Could it finally be a new era for the Bronx's deserted North Brother Island? At least a few city officials think so. On Wednesday, three City Council members toured the 20-acre East River island that's closed to the public and has been uninhabited for the past 50 years by all but the birds. Now, the City Council members are rehashing the question of whether the island can be rehabilitated into public parkland or, in council member Fernando Cabrera's case, a Disneyland. "We already have Governors Island," he told the Times, "I feel like we need something different."
The island that neighbors the more well-known Rikers has, in its past, served as the site of a quarantine hospital for illnesses like typhoid, tuberculosis, and cholera. The hospital shell has also been used as World War II veteran housing and as a drug addiction treatment facility that shuttered in 1963. In a city so squeezed for space, it seems the island is a logical place in the reappropriation of lost space.
The New York Times says the island has, in part, been left alone because it has become a nesting place for birds like herons, egrets, and ibises. It has also been left as-is because it would be a huge financial commitment on behalf of the Parks Department to even raze the island's buildings and start anew. The island is, according to the Parks Department's head of historic preservation, unsafe. In the meantime, councilmember Mark Levine will continue to try to build momentum for the park."You don't need to invest $100 million to open it to the public," he told the Times, "You build a pier there and do it bit by bit."
· On an Island Under Vines, New York City Officials See a Future Park [NYT]
· A Rare, Legal Visit To "Spellbinding" North Brother Island [Gothamist]
· A plea for public access to an 'unsafe' island [Capital NY]
· In Photos, Christopher Payne Uncovers Disappearing Places [Curbed]
· Get to Know 34 of New York City's Most Obscure Islands [Curbed]
· All North Brother Island coverage [Curbed]