Wards Island is situated in the East River in New York City. Administratively it is part of the borough of Manhattan. It is bridged by rail to the borough of Queens by the Hell Gate Bridge and it is joined to Randall's Island to the north by landfill. The two islands together are run by the Randall's Island Sports Foundation under a partnership agreement with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Together, the two islands form New York County's Census Tract 240, which had a total population of 1,386 living on 2.2 km2 of land area, according to the United States Census, 2000.
Viaducts leading to the Triborough Bridge and Hell Gate bridges pass overhead. Vehicular access is by the Little Hell Gate bridge from Randall's Island, while a narrow pedestrian and bicycling bridge, Wards Island Bridge, links the island to East Harlem in Manhattan.
The island is home to several public facilities, including The New York State Office of Mental Health Manhattan Psychiatric Center, Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center (which serves the criminally insane) which is patrolled by the New York State Office of Mental Health Police, and a New York City Department of Environmental Protection wastewater treatment plant which is patrolled by New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police. The New York State Police also have a station on the island, named Troop NYC. It provides investigative services such as Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Narcotics Enforcement Unit, Organized Crime Track Force, and Special Investigations Unit, and also provides support to state police operations in NYC such as state police troopers patrolling the state-run Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and NYS governors office as well as parade details held in New York City, special operations, and activities on Wards Island. It is also home to Wards Island Park, which offers stunning views, athletic fields, and picnic grounds.
There are also homeless facilities, the Charles Gay Assessment Shelter (1 Keener Building), Schwartz Men's Shelter and the Clarke Thomas Next Step Employment Center, on the island run by the New York City Department of Homeless Services and is patrolled by the NYC DHS Police.
Colonial period 
At the time of its appropriation from New York's native inhabitants to the Dutch settlers in 1637, the island was known as Tenkenas which translated to "Wild Lands".
Later, the island's name changed several times. At times it was known as "Buchanan's Island" and "Great Barn Island", both of which were likely corruptions of the surname "Barendt", the name of an early owner.
During the Revolutionary War the island served as a military post for the British military.
Early America 
After the war ended, Jaspar Ward and Bartholomew Ward took ownership of the island that later carried their surname. Although a small population had lived on the island since as early as the 17th century, the Ward brothers developed the island more heavily by building a cotton mill and building the first bridge to cross the East River in 1807, connecting the island with Manhattan at 114th Street.
The bridge, paid for by Bartholomew Ward and Philip Milledolar, was a wooden drawbridge. The bridge lasted until 1821, when it was destroyed in a storm.
After the bridge was destroyed, the island was largely abandoned until 1840, when the island was transformed into a dumping ground for everything unwanted in New York City. Between 1840 and 1930, the island was used for:
- Burial of hundreds of thousands of bodies relocated from the Madison Square and Bryant Park graveyards.
- The State Emigrant Refuge, a hospital for sick and destitute immigrants, opened in 1847, the biggest hospital complex in the world during the 1850s.
- The New York City Asylum for the Insane, opened around 1863.
- An immigration station from 1860 until the 1892 opening of Ellis Island.
- Manhattan State Hospital, operated by the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene when it took over the immigration and asylum buildings in 1899. With 4,400 patients, it was the largest psychiatric institution in the world. The 1920 census notes that the hospital had a total of 6045 patients. It later became the Manhattan Psychiatric Center.
Wards Island began to change when the 1930 Metropolitan Conference of Parks recommended transforming Randall's and Wards islands into recreational parks. Robert Moses, Parks Commissioner in 1934, announced the plans for developing Wards Island. The city would connect it to Randall's Island just to the north by filling Little Hell Gate and it would be cleared for playing fields and promenades.
The creation of the park was followed by the development of the Triborough Bridge, starting in 1936 and lasting seven years, and the building of the Ward's Island Water Pollution Control Plant, which was built in 1937 and occupies nearly one quarter of the island.
The current Wards Island Bridge, a pedestrian bridge connecting the island to Manhattan, was built in 1951. It was designed to give access to Wards Island Park from East Harlem, which has few public green spaces. In 2006 the original walkway of the Triborough Bridge Queens leg, alighting in Randall's Island, was demolished and a shorter, wider and less steep one built to connect to Wards Island.
Most of Wards Island Park was closed in early 2008, pending renovation.
Scylla Point 
In 1984, the point at the southeastern tip of the island was officially designated "Negro Point", based on the unofficial usage of riverboat workers. The United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used that name. In 2001, Henry Stern, the Parks Commissioner, upon learning of the name, thought it was offensive. He replaced it with "Scylla Point" and paired it with Charybdis Playground in Astoria Park; the two features are on opposite sides of Hell Gate, just as the mythological monsters of Scylla and Charybdis were on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina.
- United States Census Bureau
- "Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center". New York State Office of Mental Health.
- Mindlin, Alex (July 6, 2008). "On a Bus for the Homeless, a Push to Forgive the Fare". The New York Times.
- Nordheimer, Jon (November 3, 1994). "One Man's Campaign To Rename a Creek". The New York Times.
- Baard, Erik (July 8, 2001). "Uneasily Evoking an Outdated Past". The New York Times.
- Pollack, Michael (June 29, 2008). "Turning Away Wrath". The New York Times.
- Seitz, Sharon & Miller, Stuart (2003). The Other Islands of New York: A History and Guide (second edition). Woodstock, Vt.: Countryman Press. ISBN 0-88150-502-1. OCLC 45757764.
- NYC Gov Parks - Ward's Island
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Wards Island|