Mysterious Art Installation Turns Up on NYC’s North Brother Island

Perched on the rocky shoreline of North Brother Island, a tiny body in New York’s East River, there stands what appears to be a unique, remote art installation: an outdoor living room. Spotted by kayaker Jamie Roderick, who informed Gothamist of the discovery, an old, fake wood paneled television with bunny ears sits atop a concrete block, across from a leather armchair.

If you’ve never heard of North Brother Island, you’re probably not alone, as it was abandoned more than 50 years ago. The city previously ran a hospital there, quarantining patients suffering from highly contagious diseases such as smallpox and yellow fever. The infamous Typhoid Mary was confined to North Brother’s Riverside Hospital on multiple occasions, ultimately residing there from 1915 until her death in 1938. Riverside closed in 1942 and, after World War Two, North Brother was home to a juvenile detention center until the island was shut down in 1963.

The island also has the dubious distinction of being the site of New York city’s worst maritime tragedy, when the General Slocum caught fire and sank just offshore in 1903. Only 321 of the over 1,400 passengers, most of them women and children on a church picnic outing, survived.

Even if the mysterious furniture arrangement isn’t some kind of art installation, the natural decaying of the island has an artistic appeal of its own. In 2008, photographer Christopher Payne began documenting the ruined hospital facilities that are slowly crumbling amid what is now a wildlife sanctuary. In May, he published a photo book, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, capturing the eerie, quiet beauty of nature slowly reclaiming what man has forgot.

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What appears to be a mysterious art installation on the shore of New York's North Brother Island. Photo: Jamie Roderick.
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The dock, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The dock, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The street in front of the nurses's home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The street in front of the nurses's home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The spiral staircase in the nurses' home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The spiral staircase in the nurses' home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The nurses' home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The nurses' home, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
An overgrown fire hydrant, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
An overgrown fire hydrant, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Bathroom, staff house, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Bathroom, staff house, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The morgue in fall, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The morgue in fall, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The morgue in summer, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The morgue in summer, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The male dormitory, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The male dormitory, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Library books in the male dormitory, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Library books in the male dormitory, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in winter, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in winter, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in spring, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in spring, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in summer, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion in summer, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion's balcony, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion's balcony, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion's lobby, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The Tuberculosis Pavilion's lobby, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The boiler plant photographed from the roof of the morgue, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The boiler plant photographed from the roof of the morgue, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The inside of the boiler plant, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The inside of the boiler plant, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
St. John-by-the-Sea Church, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
St. John-by-the-Sea Church, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Only the facade remains at St. John-by-the-Sea Church, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Only the facade remains at St. John-by-the-Sea Church, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The maintenance building workshop, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The maintenance building workshop, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The tennis courts, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The tennis courts, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Inside the dormitory ward, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
Inside the dormitory ward, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The coal house from the morgue roof, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.
The coal house from the morgue roof, North Brother Island. Photo: Christopher Payne.

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