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Forbidden NYC: Public places that are off-limits to most New Yorkers

New Yorkers hate being told no. We especially hate it when we're told we can’t go somewhere or do something in our own city.

But here’s the crazy thing: There are a lot of places that are off-limits to most New Yorkers.

Some people who live in nice buildings can’t even go through certain doors. Reservations at the top restaurants are so tough to get you have to either be fabulously wealthy or uber-connected.

There are even public places New Yorkers are told they cannot go, like the forbidden inside of the Washington Square Arch and The New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

There are, of course, good reasons why these places are off-limits: security, safety, all that. And some actually do open for short periods of time to the public during the year. So they aren’t totally forbidden, just highly restricted. But that sucks too, right? Here are some "keep out" zones to tempt your curiosity.

North Brother Island

Given that Typhoid Mary (yeah, that one) once
Photo Credit: Flickr/HLIT

Given that Typhoid Mary (yeah, that one) once lived on North Brother Island, you might want to ask yourself why you'd even want to visit the place. Those who have visited have described end-of-world scenes as the wild overtook an island that once housed a quarantine hospital. Sounds great, right? The perfect place to live out real-life zombie movies. It's been uninhabited since 1909, according to the Parks Department. For decades it has been a preserve for herons. It has, literally, gone to the birds.

Statue of Liberty Torch

Access to the torch has been closed to
Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Jewel Samad

Access to the torch has been closed to the public since July 30, 1916, after an act of sabotage by Germany caused an explosion at Black Tom Island that sent debris flying into Lady Liberty. The torch and arm were damaged, and the torch was replaced in 1984.

Old City Hall subway station

This 1904 City Hall subway station is widely
Photo Credit: Flickr / Ilya Abramov

This 1904 City Hall subway station is widely described as gorgeous, featuring tile arches, graceful curves, chandeliers and skylights. Unfortunately, it's been closed off to the public for decades except by special tour. There is another way to catch a glimpse of its splendor, however: Stay on the No. 6 train until the last stop at Brooklyn Bridge and wait until it turns around. You'll be able to see the City Hall station on the loop back.

Highbridge Water Tower

The Highbridge Water Tower is a key element
Photo Credit: Flickr/Eric B and Wikimedia Commons

The Highbridge Water Tower is a key element in the defunct Old Croton Aqueduct that distributed water to Manhattan. Water from the aqueduct would fill the 100-foot granite tower's 47,000 gallon tank, then flow downward with enough pressure to spread throughout the borough. It's now only open on weekends in July and August, according to the Parks Department website.

New York State Pavilion

One of the iconic structures of the 1964
Photo Credit: Flickr/Wally Gobetz

One of the iconic structures of the 1964 World's Fair, the New York State Pavilion has weathered time poorly. It has been closed for decades, and many of its features have deteriorated or been lost to time (such as hundreds of glass tiles that covered its main roof). A push to preserve the structure in recent years has gained some traction, but it still remains off-limits to the public. Last year, parts of it were opened to celebrate the anniversary of the fair. But it's still impossible to get up in the two towers; the elevators no longer function. Too bad, since one of those towers features an observatory.

Little Red Lighthouse

While not strictly off-limits to the public, access
Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Matt Campbell

While not strictly off-limits to the public, access to the "Little Red Lighthouse" in northern Manhattan is restricted to once-a-month tours between June and October. Visitors climb up an iron stair to the tower -- it's only 40 feet tall -- where they have views of the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge. Named for a 1942 children's book, it's Manhattan's only lighthouse.

Washington Square Arch

The Washington Square Arch is one of the
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

The Washington Square Arch is one of the iconic park structures in the city, and most people just walk around or below it not realizing that it is actually possible to go inside it. Of course, you're not allowed, but a few people have.

One Wall Street Journal reporter, who got a tour in 2011, described climbing up a 102-step spiral staircase to the vaulted attic. He found it empty, except for a "stockpile of light bulbs and fluorescents used to light the exterior."

Hart Island

Hart Island, a 100-acre slab of land off

Hart Island, a 100-acre slab of land off the Bronx that serves as the city's potter's field, has been off-limits to most people except for grave diggers and jail officials. Access to the island is tightly controlled by the Department of Correction, which administers burials there, using inmates to bury the dead. Few people are allowed to visit, and those who do can't go very far. In recent years, advocates and lawmakers have been looking to open up the island to more visits.

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