The interior and roof of the Grand Army Plaza arch was designed for public access but has been closed off.
This time last year, Untapped Cities and numerous other individuals and organizations testified at the City Hall hearing “An Examination of Parks Department Properties Currently Inaccessible to the Public” led by New York City Councilman, Mark Levine, chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation. These locations include whole islands, monuments within parks, pieces of infrastructure, and unused buildings. Here are ten of these locations discussed in the hearing.
In our testimony, we stated:
“The list of places being discussed today constitute some of the most popular topics on Untapped Cities, fascinating not only to the more vocal and visible urban explorer community but also more importantly, to every day New Yorkers who are interested in history and placemaking. Questions on how to access these places are some of the most frequent inquiries we receive at the publication, and while we have been privileged to have been able to visit several of these locations to document them, it is always with misgiving that we cannot say they are open to the public. We believe it is the right of all New Yorkers, as citizens of this city, to be able to access these properties under the parks jurisdiction. Openness in our society is more important than ever, both for residents and for visitors to New York. Public access to the city’s public places will help to promote a robust, engaged civic society and inform everyone about the city’s history and its built environment – and we hope that New York City can serve as a civic leader in this effort and serve as an example to other cities in this country.”
10. North Brother Island
North Brother Island, photograph by Christopher Payne
North Brother Island is probably the number one spot that New Yorkers hope to access. With its fascinating history as a quarantine site for infectious disease, location for post WWII housing and as a drug treatment facility, North Brother Island is additionally fascinating because its remnants show that a self-contained city once existed, replete with roads, power plants and beautiful, civic buildings. It has become an urban explorer paradise, but legal visits to North Brother Island have been infrequent and sometimes a surprise – like a NYC Parks-led canoe trip we attended that made an impromptu stop on North Brother Island.
In 2015, a study to examine the island’s possible reuse was initiated by Councilman Mark Levine in partnership with PennPraxis, under the direction of Randall Mason, chair of the graduate program in Historic Preservation at PennDesign and c0-author of North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City.