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Fort Tompkins - Staten Island, New York

And, we're back to urban exploration! My first-ever visit to Staten Island proved to be worth the trip. The New York Adventure Club hosted a great gathering inside Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes Fort Tompkins and Battery Weed, two of the oldest military installations in the country. While not completely abandoned (the National Parks service does basic maintenance), they've been left almost totally in the condition they were when shut down.  

I initially thought that we were in for a (gulp) guided tour of the perimeter, but those fears were allayed as we were allowed into much of the first-level of the fort. The age of the building was evident from the get-go; there were barely-finished, pitch-black catacombs that served as its early defenses in Colonial times, all the way to 1970s/80s revisions. The all-stone construction also helped it to serve as a natural air conditioner, which spared us from the onslaught of late-summer heat. 

The familiar mustiness of abandonment was thick here -- I suppose the oppressive heat wave kept the cool, dense air packed well inside the dormant structure. Holes in the floor, warped wood paneling and peeling lead paint guaranteed this to be an authentic experience. While stripped of most interior features, there was enough evidence laying around that would give the average wanderer a good sense that this was an industrious, orderly place. 

The challenge here was not only the heat -- because tripods were not allowed on this trip, I was limited to hand-shooting. Queue the Nikon D750 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens, the ultimate desert-island -- or in this case, abandoned-building -- dream team. While I could've used the wider focal length of Nikon's 18-35mm, I wouldn't have been able to use the speed of the 24-70 which was crucial. Images at f2.8 are plenty sharp for me, with very slight falloff in the corners that I can't complain about. 

A worthy trip, indeed. The New York Adventure Club is a fantastic little organization that makes stuff like this possible for folks like me, who aren't always keen on entering these kinds of buildings without authorization. That, of course, isn't their primary goal -- it's all about the hidden and little-seen corners of the Big Apple. If a particular corner happens to be a fascinating centuries-old, mostly-abandoned military outpost, so much the better. 

Click an image below to see it larger.