Robins Island

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Robins Island
Robins Island
Location Peconic Bay
Coordinates 40°58′2″N 72°27′36″W / 40.96722°N 72.46000°W / 40.96722; -72.46000Coordinates: 40°58′2″N 72°27′36″W / 40.96722°N 72.46000°W / 40.96722; -72.46000
Area 0.680 sq mi (1.76 km2)
United States
State New York
County Suffolk County, New York
Town Southold

Robins Island is a 435-acre (1.76 km2) undeveloped island in Peconic Bay by the eastern end of Long Island off the coast of New Suffolk, New York. The island is privately owned and not accessible to the public and is within the jurisdiction of the Town of Southold in Suffolk County, New York in the USA.


Robins Island was part of the 1615 deed to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling by King Charles I in which Alexander received all of Long Island and adjacent islands.[1] Alexander gave James Farret power to act as his agent and attorney in settling Long Island. In reward Farret was allowed to choose 12,000 acres (49 km2) for his personal use. Farret chose Shelter Island and Robins Island for his use.[2] Farret in turn sold the islands to Stephen Goodyear, one of the founders of the New Haven Colony in 1641.[3]

The island was purchased by a Parker Wickham in 1715. The island and other nearby lands in Suffolk County were confiscated in 1779 during the American Revolution by act of attainder, and Wickham, a Loyalist, was banished from the state. When his property was put up for sale, it was purchased in 1784 by Caleb Brewster and Benjamin Tallmadge, who had been members of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolutionary War.[4] The island was purchased for $1.3 million in 1979 by two German investors, Herbert and Claus Mittermayer, who planned to sell it to private developers.[5] In 1989, Wickham's descendants attempted to regain the property, but their lawsuit was dismissed in 1992.[4][6][7]

In 1989, Suffolk County agreed to purchase Robins Island for $9.2 million and turn it into a nature preserve.[5] However, the island never fell into public ownership because of legal disputes, as another developer had signed a contract to purchase the Robins Island for $15.3 million and develop 22 luxury homes on five-acre lots, while preserving much of the island.[8] The deal collapsed after the county determined that an environmental study was necessary before the island could be purchased and developed.[9]

Robins Island is currently owned by Wall Street financier Louis Bacon, who purchased it in 1993 at a bankruptcy court auction for $11 million.[10] Bacon has made significant investments in restoring the neglected island, going so far as to import full-grown oak trees to replace ones harvested for lumber years earlier. Some non-native grasses were removed from the island and replaced, and hunters reduced an overgrown deer population. The island has the healthiest turtle population in the state, which includes the Eastern mud turtle.[11] Bacon is known for hosting traditional English "driven pheasant" hunts on the island for wealthy guests.


Robins Island is located between Little Peconic Bay and Great Peconic Bay. The island can be reached by a private vessel. A road runs the length of the island. A conservation easement in 1997 makes it unlikely that any development will occur on the island; however, 2009 satellite images show seven structures and several small outbuildings on the island.[12]


  1. ^ "A Battle Builds for Robins Island". The New York Times. October 2, 1983. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  2. ^ Thompson 1843, p. 364
  3. ^ Thompson 1843, p. 392
  4. ^ a b Sullivan, Ronald (March 24, 1992). "Descendants of British Loyalist Lose Bid for Island". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  5. ^ a b "Last Bit of Eden Teeters on Brink of Development". The New York Times. April 2, 1992. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  6. ^ Schmitt, Eric (April 24, 1989). "Heirs Pressing 200-Year Claim To a Pristine Isle". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  7. ^ "Court Refuses to Block Development of an Uninhabited Island". The New York Times. December 1, 1992. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  8. ^ "Suffolk Moves to Abandon Plans To Buy Robins I. as Nature Area". The New York Times. April 8, 1993. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  9. ^ "Call for a New Study Derails a Plan to Build Luxury Homes on Robins Island". The New York Times. November 19, 1993. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  10. ^ Rabinovitz, Jonathan (December 29, 1993). "Executive Buys $11-Million Island Haven". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  11. ^ Raver, Anne (March 21, 1996). "Paradise Returns (With Heliport)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  12. ^