The unfortunately-named island off the coast of New York sold at auction last year for under $180K – and now the new owner finally has the nice warm weather to appreciate it.
When a tiny speck of land in New York’s City Island Harbor with the charming name of Rat Island came up for auction last October, it was one of the biggest questions people had: what could you do with it? The little scrap of land, just 2.5 acres, was mostly underwater during stormy weather, and had no permanent buildings, electricity, or drinkable water.
The previous owner, marine contractor Edward ‘Red’ Brennan, had bought the island to store heavy equipment and run salvage operations – Rat Island hardly sounded like a relaxing holiday spot, despite being just a short boat ride from New York City.
None of that deterred 72-year-old Alex Schibli, however – the retired Port Authority employee trumped seven competing bids, including from conservancies and fishermen, to take possession of the island. According to a recent article in the NY Post, buying an island wasn’t an impulsive decision for Schibli, but the fulfillment of a long-held dream. “I read ‘Robinson Crusoe’ when I was a boy, [and] I was obsessed with ‘The Swiss Family Robinson,’” he told the newspaper. And now, in his golden years, he is the proud owner of what may just be the only true ‘private island’ in New York City.
Despite the island’s deficiencies – including broken glass and other debris covering its shores – Schibli has plenty of plans for his new home away from home. With his keen interest in the environment and green development, he may decide to build an eco-friendly home on the island, but for now, he says, he intends to keep it as it is. “I love swimming, canoeing and collecting mussels — and we’re going to have lots of fun with my family. There’ll be picnics, barbecues and the occasional party, but, more than anything, we’re just going to relax,” he said.
He does have one immediate goal for the island, however – a name change. According to local lore, it took its name not from rodents, but rather, a nickname for jailbirds on a nearby prison island who would use Rat Island as a stop on their swim to freedom onshore. Schibli prefers ‘Rattle Island’, a name which dates from the 1600’s and derives from the noise used to warn sailors away from its treacherous rocks.
In any case, it just goes to show that even the most unlikely private island will make a paradise for the right person. For Alex Schibli, his purchase of Rat Island means a long, happy summer of picnics with family, nature-watching, and enjoying what may be the most unique Manhattan views in the city.
Read more about Rat Island’s story: NY Post