This city has been my home for five of the last six years and I am two days away from the flight that will take me out of it indefinitely. It seems like a good moment to explore parts of the city that I never got to before. A friend has just become licensed as a city tour guide and is piloting his tour of Yorkville. It's a secluded and often overlooked neighbourhood. I join him for a stroll through the drizzle, past Gracie mansion and the apartment building that once housed the Nazi party of America. At the start of the tour a building across the East River catches my eye.
Toward the northern end of Roosevelt Island stands a striking little segment of asylum architecture: The Octagon.
Benign neglect: The Octagon in 1970
You have to walk through all that to get to the Octagon complex. Moving north you start to pass tennis courts and coniferous trees. The whole place has the air of a country retreat, and feels about as far away from New York as it is possible to be while still technically within the borough of Manhattan.
I walk in past the concierge and am immediately confronted by the smartly renovated spiral staircase. This takes you up past a billiard room, a gym, and a play area for young children. Somewhere I have read that you aren't supposed to take photos, but no-one is around to care. All is serene. When I reach the top I feel like I could be in a lighthouse. Looking down the centre of the spiral staircase gives you a sense of space that few modern residential buildings manage to achieve.