Monday, November 14, 2011
The Farm Colony
Last week I explored the abandoned remains of the New York City Farm Colony in Staten Island with a friend, armed with my Canon FT and Holga 120. I had heard of this whole compound of various ruined buildings nestled within the weeded grounds of a 100 acre lot in the middle of Staten Island. Too enticing to pass up!
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, the air was unseasonably warm and the leaves were still changing. We hopped in a car and followed the winding concrete path of the expressway across the Verazzano. We looped around the grounds a couple times until we found the best break in the chain link fence to make our entry. There were some houses across the street and we didn't want anyone to see us go in. So we parked in front of our secret entrance and sneaked in behind the camouflage of the car.
The compound grounds were so overgrown with vegetation, I almost felt like were were walking through the ancient Mayan temples of Guatemala. You could see the remains of paved streets but they were wrapped in vines and felled by enormous trees over years of storms. The buildings stood alone, empty shells of their former selves, crumbling away into nothingness. Windows broken, stones cracked, graffiti covering every flat surface. The insides were dark and damp, blanketed with dust inches thick. Occasionally we would see the black markings of a former camp fire, or sinister messages written in spray paint.
The story began in 1829 when the area was known as the Poor Farm, where New York's destitute could earn room and board for their manual labor on the farm. In its height the agricultural colony could produce vegetables to support 3,000 people. By 1915 there were 824 residents supervised by 150 employees housed in a series of rubble stone and brick buildings. Unfortunately, as the population of the colony aged no new, younger hands were moving in. By the end of the 1920's the site had stopped being a farm and became a housing complex for the infirm.
The Farm Colony, as it is still known, has been completely abandoned since 1975, however no funds exist to revitalize the area. It has been left to rot.
After a couple hours my friend and I bumped into a trio of goth teenagers. They were carrying metal pipes and other makeshift weapons, convinced there were lunatics running lose throughout the compound. They told us rumors of murderers and prison escapees. Even more supernatural events that were unexplainable. They said they had been there at night once. Although I was suspicious of their tales I know I wouldn't want to be there at night. It was a pleasant place to explore during the day but at night would be another story.
We bid our new found friends goodbye and headed back to the car. It was a great day and as we headed back home I thought of the former colony and wondered if it would ever get a chance to serve its community again. There would definitely be many weeds to pull if it was ever to be a farm again.