One of 36 (42 in low tide) uninhabited New York City Islands, North Brother Island is a 20-acre piece of land in the East River between the Bronx and Rikers Island that was once home to a quarantine hospital. Currently off-limits to the public, the island became the home of Riverside Hospital for smallpox patients in 1885; “Typhoid Mary” Mallon was quarantined on the island until her death in 1938. This drone video footage offers a rare and hauntingly beautiful view of the island’s decaying bridges and buildings overgrown by forest.
Currently under the jurisdiction of the city’s parks department, the island was used to house war veterans after WWII. In the 1950s, an adolescent drug treatment center opened on the island, focusing on young heroin addicts. By the early 1960s the program was closed amid reports of corruption and patient recidivism, and the island has been uninhabited since then. Most of the original buildings are still standing, but in an advanced state of ruin and deterioration, overgrown by dense forest.
The closed-to-the-public island is now a bird sanctuary for nesting barn swallows. As 6sqft reported, City Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the City Council’s Parks Committee, announced last year that he hopes to open the island to the public: “The experience of being completely isolated in this forest with these half decayed beautiful buildings as you faintly hear in the background the sounds of the city—honks from the Bronx, loudspeakers from Rikers…” The island was also featured in a collection of photos taken by photographer Christopher Payne between 2008 and 2013, when Payne was granted exclusive visitation access.
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