We all love our iconic, innovative, and picturesque bridges (insert photos of the Brookly, Manhattan, and Queensboro Bridges here), but New York City is home to far more bridges, each with its own unique story to tell. Below, we round up some of the city’s “other” bridges, who have made the cut either for their obscurity, their interesting history, or their other distinguished features. (more…)

The Rikers Island GreenHouse garden, run as a collaboration between The Horticulture Society and the NYC Department of Correction, provides an oasis of green on an island more known for its barbed wire and concrete.   Image credit: Google Maps, © 2013 Blue SkyThe Rikers Island GreenHouse garden, run as a collaboration between The Horticulture Society and the NYC Department of Correction, provides an oasis of green on an island more known for its barbed wire and concrete

The following piece is based on the experience of Matthew DelSesto, a graduate student in urbanism at the Parsons School for Design. 

For the past year, I’ve been an intern at the Horticultural Society of New York (The Hort), working for the GreenHouse program. GreenHouse is a jail-to-street program for sentenced inmates and detainees at Rikers Island Correction Facility in New York City.  As a collaboration with the NYC Department of Correction and Department of Education, GreenHouse represents an innovative approach to prison programs that give inmates the opportunity to work in a garden, classroom and green house space.


LaGuardia Airport-Boundaries-Runway Extension-2013-Rikers Island-Queens-NYC

While researching the WPA-style wastewater treatment plant in Astoria, we came across this proposal to extend LaGuardia Airport’s runways. The Draft Environmental Assessment was completed in August 2013 for public review and the public comment period just ended on September 23rd.  While the reason behind the extension is pretty standard airport safety stuff, it was the map that surprised us. The boundaries of LaGuardia Airport extend into the water and basically touch Rikers Island, although nothing is built there currently!

Back to the proposal, the 180 feet extension on two runways responds to a Congressional mandate to increase the size of runway safety areas for emergency purposes. The runways in question are currently built over the water and are shorter than the new standard.


August 2013-MTA NYC Subway MapAugust 2013 NYC Subway Map by the MTA with Rikers Island

Over the years, the MTA and earlier transit agencies have both included and omitted Rikers Island from its maps, undecided as to how public or private it really is. We’ve taken screenshots of maps going back to 1939 to show the inconsistency.

There is only one way to access the infamous prison, across the Rikers Island bridge. The island facility is comprised of ten jails with a total capacity of 17,000 all-male inmates. It is technically part of the Bronx borough, but it’s part of Queens Community Board 1 and has a Queens zip code. Hazen Street, which begins in Queens at the Grand Central Parkway, continues onto Rikers Island and bisects the space. The MTA runs the Q100 bus over the bridge but private cars require a permit. These connections mean that, unlike the restricted and abandoned North Brother Island, Rikers Island is far more ambiguous in terms of accessibility, especially if you are looking at a city map.


Prison-Burial Ground-Hart Island-New York-Untapped CitiesSource: Luke Rafferty via Narratively.

Last week we uncovered some of New York City’s former cemeteries that are now populated with park-goers and hotel residents. This week, we’re taking a closer look at a cemetery that rarely receives any visitors. Located in the western Long Island Sound, Hart Island lies in close proximity to the Bronx–yet it is often unheard and unspoken of. As reported by Narratively, the island doesn’t appear on the MTA Subway Map or the Department of Transportation’s bicycle map. The 101-acre island serves as a separate burial ground, the city’s last potter’s field, for those who are either unclaimed or whose families couldn’t afford a funeral. The island is uninhabited today, but more than 800,000 dead has been buried there since 1869, making it the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world.


True Blood-Prison-Jail-Panopticon-Season 6-Vamp Camp-2The “Vamp Camp” prison and test facility in True Blood

Those that (still) watch True Blood, HBO’s vampire drama will be familiar with the latest location, “Vamp Camp,” a veritable prison and research facility the humans of Louisiana built. Though critics have criticized the show’s blatant reference to Nazi concentration camps, the inspiration for the architecture of Vamp Camp actually comes from 18th-century prison design theory.