New York City, five boroughs boasting nine million people occupying an ever-expanding concrete jungle. The industrial hand has touched almost every inch of the city, leaving even the parks over manicured and uncomfortably structured. There is, however, a lesser known corner that has been uncharacteristically left to regress to its natural state. North Brother Island, a small sliver of land situated off the southern coast of the Bronx, once housed Riverside Hospital, veteran housing, and ultimately a drug rehabilitation center for recovering heroin addicts. In the 1960s the island, once full with New Yorkers, became deserted and nature has been slowly swallowing the remaining structures ever since. Christopher Payne, the photographer behind North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, was able to access the otherwise prohibited to the public island, and document the incredible phenomenon of the gradual destruction of man’s artificial structures.
North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City: Photographs by Christopher Payne, A History by Randall Mason, and Essay by Robert Sullivan (A Fordham University Press Publication). 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. Randall Mason is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design. He worked previously at the Getty Conservation Institute, University of Maryland, and Rhode Island School of Design. Robert Sullivan is the author of numerous books, including The Meadowlands: WildernessAdventures at the Edge of a City; Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants; The Thoreau You Don’t Know: The Father of Nature Writers on the Importance of Cities, Finance, and Fooling Around; A Whale Hunt, and, most recently, My American Revolution. His stories and essays have been published in magazines such asNew York, The New Yorker, and A Public Space. He is a contributing editor to Vogue.