Throughout New York’s history, there are structures that have a sad and at times terrible history. The institution that once began as an almshouse for the poor nearly 282 years ago has such a history. Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the United States, founded on what is today City Hall Park it can now be found on the East Side of Manhattan next to a cluster of different hospitals. Pioneering as it was frightening, Bellevue built its psychiatric wing in 1931, where it quickly became notorious for patient abuse and horrid conditions. In New York, “Bellevue” is still synonymous to some for “crazy” or to put away. Today’s Bellevue is a far cry from the past; it is one of the leading public hospitals in the world with world class institutions and pioneering practices. But the public hospital system is still the last resort of millions of New Yorkers who are poor, undocumented, homeless, or just abandoned. The original psychiatric hospital still stands today, eerily resembling the haunted mansion of a child’s nightmares. Surrounded by cast iron gating and withered vines, a part of the old Georgian style Building now serves as a homeless shelter for men in a city where homeless is at an all time high. But the majority of the building is still abandoned. The psychiatric hospital moves to a much better place in the 1970s and we’ve come a long way regarding psychiatric health but this building is a testament to the city’s resolve to serve its poor and provide a service even if it’s far from perfect. New York City, with its excess and often times nauseating amounts of wealth, has a mixed history of providing for and abandoning its poor and most vulnerable. But Bellevue is still here nearly three centuries later, proving the same last resort safety net it always has for New Yorkers. One of New York’s darkest historical corners, the Old Psychiatric Hospital is still on 1st Avenue, its walls a history book in itself for those brave enough to open it.
Taken on January 19, 2018 on a Canon T1i.