Creedmoor State Hospital_New York_Untapped Cities_Will Ellis

Inside Creedmoor Psychiatric Center

Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s Building 25 was once a haven for New York City’s cast-out mentally ill, but today it houses a much more reviled and equally misunderstood breed of New Yorker–they’re pigeons, and you won’t believe what they’ve done with the fourth floor…The sprawling Creedmoor campus was constructed in 1912 in Queens Village as the Farm Colony of Brooklyn State Hospital, one of hundreds of similar psychiatric wards erected at the turn of the century to house and rehabilitate those who were ill equipped to function on their own.


Introducing our new column  Abandoned NYC  by Will Ellis, a NYC-based photographer, filmmaker and educator, who has been documenting the abandoned places and forgotten histories from across the five boroughs on his website  Abandoned NYC.

The Abandoned Gowanus Batcave

Not long ago, a pack of teenage runaways lived the dream in the infamous Gowanus Batcave, shacking up rent-free in an abandoned MTA powerhouse on the shore of the notoriously toxic Gowanus Canal. Out of the grime, in back rooms and crooked halls, the artifacts of this sizable squatter settlement remain to enlighten, amuse, and unnerve the intrepid few that enter the disreputable interior.


The bear grotto

Urban planners call it “arrested deterioration:” the ironic preservation of a poorly designed zoo in a state of decay. Open to the public as a fraying monument to a past era, the abandoned Los Angeles Zoo haunts the edges of Griffith Park, a stone’s throw from the Greek Theater. A crooked sign posted by the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks philosophically designates the old bear grottos, rows of cages, and dilapidated menagerie as an opportunity to observe “the developments in the zoological sciences.” And indeed anyone can crawl through the close quarters of the cages and understand how diseases were often rampant and why the animals’ existences were short-lived.

The May 2012 issue of Travel and Leisure magazine named LAX the 2nd worst airport in the United States. LAX took the lowest scores in almost all categories ranging from check-in to cleanliness to staff communication, revealing no surprises to those who frequent the airport. However, the one category that LAX ranked lowest that I find most interesting is ‘location’. It is a peculiar question to pose in a city as decentralized as Los Angeles, for how would one begin to chose which part of Los Angeles should be most connected to its airport. Despite multiple attempts to relocate LAX, it is clear that the airport will be a permanent social, economic and political fixture of the Westside of Los Angeles. In addition to these more fluid forces, LAX continues to have a strong spatial impact on the city. This impact on the space surrounding LAX has created voids in the urban fabric at a scale that is truly one of landscape, superseding the building lot, block and even neighborhood. This tour will bring you to two moments where the edge of urbanization and vacant urban space meet. To the casual tourist this edge condition greatly contributes to the lackluster experience of the airports location, however to others this same space reveals a unique insight into the spatial implications of development and the fantastical outcomes of urbanization.


Boatel Marina

The Boatel Marina

For most New Yorkers, boating and camping are rare  occurrences that come only with weeks of planning and possible tent and life jacket rentals from a stranger on Craiglist.  However, only a short five minute walk from the A train Beach 60th Street stop in Queens lies a Hemingwayesque experience for the urban explorer, and a perfect mix of these two adventurous past-times: the Boatel. Constance Hockaday’s Boatel in Marina 59 is the perfect combination of camping and boating without ever having to pitch a tent or sail, or leave the five boroughs. As the Marina 59 website states, “23 artists from NYC and abroad are meticulously crafting a world out of the flotsam and jetsam of Jamaica Bay.”


Creative Boatel Plants decorating one of the 16 vessels

The boats, with names like Queen Zenobia and Ms. Nancy Boggs, have very distinct personalities and come with accessories like streamers, plants, or even costumes for their guests.  Our boat for the evening, Seamrogh, was very cozy with a double bed, small table, and sky light open to a starry Queens night.  Candles and sea faring photos decorated the boat, and we held readings from the old ship mates’ journal and learned of Seamrogh’s not so distant past as a fishing boat off the Atlantic.

The personalities of the boats are only matched by the staff that runs Marina 59, who could not have been nicer, if just slightly flummoxed by the mass amounts of hipsters willing to spend the night on old boats.  The gate to Marina 59 locks at night, (only intensifying the feeling of summer camp), and opens again at sunrise as fishermen trickle in to begin a day at sea.


Driftwood decorations at the Boatel

Did I mention there were cats and goats roaming around the marina?


Grilling at the Boatel

Many evenings, the Boatel shows outdoor movies.  There is also a tiki bar area, where guests bond over common Boatel necessities like mosquito repellant and ice for the community coolers.  My friends and I had a delightful cookout at the grills at Marina 59, even though we did not get the memo about organic quinoa and heirloom tomatoes being the dinner of choice at the Boatel. So we enjoyed our charred hot dogs, Oreos, and beer. This was glamping at its best.

Check out the boats available here and book your night at the Boatel! [Update: We just received word that the Boatel, in its current incarnation will come to an end the night before Halloween].

A few weeks ago we introduced you to Dead Horse Bay in Brooklyn  which contains the remnants of actual dead horses and a plethora of vintage garbage from over a hundred years ago. The landscape, dotted with bottles, creepy toys, household nicknacks, decaying boats and even (reportedly), old hand guns, is a treasure chest for antique collectors and urban explorers. In this video, provided to us by Group 11, and excerpted for use on Untapped New York, one of those collectors tells us a little more about Dead Horse Bay and what he’s finding.

We’re always interested in history, so it’s kind of like peeling back the past. It’s all here. Just that you can unearth somebody’s else’s garbage and try to explain a story with it…it’s fun and interesting….It’s nice to know what might have happened 50, 60 years before I was even born. I think this is one of the last few untouched areas of Brooklyn.”

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.