North Brother Island

Situated in the East River just west of Rikers Island, North Brother was the site of a medical complex designed to quarantine people with infectious diseases and, later, for a brief period, as a rehabilitation center for drug addicts.  Its most famous inhabitant was Typhoid Mary, who died there, in Riverside Hospital.  The island was closed in the 1960s and is now off limits to the public. It has been designated a bird sanctuary, not to be intruded upon by humans between the months of March and November.

I am grateful to the New York City Parks Department for allowing me to explore the island and make these photographs.  As nature slowly reclaims the site, the memory of the workers and inhabitants crumble and fade with the aging buildings. My last planned trip to the island was to have happened on the day that Hurricane Sandy struck New York City. It was, of course, canceled.


Archival pigment on Arches Hot Press watercolor paper (uncoated)
22″ x 30″
Edition of 3
© 2011 Deborah O’Grady