The historic Sea View Hospital on Staten Island is getting a long awaited conversion into a Wellness community, New York City’s first, and a move by the New York City Economic Development Center to revive a storied public health legacy that began with the quest to find a cure for tuberculosis in the early 20th century. Since 1913, the complex has evolved over the years into a unique blend of active hospital (operated by NYC Health + Hospitals) and adaptive reuse of many buildings. Still others lie unused and deteriorating, awaiting new life. This has made the site a mythical one for urban explorers and filmmakers, but also one that contains over a century of history and untold stories.
We have had the opportunity to visit Sea View Hospital on numerous occasions over the past few years and have put together a list of secrets that highlight both its past and its future. The new Wellness community will take the legacy of Sea View’s past and apply it to the health challenges facing New Yorkers today. Like a century ago, cures for some of today’s maladies have not all been found yet but it is known that fresh air and exercise can help. Sea View Hospital remains well poised to deliver another century of healthcare for the city.
10. There’s a Network of Underground Tunnels that Parallel Ones Above
The original buildings at Sea View Hospital were all connected via above ground tunnels which enabled the efficient movement of staff and patients. An aerial view of the site provides a clear layout of the above ground tunnels, some elevated and some on the ground. They connected the administration building to the kitchen building, to the Women’s Open Air Pavilions and other structures. While now predominantly used for storage, the tunnels still contain original architectural details, like the wood paneling above.
Parallel to these above ground tunnels, one level below, is another set of tunnels that contain more functional infrastructure of the Sea View Hospital complex. One tunnel leads to the former morgue and laboratory, now converted into the offices of the Staten Island Ballet. Above ground, the only indication of a tunnel in this area is a turret like structure. Below ground, that same spot is photographed below:
The interior of the octagonal kitchen, seen in an aerial view at the top of this article:
Other areas of the above ground tunnels:
Entrance to one of the Women’s Open Air Pavilions, currently unoccupied, from the above ground tunnels,