6. amazing stuff. i love these overlooked mysteries of nyc. as usual, great photojournalism.

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  7. Been there myself as part of my Eldert Lane extravagnza

    http://www.forgotten-ny.com/STREET%20SCENES/borderlineeldert/borderlineeldert.html

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  8. Ah, I see I'm cited already!

    It's time for Satan to reopen the Laundromat though.

    www.forgotten-ny.com

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  9. Kevin - you mean the "laundrymat"?

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  10. How do I get there via public transit?

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    1. Take the A train to Grant st. Walk across the Conduit staying to your left and you will walk right into it

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  11. just found your blog nathan! one of the best things I've discovered in a long time. really beautiful and thought provoking, thank you so much.

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  12. looks like E. St. Louis

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  13. Can I please go shooting with you?!!

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  14. this is amazing. NYC is ridiculous. somehow i'm left with pangs of pride instead of horror.

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  15. It was certainly interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon.

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  16. Thanks for the post - just came across your site from Forgotten-NY. We used to know this area as "Cedar Lane" as kids. I even called it "Tobacco Road" once. It was always scary and alluring at the same time....used to walk along Spring Creek all the way from the Belt Pkwy overpass to just before the fence of the old NY Sanit Dep't incinerator and then up the "streets" of Cedar Lane (the Hole). Never stumbled over any decomposing bodies, but did get stuck in swamp ooze quite often. I'm sure it will eventually all be filled in and developed and connected to the Spring Creek tract on the west and Lindenwood on the east. All photogs should get over there and document this last bit of "true NY" before it's gone!

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    1. More than 50 years ago,we called the back of the Lindenwood,Queens area,west of 79th Street,Cedar Lane.All or most of The Hole is on the Brooklyn side of what we once referred to as"Shit Creek".I think ceratain parts of The Hole are actually part of Queens,but the location is right on the border of Brooklyn and Queens."Shit Creek"has long since been paved over.It was a disgusting smelling,polluted,narrow mess,but good for escaping from people,including cops when we'd commit teenage hi-jinks in the early 1960s.That's because it was so disgusting,they'd rather let us get away then have to go back there themselves.Later on,we'd have to wash the shitty mud off our sneakers down one of the Lindenwood washrooms in a sink.Almost all of Cedar lane has been developed,and I think there might still be one old house left.When we'd take schoolbus home to Lindenwood in1961 and thereabouts,when the driver got to 79th Street and 155th Avenue,he'd call out,"Cedar Lane."Long gone.

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    2. Sorry, I think you are mistaken. The "hole" is the area between Linden blvd and conduit blvd. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up.

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    3. Sorry, I think you are mistaken. The "hole" is the area between Linden blvd and conduit blvd. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up.

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  17. Thanks for the memories of the Hole. I remember visiting my cousins who used to live there. Twas a scary place at night. No one I've told about it ever believed me !

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  18. That was my home growing up. It didn't always look like that, it's disturbing it was a forgotten neiborhood but some if the best people used to live there. I'm talking 20 and more years ago. Not today I remember the hole for what is used to be not was remains

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  19. I grew up in the hole. Back then it was strictly an Italian Neighborhood..maybe a few Irish and Germans also. Everyone took care of their homes and took pride in the community. It was like living in the country in the city..great place to grow up..flowers everywhere..dirt roads for bike rides..stickball games in the street, etc. However, as the surrounding neighborhoods became somewhat harzardous to your health alot of good people were forced to move and sell their homes. The Black Cowboys didn't live there until maybe the mid 1980s...they were quiet law abiding citizens as well. Unfortunately, the hole now has neighbors that play loud music at all hours of the night ...they have so called rent parties ..that the NYC cops do nothing about when called to report the distubance...perhaps they are afraid of these characters too. I still know a few good people that live down the hole and wonder if Nathan asked permission to take pictures of their homes and publish them. I would think if he didn't get permission..which I know he didn't ..perhaps he could find a way to provide assistance to help these individuals instead of exploiting them by posting pictures of their homes on the internet.

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    1. you can take pictures of pretty much any building you want to from a public street/sidewalk. only the odd "secret" govt building has such restrictions.

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    2. how is he exploiting them its an abandoned town? even if people still live there they don't have any legal right to live there so essentially they are the ones exploiting free rent

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    3. Seriously. What a jackass comment.

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    4. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up.

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    5. The "hole" is the area between Linden blvd and conduit blvd. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up.

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  20. Is your "Western Development" photo on the east side of Ruby St north of Linden Blvd? If so, the 2010 NYC aerials suggest that these houses are occupied.

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  21. I Lived in the hole, late 50's through the 70's I left in 66 to join the navy and went to Nam. My Folk's stayed for year's. 44 Sapphire St. Had Fig tree's and Tomato plant's etc. Back then it was All Italian's. Pete's Grocery's Store, Cousin Vinny and Uncle Chubby, and of Course The Alligator who lived next store, The old Botchy ball court. The world was a lot different back then. You stayed out of the hole if you weren't Italian No Question's Asked.

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    1. CHUBBY AND FRANK STABELIE .IT WAS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE .I NO I LIVED THERE .

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    2. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up. 76th st

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    3. Jay I believe I remember you and your parents. Didn't you live on 76th st in the same house as the Mc squarers? A few doors down from Pete and Josies?

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  22. I remember driving through here in the 1970's going to the T.S.S. near here. I lived in Woodhaven at the time & havent thought of this place in decades. Great post!

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  23. My great grandfather and great uncle lived there in 1925 until the 1930's when the city decided to raise the homes in order to put in a sewer system. The homeowners were given stipends to have their homes raised. Some did and others didn't. My family members chose not to and moved back to Brooklyn.

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  24. Coming from the Old Mill, which is very similar to and right next to The Hole, it was a beautiful place. Mainly Italians inhabited the area, amongst a few others, with well kept tomatoe gardens, grape vines, fig trees, and other vegetable\fruits and plants. It was a friendly welcoming place. The people were not rich in wealth, but rather in pride and morals. Cannot say much of who took the area over. Thanks to the "pink houses", that was a NAIL IN THE COFFIN for the whole area. Here's hoping for a turn around! From an OLD MILL at heart!

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  25. Wow, I found the exact spot where the second picture was taken:

    https://maps.google.de/maps?q=Linden+Blvd+%26+N+Conduit+Ave,+Queens,+New+York+11417,+USA&hl=de&ll=40.672322,-73.858606&spn=0.00642,0.009645&sll=54.209077,9.588941&sspn=2.534708,4.938354&t=h&geocode=FdqZbAId-B-Z-w&hnear=Linden+Blvd+%26+N+Conduit+Ave,+Queens,+New+York,+USA&z=17&layer=c&cbll=40.67223,-73.860628&panoid=hEzATxzigcLP6Ir4V1opGA&cbp=12,352.95,,0,0.54

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  26. i lived here for a couple years on 78st

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  27. My grandparents owned Pete and Josies grocery store. I lived therr until 1975 it was a great place for a kid to grow up. A piece of country in the middle of the city. Everyone knew you and watched out for each other. Families started moving out when the water tables rose and homes were getting flooded every time it rained.

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    1. I remember Pete and Josie and the mother. I lived at 133-20 76th street. I lived there from 1959 to about 1973. It was an all Italian neighborhood where you could play outside day or night and be safe as can be. There were no floods, dumping and no abandoned houses,. It was a great place to grow up.

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  28. There are rundown places like this all over the world, not simply in the southern US.

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  29. MY UNCLE WAS THE ICE MAN IN THE HOLE ..MY GRAND PARENTS LIVED THER MOST OF THERE LIFE ..WE HAD A HORSE AND WAGON STABLE . THE TRACARRO FAMILY

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  30. I lived on Dumont ,& Ruby around the corner from pete &Josie grocery store and down the block from bocce court next door was my aunt betty & ,uncle jim traina..born in the house posted with the upstairs door to no where in 1952 I was a twin ...great back then I was mortified of what it became ...Sad but great times down there ..we never locked our doors and if you came for trouble lets say it became a community affair.

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  31. Antonette Laspisa ZachmanJune 30, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    I lived 2 blocks up from there on Forbell street and the picture of that white 3 store house we knew the people that lived here I wonder what every what to them

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  32. Wow I was born and raised in the hole, my grandparents on my dads side owned a 6 unit apt building. Haven't been back since 87 or so.Couldnt think of any where else I'd have rather grown up. Horses goats chickens rabbits and lets not forget about all the loose dogs that made walking home from school so exciting. Walking to the the time square store was always a fun time

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