Everyone knows the big islands of New York City, some people know the smaller ones, but what about those that are no more? The area has always been an archipelago, but some landmasses went the way of Atlantis or were subsumed into the five boroughs we know today. In their book The Other Islands of New York City, Sharon Seitz and Stuart Miller catalogue the lesser-known and lost islands of our city, from sandy beaches that were washed away to manmade forts consumed by landfill. Here, we remember eight of those forgotten.
Originally an island of the South Bronx, this chunk of land was privately owned and named for Captain J.T. Wright, but it was later renamed Locust Island. The small waterway which isolated it from the mainland Bronx was eventually filled in, and it lost its island designation and became Locust Point, a residential community with a yacht club and lots of Irish people.
An island coastal fortification known for a time as the "American Bastille," Fort Lafayette was built atop Hendrick's Reef, a natural island in the Narrows of New York Harbor. Construction of the fort began during the War of 1812, but it wasn't finished until 1818. Later, it was used as a Civil War Prison, ammunition storage, and as a transfer site during World War II. It was destroyed in the 1960s, replaced by one of the Brooklyn-side pillars of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The history of Hog Island is a bit convolutedit may have actually been two islandsbut it was definitely located near Rockaway. Wikipedia says its name comes from the fact that Native Americans used to raise pigs here, but the New York Times believes it was because "its shape resembled a pig's back." It was about a mile-long, and likely destroyed in the 1893 New York hurricane. But before it met its fate, it became a popular seaside getaway for Tammany Hall big shots. It is outlived by nearby Barnum Island, which survived the hurricane and is still inhabited today.
In 1880, part of the Hutchinson River in the Bronx, near where the New England Thruway crosses in Eastchester, was straightened and a tiny hunk o' mainland was severed, creating Codling Island. Owned by George F. Codling, Codling Island rejoined the mainland around 1900 after the channel silted up so thoroughly it became reconnected. This island has truly been forgotten (at least by the digital world), as Seitz and Miller's book has the only mention of it on the internet.
In the early 1900s, a small island off Canarsie's coast, known as Bergen Island, was connected to the mainland using landfill and was transformed into the neighborhood of Bergen Beach. The Wall Street Journal stands in awe of how remote and suburban it still isa part of Brooklyn that's not trendy yet, how strange!
Existing for years as a dumping ground, Barren Island was a horrid, trash-filled nightmare in Jamaica Bay during its time apart from mainland Brooklyn, housing a glue plant and the garbage that has since created Dead Horse Bay. Like many other islands on this list, landfill eventually connected it to the rest of the borough in 1930, and in 1936, it was condemned by Robert Moses. Residentsyes, people lived herewere given 30 days to leave, and the land now holds the Marine Park Bridge.
Another former landmass of the Bronx, Blizzard Island has also been joined to the mainland with landfill, making it part of Pelham Bay Park. According to The Other Islands of New York City, when Blizzard Island was still an island, a man named David Blizzard would sell tackle and rent boats across from it on Tallapoosa Point. The island also supported the eastern arch of the original Pelham Bridge, the second incarnation of which is shown in the sketch above. The original bridge was destroyed by a storm only a year after it was built in 1815.
Currently enjoying a peaceful retirement in Battery Park, Castle Clinton was built in 1808 on an artificial island off Manhattan's southern shore to protect New York from British forces; only a drawbridge connected it to the mainland. The second half of the 19th century saw Castle Clinton transformed into an entertainment complex complete with opera house and theater. From 1855-1890 it was an immigration complex, then an aquarium, and today it is a restored historic site. What a life.
· The Other Islands of New York City by Sharon Seitz and Stuart Miller [Amazon]
· Get To Know 34 of New York City's Most Obscure Islands [Curbed]