The small, hidden islands of New York City—places like U-Thant Island near the United Nations, or North Brother Island, made famous on an episode of Broad City—includes the appropriately named Rat Island, a tiny patch of land off the coast of City Island in the Bronx.
But though Rat Island may be small, its owner has big plans for it: The New York Post reports that Alex Schibli, who bought the island for $176,000 back in 2011, has partnered with architect Pablo Jendretzki to envision an urban retreat for the island. Renderings produced by Jendretzki show a series of cabins—he says they may be made of concrete or wood—on the island, connected by pathways and with a slip for boats.
Jendretzki says he was interested in figuring out a concept for Rat Island, which is only 2.5 acres and has a largely rocky terrain. “Designing for an island is already in itself a luxury, given that we have a context that will help enhance the design no matter what one does, the opposite of which happens in busy metropolitan sites,” he told Curbed via email. Choosing to design smaller rooms (or “pods” as he calls them) rather than one structure is one way of working within the context of the island; “the shape of the island and its features remain more prominent,” he says.
But the idea is not without its challenges. There’s no running water or electricity, so everything will need to be self-sustaining. “The island will harvest rain water, solar and (possibly) wind power, and will use self-contained effluent treatment systems,” Jandretski says.
There’s also the challenge of money—the project does not yet have funding (or a price tag), though Schibli and Jendretzki are hoping an investor will appreciate their vision. And there is precedent for this kind of urban-yet-wild, island camping: Governors Island partnered with Collective Retreats on a glamping site on the island, which was regularly booked solid in its first year of operation.
But even if it doesn’t get off the ground, it’s an interesting thought experiment—especially as the city does consider what to do with sites like Rikers Island, which will be available for a variety of uses one the jails on the island close.
“It’s very much in the early stages, but the potential is exciting,” Schibli told the Post. “It’s been a lot of fun letting our imaginations run wild.”