New York City Owns A Creepy Island That Almost No One Is Allowed To Visit — Here's What It's Like

North Brother Island is hidden in one of the busiest cities in the world.Google Earth; Business Insider

Less than a mile from Manhattan — one of the priciest and most densely populated places in the world — sits a mysterious island that people abandoned more than half a century ago.

"North Brother Island is among New York City's most extraordinary and least known heritage and natural places," wrote the authors of a recent University of Pennsylvania study about the location.

The city owns the 22-acre plot, which pokes out of the East River between the South Bronx's industrial coast and a notorious prison: Rikers Island Correctional Center.

It's illegal for the public to set foot on North Brother Island and its smaller companion, South Brother Island. But even birds seem to avoid its crumbling, abandoned structures (and contrary to Broad City's depiction of the island, there isn't a package pick-up center).

In 2017, producers for the Science Channel obtained the city's permission to visit North Brother Island — and the crew invited Business Insider to tag along.

The story of our small expedition premiered this month on "What on Earth?", a popular satellite-image-based TV show that's now in its fourth season. (Our segment closes out episode 12.)

Here's what we saw and learned while romping around one of New York's spookiest and most forgotten places.

North Brother Island is accessible only by boat. Leaving from Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx is one of the quickest ways to get there.

Watch your step — the boat ramp is covered in slippery algae at low tide.

This small aluminum boat was our ride.

The East River was crawling with police, probably because Rikers Island Correctional Institute is less than a mile away — and they are wary of anyone visiting North Brother Island.

No one is permitted to visit the island without permission from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, which manages the site as a bird sanctuary. One of their escorts also has to tag along everywhere you go.

Pulling up to the island, we navigated around rotten dock supports. The ferry dock and its rusted derrick looked ready to collapse at any moment.

The island was first claimed in 1614 and inhabited in 1885, and its history is checkered with death, disease, and decay.

In June 1904, for instance, a steamship called the General Slocum burst into flames and sank in the East River. Though 321 people survived, the bodies of 1,021 passengers who died washed ashore for days.

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