Rat Island Goes Up For Auction

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Want your very own Bronx island? There’s one for sale, but it might cost a couple hundred thousand bucks.

Rat Island, a 2.5-acre island made entirely of rock less than a mile off the east coast of City Island in Long Island Sound, is going up for auction on Saturday, October 2. It has been appraised by the city at $265,000.

The island is only accessible by boat, and has not been used for decades. But both its owner and its realtor think the idea of owning a private island in New York City will be attractive to several different kinds of bidders.

“You could put a residence there, you could dock a boat there,” said Syracuse-based broker Ozzie Crisalli. “People go there for fishing, you could put up cabanas. It was used by a marine contractor, so it could have some commercial uses.”

Crisalli did note that if someone were to use it commercially, they would have to get the Island’s zoning changed. Rat Island is zoned for low-density housing.

In fact, the marine contractor (who still owns the island) ran afoul of both City Island residents and the authorities by using it for salvage and violating the zoning regulations in the early 1970s. Edmund “Red” Brennen hasn’t used the island for anything since then and is now retired in Jupiter, FL.

Brennen lived on City Island for 40 years before retiring. He purchased Rat Island in 1972.

“I salvaged a lot of barges,” the 73-year-old said. “I had cement tanks there, but they made me take them away from the island and put them in a fishing reef.”

Brennen asserted that the island is now in much better condition.

“I cleaned everything and left it pristine,” he said.

The upcoming auction will not be Brennen’s first attempted sale of Rat Island. He tried to sell it for $300,000 in 2009 but found no takers. He pays over $1,000 in taxes on it each year, and is also auctioning off a home he owns on City Island.

Crisalli said that he expects the island to go for under the city’s appraisal figure, but that it will not come cheap.

“People have called and offered $50,000 or $75,000,” he said. “That’s not going to cut it.”

He said he has gotten some interest from City Islanders who would use the rocky isle for recreation.

Thomas Pell originally purchased Rat Island from Native Americans in the 1600s.

According to legend, the island got its name for the escaped convicts, or “rats” who would swim there from the nearby prison on Hart Island during the 1800s. It is also said to have served as a quarantine area for typhoid patients.

Bidders are required to bring a $10,000 check to participate in the auction, which will be held at 718 City Island Avenue.

Updated 2:20 pm, October 28, 2011
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