North Brother Island, NYC’s abandoned park, might become more accessible

North Brother Island, NYC’s abandoned park, might become more accessible

North Brother Island is technically New York City parkland, but almost nobody gets to step foot on it.

Some city officials are trying to change that.

“You shouldn’t have to be a councilman or a reporter to visit North Brother Island,” said Councilman Mark Levine, who heads the council’s Parks Committee and has led the call for increased visits.

Forgotten in the East River between the Bronx’s Port Morris and Rikers Island, North Brother Island is 20 acres of paradise for urban explorers with a taste for decay. The one-time quarantine island was home to the infamous Typhoid Mary, whose cottage has long since crumbled, but still standing is a towering, overgrown and ransacked Art Deco building dubbed the “Tuberculosis Pavilion,” part of the former Riverside Hospital.

“Amazing. Enchanting. Romantic,” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said after a visit.

A tour for city officials and members of the media on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, was part of Levine’s ongoing campaign to expand access to the island, something currently being studied by PennPraxis, which is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.

“To both restore it, maintain it and manage it would be a very expensive undertaking,” Silver said. “But it is tempting.”

In the meantime, the island remains hard to reach — even if you’re part of a flotilla that includes high-ranking city officials. Until that changes, you can explore the island in photographs.

Jillian Jorgensen