October 29th, 2008 -
A haunted house is slowly deteriorating on the grounds of a half-abandoned hospital in Staten Island. A piano rots on the collapsing front porch. Inside, there are boxes of severed plaster hands and troll priests. The living room is dominated by a giant jack-o-lantern, while the upper floors show signs this was once home to several children: rusty cribs, broken dolls and tiny, dusty winter coats hanging in a closest. In a dark basement, a poster declares "No One Deserves to be Abused." This was once the Victim Services center of Bayley-Seton Hospital, whose mission was to "restore the dignity... of stranded travelers, immigrants and homeless youth."
But what is most haunting - apart from this sordid past - is the fact that this neglected building is a New York City Landmark. Built in 1842 by unknown architects, the house was landmarked in 1985. The Landmarks Commission's designation report describes the building as "a relatively severe structure" that was once used as the Physician-in-Chief's residence, providing a home to "more then 20 of the hospital's chief medical officers," including a future Surgeon General. The report also states that "the lavishness of the interior provides an unexpected contrast to the severity of the exterior." Today there is no trace of that lavish interior and though it appears somewhat structurally sound, this decaying 166-year-old landmark - like the hospital around it - has a very uncertain future.
When combined with yesterday's decision by the Landmarks Commission to allow St Vincent's Hospital to demolish several of its historic buildings, this is adding up to a grim Halloween for New York's landmarked hospitals.
Additional photos from this exploration - taken by Nate Dorr - can be seen here.