Although the allure of visiting an abandoned island is understandable, North Brother is actually a lot more than just a creepy relic of the past. In the late 1800s, the mysterious island housed various quarantine pavilions built for Russian Jewish immigrants. Later, in the early 20th century, Typhoid Mary was a patient until her death at the island’s Riverdale Hospital.
Today, the island is runover with nature, and has become a bird sanctuary, something that, according to Levine, would take precedence if the island is opened to the public. In order to protect the island’s natural state, the councilman has mentioned classifying the island as a”no-touch” and “limited access” environmental education destination.
Now, thanks to the grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Levine’s ideas may come to fruition, provided he can find a way to bring the community to this historic island, all the while protecting its natural resources. “We want this to be a resource for the community and young people to learn about the incredible history and human stories of North Brother Island,” Levine explained. “We want the local community to be part of this planning process. The grant allows us to bring us experts in architect, urban planning, horticulture and environmental studies together with community leaders and young people.”
Photos by Tod Seelie for the Gothamist