Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New York's North Brother Island

Yesterday Flavorpill linked to a gorgeous photo essay of New York's North Brother Island by Brooklyn-based photographer Richard Nickel, Jr. (I can't determine whether Nickel, Jr., whose blog is subtitled 'Guerrilla Preservation and Urban Archeology is related to the legendary photographer, Sullivan-chronicler, preservation martyr Richard Nickel. Perhaps this modern Nickel chose a nom-de-guerre that identifies himself as Nickel's intellectual progeny? Update: It's a pseudonym.)

The island lies between Rikers Island and The Bronx, and was uninhabited until 1885, when the Riverside Hospital relocated there from Roosevelt Island. (Sidebar #2: Riverside Hospital does not appear to be the same institution as Roosevelt Island's Smallpox Hospital, which in addition to being much more accessible than the ruins of North Brother Island, is New York's only landmarked ruin.) The island had several brushes with fame, including housing Typhoid Mary in quarantine for a time, and it was the site of the General Slocum's fire, New York's worst maritime disaster. After serving variously as a hospital, emergency housing for GI's after World War II, and a drug rehabilitation center, the island has been abandoned since the 1960's.

Nickel's photograph's are incredible, and I am continually amazed by how such ruins can still exist so close to the hearts of our cities. It's a wonder that such spots are not snapped up developers and investors, and both a blessing and a curse that they are so hard to access. Nickel's post is definitely worth reading, and this video tour of the island also has some merits.

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