Petty Island

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Petty Island in the Delaware River

Petty Island (also Pettys Island;[1] but typically spelled "Petty's Island" by area residents) is a 292-acre (1.18 km2)[2] island located in the Delaware River, which forms the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the United States. It is situated between the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey, and can be seen from both the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and the Betsy Ross Bridge. It is the fourth-largest island in the Delaware River's path. Petty Island is officially part of Pennsauken Township, New Jersey.


Petty Island was called "Shackamaxon Island" after the local Shackamaxon village of Lenni Lenape,[3] "Aquikanasara" by Swedish explorer Peter Lindestrom in 1654,[4] and "Treaty Island" likely after Penn Treaty by the Manderson Family who in 1852 bought most of the land.[5] It was bought from local chiefs by Elizabeth Kinsey, a Quaker who had fled persecution in England.[2] William Penn owned the island after Kinsey; John Petty, its namesake, bought it in 1732.[2] It is thought to be the place where Captain Blackbeard docked his ship when visiting Philadelphia.[5] The island was a hotbed for gambling and dueling in the 18th and 19th centuries, and acquired a reputation for lawlessness and danger; adding to this danger was the large number of shipwrecks which occurred around the island, some of which are still visible at low tide. Ralston Laird, an Irish immigrant, moved to Petty Island in 1851 and became a farm manager there, living on the island for nearly 60 years and eventually being proclaimed its "king".[2]

In 1971, the Philadelphia Bicentennial Planning Committee proposed using the island as a World's Fair style exposition site for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. These plans were unsuccessful, however, and the park was never built. Petty Island is currently uninhabited, the last residential structure having burned down in 1964.[2] It was subject to industrial development in the 20th century, and is owned by Citgo, which uses the island for fuel storage. There is a crew of approximately 100 Citgo employees who worked on the island.[2] Additionally, Citgo leases portions of the island to Crowley Maritime, a company shipping goods to Puerto Rico, and Koch Industries, an asphalt manufacturing business.[2] The western end of the island is undeveloped and forested.

In the 2000s (decade), local politics in Pennsauken turned to Petty Island as a centerpiece for waterfront redevelopment, with residents and politicians hoping to install restaurants and a golf course on the island.[2] Environmental groups have opposed these measures because of a pair of bald eagles living on the island.[6]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in April 2009 that the Venezuelan Government (owner of CITGO) will donate the Island to New Jersey for environmental preservation.[7] Plans are being finalized for the transition, which will not occur before 2020.[8] The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust has been granted a conservation easement for the entire island, with ownership of the island to be transferred from CITGO to the Natural Lands Trust once a lease between CITGO and a shipping terminal ends in 2017 and CITGO completes the cleanup of the island's former petroleum operations.[9]


  1. ^ Pursuant to an official decision of the Board on Geographic Names of the United States Geological Survey in 1891, the official name is Petty Island; see U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Petty Island
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Top N.J. Official Seeking Petty's Island Compromise. March 29, 2006. Accessed September 8, 2007.
  3. ^ Islands in the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers Within the Boundaries of Philadelphia. Accessed June 12, 2008.
  4. ^ Philadelphia History: Petty's Island. Accessed June 12, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Pennsauken History. Accessed September 8, 2007.
  6. ^ Action Alert. Audubon Society. Accessed September 8, 2007.
  7. ^ Bolivarian Government donates Petty's Island to United States. Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, April 20, 2009.
  8. ^ Venezuela to give island to New Jersey. CNN, April 23, 2009.
  9. ^ New Jersey Natural Lands Trust Petty's Island Preserve. Accessed June 20, 2017.

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Coordinates: 39°57′53″N 75°06′11″W / 39.96472°N 75.10306°W / 39.96472; -75.10306