The Ghosts of NYC's North Brother Island

Between Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Riker's Island sits an abandoned island with a tragic history.

Between the shorelines of Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Riker's Island floats an abandoned island with a tragic history.

In order to reach North Brother Island, you have to go by boat. And in order to charter a boat there, you have to gain the city's permission—and reportedly the journey to the island is rife with police, watching Riker's Island and checking to make sure no one makes it to North Brother Island without a permit.

So if you're entertaining any fantasies of midnight trysts to the island, don't: A member of the Parks Department has to be with you at all times during your journey there.

That might be for good reason. Judging by its history, North Brother Island is almost certainly cursed.


Though technically property of Manhattan since the 1600s, the island was used by humans as a landfill until the 1900s. The first manmade structure on the island was the Riverside Hospital, established in 1885. It was a quarantine hospital, dedicated to holding people with infectious diseases.

Soon, the island became a locus of quarantine hospitals; another one dedicated to tuberculosis patients was opened up in 1843. (That building remains one of the few mostly intact ruins on the island).

Hospital patientsNYC Municipal Archives

That tuberculosis hospital housed one particularly famous inhabitant, Typhoid Mary—who today we might refer to as a "super-spreader," because she infected over 47 people with TB even though she showed no symptoms herself. She spent years quarantined in the woods and continuously insisted that she was being held against her will. Eventually she became a nurse in the hospital on the island, where she remained until she died.

North Brother IslandABC News

Most patients were forced to go to the island against their will, and since no telephone service is available, many of the hospital's patients were never heard from again. Apparently conditions were horrible, with some patients living in tents when the hospital overflowed. Food shortages in winter and a lack of heat led to high death rates.

Tragedy has defined the island's history. In fact, it was the site of the worst disaster in NYC before 9/11. In 1905, the General Slocum steamship caught fire and over one thousand people lost their lives in the blaze. You can still see a memorial fountain for the dead in Tompkins Square Park.

Slocum Memorial FountainAtlas Obscura

In the 1940s, the island's hospital was transformed into a place where war veterans and their families could live, but most didn't remain there for long, choosing to live in the city instead. In its last decade it was used as a treatment center for heroin addicts; but after staff corruption, a lack of funds, and negative patient reviews continued to plague the center's reputation, it closed for good in 1963. The island was left to disrepair. Some disturbing graffiti from this time remains.

Patient sketch on North Brother IslandAbandoned NYC

Today, the island's manmade creations remain in a state of decay while nature flourishes, turning the island into a wild forest. It's now a bird sanctuary and home to a large colony of Black-Crowned Night Herons, among other majestic winged creatures. 50 years after its last human stronghold was abandoned, nature has almost totally taken over. Vines cover every ruin and Japanese kudzu grows over acres of land. Trees can be seen growing out of pavements, and former streets have become beaches as sea walls have dissolved against the force of hurricanes and time.

Black-Crowned Night Heron Woodswalksandwildlife.comBlack-Crowned Night Heron

Not many people can say they've been to the island, but urban explorer Christopher Payne can count himself among one of the lucky few. The photographer said he visited the island around two dozen times between 2008 and 2013.

"What I find special about North Brother Island is the splendid sense of isolation you feel when you penetrate the perimeter vegetation and arrive in a peaceful, canopied forest. The juxtaposition of decaying buildings with the lush landscape makes for a sublime experience, and it's easy to forget that you're in the middle of New York City," he said. "More than anything else, in a city of millions, here is one small corner where there is no one."

North Brother IslandTravel Stalker

There is something apocalyptic about the island, so overcome with natural life after so much human death. As one Radiolab producer once said, "North Brother Island is what will happen to the whole of our civilization when humanity is dead." In light of evidence that most of our coastal cities will likely be abandoned by humans due to flooding from climate change, we may see more North Brother Island-like ruins cropping up. Perhaps North Brother isn't so much a relic of the past as a foreboding yet strangely comforting image of the future. It's living proof that in spite of all our human tragedies, life goes on.

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What's Up with All These Fireworks?

New Yorkers have been hearing constant explosions throughout the night. Is it a conspiracy?

If you live in a large metropolitan area like New York City, Black Lives Matter protests likely aren't the only things you hear making noise in the streets.

In the past couple of weeks, as Black Lives Matter supporters march in memory of George Floyd and countless other Black people killed by police, the sounds of fireworks can be heard virtually every weekend. More than just your average Fourth of July shindig, these explosions often trail into the wee hours of the morning.

According to Gothamist, there were 6,385 total "311" complaints about fireworks in New York City from June 1 to June 19—up from 27 during the same time period last year. "This is not the simple firecrackers and little small toy-type rockets, but it was very elaborate," Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told Gothamist. "That in itself is raising a high level of concern with me... When you see the large displays along Brooklyn and in Manhattan, Upper Manhattan, you're seeing extremely sophisticated type fireworks displays that can be extremely dangerous in the hands of the wrong people."

Anything more powerful than a sparkler is illegal in New York, but that hasn't stopped regular folks from buying the type of fireworks you'd see in a professional display. But who is buying these fireworks, and what are they trying to accomplish? There are some wild theories.

NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows

NYPD, FDNY appear to let illegal fireworks show play out, video shows

As author Robert Jones, Jr. pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread, antics by "bored Black and brown kids" tends to be the general assumption made by most mainstream media. "My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces; an attack meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement," Jones wrote.

One goal Jones proposed was that white people were the ones setting off the constant fireworks in an attempt to "stoke tensions between Black and Brown peoples." Many have voiced their frustrations online about the sheer volume of the fireworks they hear, and a shared annoyance is growing.

Another motive Jones proposed was that the fireworks are being used as a desensitization method to acclimate citizens to the sounds of the blasts—which often sound like gunshots. "When they start using their real artillery on us we won't know the difference," Jones wrote. "It's meant to sound like a war zone because a war zone is what it's about to become."

Police don't seem too concerned. The New York Post shared a video this week of fireworks being set off behind an NYPD precinct in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. No officers appear to deter them. A similar video in Harlem, Manhattan also shows a flock of police cars—none of which seem to mind the explosions.

Another video shows what appears to be Brooklyn firefighters setting off fireworks:

Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn

Video shows FDNY firefighters light off illegal fireworks in Brooklyn

Today, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was forming a task force to combat the illegal fireworks. "Illegal fireworks are both dangerous and a public nuisance," he said. "We're cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep."

But if over 6,000 complaints have been made about fireworks to seemingly no avail, it seems a task force won't merit much of an improvement.

Many seem to agree with the theory that inconspicuous government officials have been offering fireworks to Black children, newly on summer vacation and hungry for ways to ease their quarantine boredom. As with many issues going on in America, these constant fireworks will probably be just another way for the government to further discriminate against marginalized groups.

At least we can always rely on memes to spread the good word.

I don't know about you guys, but working from home has taken a serious toll on me. It started off really well. I was sticking to my usual routine as much as possible, but I've been slowly becoming less and less productive.

I noticed my sleep schedule had completely changed. I was rolling out of bed a few minutes before I was due to start work, and sometimes even working from my bed. I ate lunch at the desk and worked straight through my scheduled breaks. I was sleepier throughout the day, unable to focus as much, and just feeling less motivated overall.

So I looked into what I could do that would help me out of my slump. I tried a few things. Some were so simple I never thought they'd make much of a difference, and some I wouldn't have thought of at all, but now I'm back feeling more productive than ever.

Here are my three tips for working from home:

1. Get up early

Yes, it seems so simple. But it's super important to stick to a normal routine if you can. Not only do I get up early, but I shower every morning and cook myself a nutritious breakfast before I start work. This definitely helped me feel more energized and motivated throughout the day.

2. Have a designated workspace

This is important because it separates your work from your home. Our homes are associated with relaxing, so designating a space that will be used only for work will help you concentrate on work while you're in that space. I also found that doing this helped me actually take appropriate breaks. When I left the space I was in relax mode, and once I came back, I was ready to work again.

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The elixirs are powders that you can mix into any beverage. The Prima Trifecta has a few samples of all three. The Brain Fuel elixir is to be taken in the morning, so I mixed it into my coffee, and I was awake and alert and able to throw myself into my working day.

Their Go-To elixir should be taken around noon. My daily midday productivity crash had gotten so much worse while working at home, but taking this elixir helped keep me sharp through the remainder of my work day.

The Rest Easy elixir is taken at night to help you get a good sleep. Since I started taking this my sleep schedule has greatly improved. It was so much easier to get up early again. It left me feeling well rested and ready to start my day.

I never realized how much simple things, like setting out a specific workspace, and getting up early would help me escape my unproductive rut. I wasn't expecting Prima's CBD supplements to help as much as they did, but they definitely had the biggest impact for me.

After trying the Prima Trifecta, I ended up buying the full size of all three elixirs. If you're having problems with sleep, focus, and productivity like I was, I'd recommend ordering the Prima Trifecta.

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Everyone knows that working out in ratty clothing isn't very motivating.

Studies have shown that the right workout gear drastically determines how hard we push ourselves on cardio or at the gym. But high-end fashion clothes are never high on our shopping list, and a well-fitted pair of spandex can run up a hefty price tag. But as quarantine has forced us all to reevaluate our workout routine, workout clothes matter now more than ever.

But instead of blowing the big bucks on white-owned brands like Under Armour, we should use this time as an opportunity–while BLM protests happen across the country–to put our money towards black businesses as much as we can. This, of course, includes workout clothes. So here are some reliable Black-owned brands that are high quality and won't break your bank.



Founded in 2016, Yema Khalif and his wife, Hawi Awash, opened this fitness brand to help educate and feed the latter's home country of Ethiopia. All proceeds go towards helping to educate and feed at risk children in Ethiopia, and their fitness offerings are all beautiful and hand-made.

Culture Fit​

Culture Fit

Designed specifically for black women, Culture Fit's sleek design and well-ventilated workout gear is worth the money. Designed by women of color, each matching pair of active wear also can include a matching yoga mat, so you can really be looking your best when you hit your zoom yoga class!

Vero Mastodon

vero mastodon

Made popular by men and women who served in the military, Vero Mastodon offers breathable, flexible fitness clothes for all the heavy lifters out there. Their exclusive app also offers training programs by certified trainers and power lifters to help you get shredded and transformed.

Pru Apparel

Pru Apparel

Focused on its message of community and pride, Pru Apparel is for every type of woman. Inspired by Africa's culture and rich history, the breathable clothing sets feature Kente cloth and come in a wide array of sizes. Not to mention, the prints are super trendy.



This gorgeous activewear was born for the culturally conscious. Made for women of all skin tones and shapes, the workout gear was designed for the sole purpose of empowering and motivating. Their high-waisted spandex and quality mesh provide a collection of breathable fabrics that move however you do.