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30. Because We Know When to Leave Our Ruins Alone


North Brother Island, off the coast of the South Bronx, has always been a fearsome place. It earned that reputation as the city’s quarantine during the age of tuberculosis and cholera—Typhoid Mary lived here on and off for decades—and later as a drug-rehab center. It was the site of the General Slocum steamship fire in 1904, New York’s worst disaster until 9/11. But a group of City Council members visited in October to consider it for potential renovation. The hurdles, however, are numerous: The buildings are derelict, and there is no transit link to the city. Instead, Councilman Mark Levine, chair of the Parks Committee, is proposing a plan to preserve the sanitarium ruins and make the island safe for wildlife and history tours. There’s plenty of new development in this city. Our own Pompeii—now that would be lovely.


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