A wild feline community lives on Roosevelt Island alongside abandoned smallpox hospitals and new developments on Roosevelt Island. Since 2005, a group of volunteers called the Island Cats has been helping maintain the cat sanctuary by maintaining the four existing cat colonies, providing food and medical attention, working with ASPCA to spay and neuter cats, and try to find homes for the adoptable animals.
A narrow little island in the middle of the East River. In the 1800s, the city bought the island to create a “city of asylums” in what was an attempt to create a more humane space for prisoners and the mentally ill. The island housed several hospitals, mental institutions, and prisons, and one penitentiary in particular became steeped in scandal (think uprisings, nude men swimming for their freedom, and boss gangsters running the joint). Celebrity prisoners there included Mae West and Emma Goldman. Nellie Bly also visited one of the mental institutions undercover, and wrote a stirring expose about the mistreatment of the “mentally ill” housed there (along with the actually mentally ill, many of the patients were women who were committed by their husbands for being insubordinate). There are still remains of the smallpox hospital, lunatic asylum, and library.