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North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City (Empire State Editions) Hardcover – May 1, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0823257713 ISBN-10: 0823257711 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Empire State Editions
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Fordham University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823257711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823257713
  • Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Among a painter's or a photographer's challenges is to make us perceive three dimensions in an image rendered in only two. But Chris Payne takes us a step beyond. His subject is the fourth dimension: time itself. North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City doesn't merely document a forgotten place. It shows past mingling with present, dissolving toward a future that leads not forward, but back--back before we ever marked this world. The circular sensation suffusing this work is at first unsettling, then transcending. We have been here. Gently, we will pass on. In our stead, all will renew--and, as Payne artfully shows, quite beautifully."--Alan Weisman, author, The World Without Us and Countdown


"A gorgeous book: The uncannily moving photographs by Christopher Payne do full justice to North Brother Island's haunting air of mystery, its unique play of presence and absence. The supporting texts helpfully elucidate the enigma of such wildness, abandonment, vegetative luxuriance, and architectural ruin existing in the midst of New York's ultra-urbanist environment."--Phillip Lopate, author, Waterfront


"Remnants of society's anxieties about immigrants and epidemics still peek from the overgrowth of North Brother Island. Most New Yorkers likely will never get to explore its 40 acres first hand. Yet all should know its story--and the haunting beauty of its ruins. Payne and Mason's North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City is an elegant tribute to a secret too good to keep."--John Waldman, author of Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor, Revised Edition


"This stunning book captures a nearly forgotten corner of the city. Seemingly held apart from the urban rush of change, North Brother Island nonetheless reveals its layered history. In its latest incarnation, native and non-native species vie for precious island space. Amid the ruins, we find an essential New York story."--David Stradling, University of Cincinnati


"This richly illustrated and aptly titled work takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the remarkable and varied chapters of North Brother Island's history."--Edward T. O'Donnell, College of the Holy Cross


"Payne found wandering the island alone was a uniquely isolating experience. 'Even though visually you have that connection to the city and you can still hear things could hear the Mister Softee truck sometimes there's still this sense that you're disconnected,' he said. 'Living in New York, everyone craves their own space and isolation once in a while.'"--Slate Magazine


"In haunting photographs and poignant text, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City captures the character of this barren East River outcropping roughly between Rikers Island and the Bronx." --Sam Roberts, The New York Times


"Imagine that one of New York City's many islands became abandoned, and you came back to see what it looked like 50 years later. It's hard to visualize. However, the place would likely be overgrown with vegetation, and the buildings would be crumbling. . . Payne has spent six years documenting the island's changing nature. He's collected some of the work in a book, "North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City."--Business Insider


About the Author


Christopher Payne, a photographer based in New York City, specializes in the documentation of America's vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. Trained as an architect, he has a natural interest in how things are purposefully designed and constructed, and how they work. His first book, New York's Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway, offered dramatic, rare views of the behemoth machines that are hidden behind modest facades in New York City. His second book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, which includes an essay by the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, is the result of a seven-year exploration of America's vast and largely abandoned state mental institutions. Asylum was winner of the Ken Book Award of the National Alliance on Mental Illness/NYC and was named one of the "10 Best Art Books" by New York Times critic Holland Cotter.

Randall Mason is Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design. He worked previously at the Getty Conservation Institute, University of Maryland, and Rhode Island School of Design. His books include The Once and Future New York, on the origins of historic preservation in New York City, winner of the Antoinette Forester Downing Award), and Giving Preservation a History (with Max Page). In 2012, Mason held the National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize at the American Academy in Rome.

Robert Sullivan is the author of numerous books, including The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City; Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants; The Thoreau You Don't Know: The Father of Nature Writers on the Importance of Cities, Finance, and Fooling Around; A Whale Hunt, and, most recently, My American Revolution. His stories and essays have been published in magazines such as New York, The New Yorker, and A Public Space. He is a contributing editor to Vogue.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
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See all 15 customer reviews
A hauntingly beautiful book.
Rudi
I'd love to visit butt am secretly glad it's off limits.
Amazon Customer
This is a great coffee table book.
Audry J.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Young on April 24, 2014
Unlike other photographers of the abandoned, the work of Christopher Payne has always been about the delicate balance between human presence and physical structure. His study of the Steinway Factory in Astoria, Queens was simultaneously a conceptual exploration of abstraction, an architectural analysis, and how Steinway workers factor into the production space. Each of the workers he photographed had a story, and together, making a piano was like a choreographed dance.

Payne’s recently released book, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City is clearly an evolution of Payne’s particular type of photographic discovery. Of course, there are the perfectly framed images of North Brother Island’s infamous crumbling hospitals and of its industrial gantry. Then there are the interior shots of medical rooms whose ceilings look like they might fall any second.

But where his work goes beyond the abandoned photography genre is Payne’s methodological tracking of changes on North Brother Island across seasons. Unlike typical trespassers, Payne had access through the New York City Parks & Recreation Department to photograph the island over the course of a year. With vintage images set side by side with present-day, another underlying theme in these photos of North Brother Island is the continuing presence of humans even into today.

With essays by Robert Sullivan, author of the fantastic New York City book, Rats, and Randall Mason, a professor at PennDesign, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City is truly a book for urban explorers and New York enthusiasts.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Audry J. on May 16, 2014
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The photos are haunting and beautiful. This is a great coffee table book. I stayed up late last night reading this...highly recommend for yourself or as a gift.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Horine on June 19, 2014
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This "coffee table" book answered so many questions I had formed when I lived in New York City several years ago and I plan to take the brief tour when I return. Who would have known that so close to the urban rush of the City, there is this paradox from the past! The myriad photos and the poignant story are truly gifts to everyone who has never considered the possibilities of seeing a glimpse of how "we" might have found some of this area a hundred years or more in the past. My ancestors came to Long Island from Halifax in the 1600s and I can now really appreciate the natural beauty they must have seen as they landed on the shore and began to explore their newly chosen homeland. This book is truly a work of wonder - not your everyday reading selection by any means, but a generous gift for the imagination and appreciation of those of us who seek to know and understand our past from the viewpoint of the what we see now! Thank you 7-great grandparents for coming to New York!
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By laura on April 19, 2014
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Really enjoyed the pictures and comments on a small island between the Bronx and Manhattan that has seen varied use over the years. I had first become aware of it while watching a documentary on the General Slocum. While pictures of ruins and natural reclamation are absorbing the book would have been improved by pictures of the people and the spaces during its actual varied uses; for instance as a village for GIs and their families following WWII.
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I spent the first 4 years of my life living on North Brother Island. My father was going to NYU law school at the time and he worked part time at the ferry station. I went to a preschool that was available for the children of service people who were going back to school on the GI Bill. Although I live in California, when I return to visit NYC, I always take the Circle Line Tour so I can once again see North Brother Island. The pictures and narrative were wonderful. I only wish there was more information/pictures about the island's brief history as a refuge for our WW !! veterans and their families.
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By Wilma on June 28, 2014
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Wow! I lived in the city and never knew this Island existed so after reading the history and looking at the pictures in this book I started researching other islands and found out there are many island off the coast of New York. There is even a South Brother Island. I think that when a book makes you curious enough to want to know more that is a great book. Good Job.
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Saw a post about this book on FB and it intrigued me, so I ordered it. So glad I did! The history is like a story and the photographs are incredible! I'd love to visit butt am secretly glad it's off limits. Great book!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edwin Carlson on May 23, 2014
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A fascinating history of a place not known or seen by many New Yorkers. Excellent photographs and interesting story. Highly recommended!
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North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City (Empire State Editions)
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