People Are Strictly Forbidden From Entering One NYC Island Due To Its Grim Past

In the shadow of New York City’s most infamous prison sits an island with its own unsavory reputation. Thick with overgrown vegetation, its abandoned buildings are slowly crumbling away, leaving only the ghosts of the past behind. And nobody is allowed to set foot on its empty shores. But what happened here? And why has this eerie settlement been frozen in time for more than 50 years?

North Brother Island

Located in the middle of the East River, North Brother Island has a long history stretching back more than 150 years. But despite its conspicuous position between Rikers Island and the Bronx, it is often overlooked by those seeking to learn more about New York City. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll discover a terrifying story of death and disease, culminating in the abandoned ruin you see today.


In 1963 the last inhabitants of North Brother Island packed up their belongings and sailed away, leaving nature to reclaim their former home. And ever since, time has stood still. Now, thick foliage has grown over the abandoned structures, creeping up walls and through broken windows until only greenery remains.

Strictly off-limits

But what was the original purpose of this isolated island in the heart of America’s most populous city? Who would have lived and worked here before it was abandoned — and what purpose did its crumbling buildings originally serve? Today, access is strictly prohibited, suggesting that at least some trace of North Brother’s dark history remains.

A New York anomaly

Located just a few miles from Manhattan, and even closer to the Bronx, North Brother Island is certainly something of an anomaly in modern-day New York. On the banks of the East River, skyscrapers pierce the sky in every direction, while throngs of people fill every sidewalk for miles around. But just across the water, silence and stillness reigns.