Abandoned NYC_Will Ellis-Staten Island Farm Colony

On February 4th, longtime Untapped Cities columnist Will Ellis will be giving a talk for our events series about his new book Abandoned NYC at the East Village speakeasy The Red Room. There are just few tickets (free) left to this talk and in preparation we’ve asked Will to share with us his multi-year experience putting together this book.

Untapped: How did you first get into abandoned photography?



Even with the scaffolding from current construction, the facade of 5 Beekman Place, previously Temple Court, is stately. But the good stuff is on the inside. The historic 5 Beekman, just off Park Place, is undergoing a long overdue renovation, being converted into hotels and condos with the addition of a 51-story adjoining tower. We’ve been following the space ever since Scouting NY posted interior shots in 2010 but the Wall Street Journal gave the latest update this week. The glass and concrete tower was designed by Gerner, Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects to reflect the turrets of 5 Beekman next door. According to WSJ, the Beekman Hotel will have 287 rooms and 68 units in the Beekman Residences condo tower. GB Lodging took over the building in early 2012, anticipating the resurgence of Lower Manhanttan thanks to the opening of the Freedom Tower and the Calatrava transit hub.


Abandoned Platform-Level-Times Square-Port Authority-A-C-E-Aqueduct Racetrack Line-LIRR-8Image by Peter Dougherty via NYCSubway.org

We’ve mentioned the abandoned level below Times Square before in our piece about abandoned subway levels and platforms in New York City. But this is the first time we’re featuring some images of what it looked like when it was operating and after some years of abandonment.


New York City life is shaped by the archipelago upon which it lies. Nearly thirty of these islands bear names and distinct, if a little peculiar, backstories. We rounded up eight such islands, all linked through the common themes of abandonment and obscurity. Many were at one point inhabited, either by individuals or institutions, but today all have slipped out of the public’s consciousness. Indeed, to many native New Yorkers, their existence remains unnoticed.

1. Shooter’s Island (Kill Van Kull)

Shooters Island-Staten Island-Abandoned-Newark Bay-Arthur Kill-Parks-NYC-6Entrance to Shooter Island. Source: Hudson Kayaker 

This 43-acre island straddles the border between New York and New Jersey and derives its name from the hunting activities that took place here during the Colonial Era. As New York grew as an industrial port, the island accommodated an oil refinery and shipyard during the 19th century. Today, the island is owned by the Department of Parks and Recreation, with the Audubon Society managing wildlife research. Many prominent historical figures from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt and Prince Henry of Prussia once made great use of the island, with the former utilizing it as a location to drop off covert messages during the Revolutionary War. (more…)

For those of you still unsure of the merits of crossing the fence to the world of the forgotten and forbidden, allow Vocativ’s new three-part documentary series featuring Will Ellis, Untapped Cities’ Abandoned NYC columnist, to do the talking–and the exploration. The series, which aired its first episode on Monday, follows Ellis into the bowels of three abandoned structures in the New York City area. A researcher and historian, Ellis is best known for his website abandonednyc.com, which has featured, among other obscurities, a baseball graveyard in Queens, the abandoned facilities of North Brother Island, and an old resort in the Catskills.



Heard enough of the mystical allure of City Island? The Chimney Sweep Islands and High Island, formations far more foreboding and obscure, lie just beneath City Island’s nose. Or, at least, just across Pelham Bay. These are a part of a group of 20 islands situated within the borders of Bronx County known as the “Devil’s Stepping Stones.” With a history of waxing and waning fortunes, they have provided both key landmarks for sailors during the 18th century and have hosted lunatic asylums.