The Hallett Nature Sanctuary was once one of the best kept secrets of the immensely popular landmark, Central Park. Located on the southeast corner of the park, close to the Plaza Hotel and other notable destinations, the 4-acre Hallett Sanctuary has been closed off for 69 years, the result of an experiment by the NYC Parks Department and Robert Moses to see what would happen to the biodiversity and landscape of an area of Central Park was left to its own devices. Moses, in particular, hoped it would become a bird sanctuary.


American Irish Historical Society-Headquarters-AIHS-991 Fifth Avenue-Townhouse-80th Street-Mary King Townhouse-NYC

The American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) is housed in a magnificent Gilded Age townhouse on Fifth Avenue, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The society has an active schedule of public art and music events which provide the curious a glimpse into this stunning building. We recently took a grand tour of the townhouse as preparation for the next Brownstone 360 from the Metropolis Ensemble, an immersive food and art event to take place this upcoming Monday, was underway. Through our visit, we discovered the many secrets of this historic building at 991 Fifth Avenue, part of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District.

Sign up for advance notice for an upcoming Untapped Cities tour of the Historical Society:


Gowanus Canal-Secrets-History-Kayaing-Industrial-Superfund Site-NYC

The Gowanus Canal conjures up many aspects of New York City, from a celebrated Revolutionary War history to a less glorious industrial past that renders itself visible in the superfund site the canal is today. It’s also a site of rebirth, where the emergence of off-the-beaten path art galleries and small manufacturing shops have been followed by an influx of luxury condominiums. It also plays a forgotten but important role in the Prohibition era for bootleggers and was a convenient locale for the activities of the Brooklyn mafia. 

This Thursday at the Museum of the City of New York, writer Joseph Alexiou, author of Gowanus: Brooklyn’s Curious Canal will join Hannah Frishberg, reporter at Brownstoner, in a conversation about the changing landscape of the Gowanus Canal. Alexious sees the canal and its environs as a microcosm that tells the story of New York City, and explores in the book how the changing reception of the word Gowanus tells us a lot about the transformation that has taken place there since the earliest days of the colony and before. Our list of Gowanus Canal secrets below is derived predominantly from the very entertaining book by Alexiou.

Tickets for the event can be purchased for the talk ($16 for adults, $12 students/seniors) or for talk + book ($40).


Abandoned Sea View Hospital-Buildings-Staten Island-NYC-034One of several abandoned patient pavilions at Sea View Hospital

We’ve previously taken you inside the abandoned tunnels and the old Children’s Hospital within Sea View Hospital on Staten Island, but what’s truly fascinating is that abandoned buildings dot the entire complex. They stand side by side with more modern buildings and historical ones that have been repurposed for new uses. In fact, the entire area is a historic district, which includes the Staten Island Farm Colony across the street.


Moving Empire State Buidling-Thunderbird Comics-NYC

One of our favorite articles is about the buildings in New York City that have literally been picked up and moved. Most of these were smaller houses, but all 3,700 tons of the Empire Theatre on 42nd Street was moved in 1997. On a larger, more imaginary scale is the moving of the Empire State Building, as depicted in the 1960s Thunderbird TV comic by Graham Bleathman from England. In the ’90s, the Thunderbird series was re-released as a comic book with new drawings.

In this scene from Terror in New York City, plans to move the Empire State Building began this year, in 2016, to rebuild a large swatch of Manhattan from Union Square to Central Park. Some key buildings, like the Empire State, are going to be preserved while the rest demolished urban renewal style.


In early April, in partnership with the NYCEDC, we took Untapped Cities readers into the abandoned Staten Island Farm Colony with Nate Gray, a Vice President from the NYCEDC and the architect from Vengoechea+ Boyland Architecture in charge of its transformation into the Landmark Colony, a multi-use complex with senior housing, affordable housing, and new public space. It was a rare opportunity to access the off-limits site, and guests were allowed to roam fairly freely to take photographs and explore inside some of the buildings. Watch the quick video we made above of the exploration and see more photographs and information about the project here.

Discover more of our upcoming Behind the Scenes tours of NYC.