Rat Island, New York
Rat Island, as seen from City Island
Location of Rat Island in New York City
|Location||Long Island Sound|
|Area||2.5 acres (1.0 ha)|
|City||New York City|
Rat Island is a privately owned island in New York City. It is approximately 2.5 acres (1.0 ha) in size and located in City Island Harbor, which is a part of Long Island Sound. It is about halfway between City Island and Hart Island and south of High Island. It is one of the Pelham Islands.
The small irregular island is about 2.5 acres (1.0 ha) in area. It has a dual-humped appearance and is mostly a lump of Manhattan schist bedrock. There is a small channel that cuts into the bedrock on the southern side of the tiny island that was used for launching small boats. This channel is filled with mussel shells. There is a purple-bluish "beach" made of mussel shells mixed with bird bones on the west side of the island with some reed grass.
The entire island is littered with broken glass from beer bottles. The highest point on the island is usually covered in gull bird guano and is underwater during high tide storms. The largest inhabitant of the island is usually a Great Blue Heron that sleeps on the island during daytime.
Rat Island was included in the purchase by Thomas Pell in 1654. During the typhoid fever scares of the 1800s, Rat Island was used by Pelham, New York as a typhoid quarantine hospital for about 40 infected people called the "Pelham Pesthouse". The remains of cobblestone walls and foundations are still there. It was abandoned due to storm floods. Local legends say there was also a lighthouse for a while.
New York City purchased the island in 1888. It became a mini colony for writers and artists in the early 20th Century. It was bought by Dr. H. A. Parmentier in 1908. He subsequently leased the island to the Mount Vernon Club in 1931.
It was owned by a Brooklyn lawyer until 1972 when it was sold to Edmund "Red" Brennen. He said he bought it to do salvage work and store equipment. For many years crane buckets and lattice booms and other equipment were visible. In March 2009 Brennan put Rat Island up for sale for $300,000. On September 26, 2011, The New York Times published an article about the island, stating the property would go up for auction on October 2, 2011. It was sold at that auction for $160,000 to 71-year old retired Port Authority worker Alex Schibli, a resident of nearby City Island. Schibli said he has no immediate plans for physical changes to the island, but is considering renaming it Malina Island after his granddaughter.
In summer months, it may have as many as 30 people on it, mostly fishermen. Some can be seen pitching tents. Others swim off the east side. In the past, during summer the Parks Department used to put waste drums so they may contain their garbage. This was not done Summer 2011. Sometimes, the local first responders use it to practice rescue missions with boats and helicopters.Many locals still falsely think it is owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, when in fact, they are trespassing on private property if they visit the island.
It is not known how the island received its name. It has been proposed by Red Brennan and others including former prison workers that prisoners escaping from Hart Island nearby, nicknamed "rats", used the small island to rest before swimming on to City Island and freedom. Another theory is that when the island housed typhoid victims in the 19th century it presumably attracted vermin.
- Samuels, Tanyanika (March 24, 2009). "For enough cheese, Rat Island is yours: Family wants 300G for spot near City Island". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Rat Island p.551, New York City Guide, Federal Writers' Project, 1939.
- Cardwell, Diane (September 26, 2011). "No Traffic, No Noise, on an Island Off the Bronx". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
- Zeveloff, Julie (Oct 3, 2011). "Someone Actually Paid $160,000 For A 'Lump Of Rock' Called Rat Island". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Bronx man buys ‘Rat Island’ for $160,000, CBS New York via Yahoo News, October 4, 2011, accessed October 5, 2011, retrieved 2011-10-05.
- "Rat Island gets new owner, might get new name".
- Bill Twomey (2007). The Bronx: In Bits and Pieces - Rat Island. Rooftop Publishing. p. 89. ISBN 1-60008-062-6.
- Rat Island p. 551, New York City Guide, Federal Writers' Project, 1939.