At the southeastern corner of Bayonne rests the wreck of the Estelle Krieger, a 1,172-ton passenger schooner built in 1899 but left to rot along the piers of the Port Johnson coal docks along with the five-masted barkentine Macerata.
While a path exists along the shore from an area near East Fifth Street to the former Port Johnson dock, these two ships, along with two other smaller boats, are largely invisible from the shore. The vessels are listed on the New York Harbor “ship ruins tour.” At low tide, they rest in the mud flats at the end of the path. A small marker stands at the observation post at the far end, listing their names.
The path, which runs for about three quarters of a mile along one of the most remote portions of Bayonne, was overgrown and used by city workers to access a storm water pipe and maintenance shed and by kids wandering to the waterfront after dark.
Last year, thanks to a gift from the local chemical company IMTT, the path was widened, weeded, and opened to the public as the newest member of the city’s park system, open from 8 a.m. to dusk each day.
IMTT also planted 10 maple and walnut trees, joining the cluster of birch trees already lining the path. Some of the plants are typical of wetlands, making the park a natural preserve. The path also features 26 lights powered by solar panels, as well as benches built from recycled plastic.
From the park you can see a tiny Venice-like community of cottages, where residents tie off their boats in front of their homes. This is the exclusive Atlas Boat Club, a throwback to the 19th century when Bayonne was known as a yacht haven and summer resort for New York City’s social elite. Mark Twain and other luminaries occasionally visited here for a rest and a sail.
Although Hurricane Sandy savaged the area in October 2012, overturning some of the houses and pulling up many of the trees, the ships remained unscathed. During the last year, residents have slowly worked to rebuild their amazing community on the water.—BLP