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8 Abandoned Islands Near NYC

June 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

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.


NYC-Arch-Mansion-Fort Tyron

Scientifically proven (sort of) to be the happiest place in New York City, it’s no surprise that somebody would have wanted to build a mansion in what’s now Fort Tryon Park near the Cloisters. Where is it then, you ask? Well, all that remains today are a few stone arches just west of Corbin Circle, which once served as an entranceway for the estate before it burned to the ground in 1925. Though not quite as impressive as the estate itself, the arches are certainly remarkable on their own terms, and you can catch a glimpse of them below courtesy of photographer (and actor) Nicholas Santasier.


Bin distribution machine, bin structure.

Even though plans continue to go forward in transforming the Domino Sugar Refinery into residential housing, the building continues to be one of NYC’s most recognizable landmarks. Considering that the factory had also been a highly frequented proving ground for urban explorers after it officially closed in 2004, there is no shortage of photographs and documentation both in and outside of the building. We were allowed in last year to take video and photography, and the public was given a peek into the sugar warehouse via artist Kara Walker’s sugar-coated sphinx. But before you convince yourself that you’ve seen everything you’d ever see about the factory, check out photographer Paul Raphaelson‘s amazing photos that were the very last series of photos officially taken before the factory is slated for interior demolition and redevelopment.


Photo via Abandoned But Not Forgotten

When Action Park opened its doors the summer of 1978 in Vernon, NJ, parent company Great American Recreation had no idea the dubious fame the park would garner. What began as a way to utilize the Vernon Valley/Great Gorge skiing area during the summer led to one of the first modern water parks, a few years of booming business and unfortunately the deaths of six people and its subsequent closing.


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