4. North Brother Island

Vines overgrowing on an abandoned building on North Brother Island
By 1881, plans were underway to create an infectious disease hospital on North Brother Island, shifting the current operations off Roosevelt Island. While there was certainly controversy over the practices of the institution, both medically and socially, Mason writes in North Brother Island, The Last Unknown Place in New York City, “North Brother Island worked. It protected the city from pestilence. The threat and fear of infectious diseases were great, and Riverside Hospital was essential to treating it in terms of the new science and policies of public health.”

Cities like Philadelphia looked at New York City’s solution as an example. Photographer and reformer Jacob Riis was also a supporter of the undertakings at Riverside Hospital, finding it peaceful and effective, and felt, as Mason writes, “exile to North Brother Island was necessary to protect the city and well worth the cost, both social and financial.” North Brother Island was also where the infamous Typhoid Mary was quarantined for the last 26 years of her live. You can read more about her story here.