At a time when New York City real estate is stupid expensive, and historic landmarks are being turned into high rises that look like a game of Tetris, it’s surprising when anything remains abandoned, especially large buildings like the Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn.
Before I get into the tedious history stuff, I’ll just jump right to the fun part: This is the hospital where Frank Serpico was taken in 1971 after he was shot in the face during a drug bust supposedly arranged by other cops who were pissed at him for being a “hippie narc” who blew the whistle on corruption within the NYPD. I regret the use of the word “fun” in that earlier sentence. I also thought I had more to say about this, but I guess I don’t.
Built in 1914, the hospital ran (often inefficiently) until 1982. While the rest of the hospital buildings on the property have gone through various stages of use- apartments, a homeless shelter, squatters’ “housing,” and work studios – the nurses’ residence has been vacant since closure.
Above is a googlemaps screenshot of the whole hospital campus, although the abandoned building covered in this post is in the bottom right corner, and it was the nurses residence/rehab facility, not the main hospital, as it is sometimes erroneously labeled. For the sake of interest, this post addresses the history of the whole hospital.
The basement had a room of files and notebooks filled with patient artwork from the Greenpoint Hospital Methadone Clinic, which ran from 1970-1981. It was shut down after numerous complaints were made, citing a rise in drug activity and drug related crime in neighborhood surrounding the hospital.
I often find paperwork from alcohol and drug recovery wards when exploring hospitals- both psychiatric and general- and it’s a little surreal for me. It’s extra awkward if the person I’m with decides to read said paperwork, especially if they don’t know my history.
I’m not going to post any rehab patient paperwork, because that would be incredibly disrespectful, but lucky for you, I have no shame about my own life, so enjoy this page from the letters I wrote to my studio mates at Pizza Island when I was in rehab.
So, yeah, that happened. Moving on. The Greenpoint Hospital was subjected to, and failed, many inspections over the decades. According to the New York Times, an inspection in 1923 revealed there was only one nurse was on duty at night, overseeing “150 patients in various degrees of helplessness.”
In the 1960’s, the hospital underwent a $2.5 million renovation, but quickly fell into financial trouble due to overcrowding, understaffing and unsanitary conditions. A 1967 inspection found “such conditions of filth and disrepair that the state threatened to close the facility.” The State Health Department claimed the “operating rooms were subject to so much contamination that it was impossible to carry out acceptable procedures. Unscreened windows resulted in “the entrance of pigeon excreta directly into the operating rooms.” BARF. Pigeon shit is especially toxic, I’ve addressed it before in regards to Creedmoor, but “bird fancier’s lung” will never stop being funny to me.
A follow-up inspection in 1968 found that almost no repairs had been made, including the imperative window screening. Even the hospital administrator admitted that conditions were unmanageable. “[The hospital] is now infested with flies, even in the nurseries and kitchens,” he told the New York Times. “It’s not an emergency, but it’s a very unpleasant situation.” False. Flies are an emergency because they spread filth, specifically that of a fecal nature.
The hospital never really recovered, and amidst mounting neighborhood complaints and financial trouble, it shut down in 1982 and was replaced by Woodhull Hospital in Bushwick. Oh man, talk about swapping one turd for another (if that was a thing that people said, which it’s not) because Woodhull is a DUMP. Those who live in NYC are probably familiar with the face everyone makes when you tell them you had to go to Woodhull- it’s that look that’s a cross between the first time you heard your parents fucking, and that time you put a banana slug in your pocket in third grade because you wanted to take it home and make it be friends with an earthworm, but then you forgot and put your pants in the washing machine. Or something like that.
The interior of the nurses’ residence is pretty cleaned out, minus some paraphernalia from the methadone clinic/rehab days, which included some hand drawn signs.
The attic of the building has some cool old elevator mechanical stuff going on.
This is the only room with any interior architectural detail left, and the one most photographed to make this building look more interesting than it actually is. Scrappers ripped through most of the walls and squatters left behind heaps of garbage.
This little guy was kickin’ it in the basement, which was flooded due to an open fire hydrant that has since been sealed.
Also now sealed is the entrance above.
View of the nurses’ residence from the street (above) and the hospital during it’s functional days (below) c/o the Brooklyn Public Library (obviously- that watermark is huge)
Disclaimer: If any information on this post is incorrect, if you have more info or would otherwise like to tell me something, feel free to contact me at juliajwertz(at)gmail(dot)com.
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