North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City by Christopher PayneNorth Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City by Christopher Payne

North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City

Photographed byChristopher Payne

Hardcover | May 1, 2014

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At first encounter, North Brother Island is among the most unexpected of places: an uninhabited island of ruins in New York City that hardly anyone knows, existing today almost in secret. But in some fundamental sense it is also quite ordinary, for just as they have in other parts of the city,people have lived, worked, studied, healed, and died there for centuries. The island has been bought and sold, used and re-used many times over. For a while, though, it was famous: in 1885, it became the home of the Riverside Hospital, which had been established to isolate and treat people withinfectious diseases. By 1895, the hospital had grown to such an extent that the social reformer Jacob Riis wrote that there "was nothing like it in the world." Later, the island's reputation grew mostly in infamy: in 1904, the passenger steamship General Slocum caught fire in the East River, leavingmore than a thousand souls dead on the shores of North Brother Island, the single greatest loss of life in New York City to that time; in 1908, the hospital received as a patient Mary Mallon, better known as "Typhoid Mary," who would die on North Brother in 1938. North Brother Island is both part of the City of New York and a world apart from it. Its twenty acres sit low in the East River, just north of Hell Gate, with twenty-five or so buildings in various states of decay. As there is no public access, it's most easily seen as you lift off the tarmac atLaGuardia. Look to the west for a brown smudge stuck in the blue-gray East River, close up against Rikers Island and not far from the Bronx shoreline. That's NBI. Photographer Christopher Payne, renowned for his work at abandoned state mental hospitals (Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, MIT Press, 2009), received permission to visit and photograph the island over a period of years, and this book, North Brother Island: The Last UnknownPlace in New York City, is the result of that work. His collaborator and co-author is Randall F. Mason, Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied the island and its history as a unique example in the annals of urban planning and policy.North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City features an essay and over 80 large-scale color images by Christopher Payne, and a highly illustrated study by Prof. Mason, including images from throughout the island's history, official documents, and other supporting graphics.
Christopher Payne, a photographer based in New York City, specializes in the documentation of America's vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. Trained as an architect, he has a natural interest in how things are purposefully designed and constructed, and how they work. His first book, New York's Forgotten Substations: The Pow...
Title:North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York CityFormat:HardcoverDimensions:144 pages, 9.5 × 11 × 0 inPublished:May 1, 2014Publisher:Fordham University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0823257711

ISBN - 13:9780823257713


Editorial Reviews

"This stunning book captures a nearly forgotten corner of the city. Seemingly held apart from the urban rush of change, North Brother Island nonetheless reveals its layered history. In its latest incarnation, native and non-native species vie for precious island space. Amid the ruins, we find an essential New York story."