So let's say, hypothetically, you're a retired New Yorker living in a lovely waterfront home and located in your expansive shared "back yard" there's an uninhabitable, guano-covered island with a rather unpleasant name and an unsavory, infectious-disease-related history. What do you do? Steer clear of the abandoned island at all costs? Enjoy your view of the craggy chunk of land and occasionally venture out to it via kayak? Use it, on occasion, as a picnic spot? Purchase it at auction for $160,000?
The latter is what Alex Schibli, the newest owner of New York City's Rat Island, just did. The 71-year-old retired Port Authority worker who lives on nearby City Island has snatched up the 2.5-acre rocky outcrop in Long Island Sound, beating out seven other bidders (Ivanka Trump not among them) hoping to claim Rat Island as their own. Essentially, Rat Island is right in Schibli's backyard.
"I can see it from my window. My wife and I kayak around it all the time," Schibli tells the New York Post. "I feel like it has always belonged to me. It's so lovely out here. You wouldn't even believe you were in New York. And there are no rats at all!"
Although it's zoned as residential, Schibli has no plans to build a giant manse or other structure on his $160,000 purchase, although a renaming is in the works. And even if he wanted to build, development would be hindered by the high tides that cover most of the island's rocky terrain. When it comes down to it, Schibli basically wanted a private island to call his own (Gawker calls Schibli's purchase "the world's most expensive lawn ornament"). He tells the Post: "Rat Island is a flat rock, but it's a very special rock, at least to me. Some developers might build something on top of the island if they got their hands on it, but I believe it should be conserved, kept as is."
Private island purchasing is the hot new trend among the rich and famous (mostly just rich), but it's refreshing to see an ordinary, conservation-minded grandfather from the Bronx stake a claim for less than it would cost to buy a studio apartment in Manhattan.
Rat Island, located about halfway between touristy City Island (home to many excellent seafood restaurants) and the Department of Corrections-owned Hart Island (home to many unmarked graves) has had a handful of private owners in the past. Most notably, the island once dubbed "the Pelham Pesthouse" was used to house quarantined typhoid patients in the 1800s. The crumbling remnants of the quarantine hospital can still be found on Rat Island.
Have any private island ownership fantasies of your own that you'd like to share? I can see Governors Island from my living room window, but I don't think I'll be snatching up that piece of New York real estate any time soon.
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