Hart Island

New York City life is shaped by the archipelago upon which it lies. Nearly thirty of these islands bear names and distinct, if peculiar, backstories. We rounded up eleven such islands, all linked through the common themes of abandonment and obscurity. Many were at one point inhabited, either by individuals or institutions, but today all have slipped out of the public’s consciousness. Even to many native New Yorkers, their existence remains unnoticed.

1. Shooter’s Island (Kill Van Kull)

Shooter's Island

This 43-acre island straddles the border between New York and New Jersey and derives its name from the hunting activities that took place here during the Colonial Era. As New York grew as an industrial port, the island accommodated an oil refinery and shipyard during the 19th century.

Today, the island is owned by the Department of Parks and Recreation, with the Audubon Society managing wildlife research. Many prominent historical figures from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt and Prince Henry of Prussia once made use of the island, with the former utilizing it as a location to drop off covert messages during the Revolutionary War.