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  • Yep, that's me.

  • You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.

  • To see how I got here, we first have to talk about islands.

  • You may not realize it, but New York City is full of them.

  • Manhattan itself is technically just one 13.4-mile-long island.

  • You've also got Governors Island,

  • Liberty Island,

  • as well as Staten Island.

  • But there's one island in New York that you may not know about,

  • and no, it's not the tiki bar Jade Island,

  • which is fabulous by the waydo yourself a favor and try the pu pu platter.

  • It's called U Thant Island.

  • And it's one island in New York that nobody is allowed to visit.

  • It sits in the East River, right below Roosevelt Island near the UN headquarters,

  • and for something so tiny has a pretty fascinating history.

  • In 1892, construction of an underground rail passage began

  • that was meant to connect Manhattan to Queens via a tunnel under the river.

  • Builders had to drill through the granite under water,

  • and that excavation produced excess landfill, which accumulated

  • and eventually produced a tiny mound of rocks,

  • or as we in the biz call it, an island.

  • The island was originally named Belmont Island, after August Belmont Jr.,

  • the man who financed the construction project.

  • The original tunnel is now used by the 7 Train.

  • And as for the island, minus the occasional tanker collision, up until recently has had a pretty uneventful existence.

  • Then an organization called the Peace Meditation at the United Nations,

  • a Buddhist group that followed spiritual leader,

  • prolific artist,

  • and super-ripped dude Sri Chinmoy, leased the island from the city in 1977.

  • They rechristened it U Thant Island to honor the third secretary general of the UN, a former

  • Burmese diplomat named U Thant,

  • who was a friend of Sri Chinmoy.

  • They also did some light landscaping and erected a 30-foot metaloneness arch.”

  • But they were only allowed to visit a few times a year

  • because of the heightened security around its neighbor the United Nations.

  • All remained peaceful on U Thant until 2004, when New York City hosted the Republican National Convention.

  • A filmmaker and artist named Duke Riley decided to protest by rowing a boat out to U Thant in the middle of the night,

  • unfurling a giant glow-in-the-dark flag from the navigation tower that's on there,

  • and declaring it a sovereign nation,

  • before being apprehended by the Coast Guard.

  • So I called the New York Office of Land Management and tried to schedule a visit.

  • Hey, I wanted to call and see if it's at all possible to set up a time to go visit U Thant Island on the East River?

  • Oh, it's not.

  • At all, like, for anybody?

  • I did some checking, and he's actually right

  • nobody is allowed to visit U Thant Island.

  • Turns out it's now a protected sanctuary for migrating birds,

  • including a colony of double-crested cormorants that nest in theoneness arch.”

  • So you can't actually go on it, but I still wanted to get as close as I could.

  • Despite a total lack of experience and a quickly approaching thunderstorm

  • I jumped in a canoe and headed out onto the lovely East River.

  • We through the water, passing Williamsburg and Roosevelt Island,

  • until we finally saw it in all its glorious, tiny splendor.

  • To most people, it may look like just a pile of rocks in a filthy river.

  • And ... I guess it sort of is.

  • But there's also something kind of wonderful about it too.

  • Being up close to it made me realize that there's something special about U Thant.

  • Amidst the hustle and bustle and millions of people, there's this 125-year-old speck

  • of land tucked away from

  • So I learned a thing or two about what not to do when your canoe starts tipping over.

  • And as it turns out, I sort of did make it onto U Thant Island after all.

  • Granted, it was in an effort to not drown in the East River, but I think it technically still counts.

  • I didn't die, which was good, and I'm glad I was actually able to see U Thant close up.

  • But for now, I think I might just stick to this island, which is a little bit more my speed.

Yep, that's me.

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B1 US Vox island river visit york east

The tiny island in New York City that nobody is allowed to visit

  • 265 4
    Emily posted on 2018/12/10
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