There are islands in the New York City area other than Manhattan or Staten Island. There is Governors Island in the south or Roosevelt Island between Manhattan and Queens. But next to Roosevelt is a small patch that people overlook.
This little slip of land is called U Thant Island. It is a publicly-owned island in the East River with a size of around 100 by 200 feet. It sits right above the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, which is a big part of its history.
You see, U Thant Island did not exist until 1892, when the city of New York made plans for an underground railway tunnel from Manhattan to Queens. Workers drilled underwater little by little and pushed the ground above water. In time there were enough tiny rocks to produce an island.
In 1977, Chinmoy's Peace Mediation group rented the island and made some changes to it. This included adding some grass to it and a nice arch in memory of the Secretary General. Then they unofficially named it after U Thant, thus leaving us the name it has to this day.
It once again slipped out of public memory until 2004. That was the year the city was host to the Republican National Convention, which also brought thousands of protestors. Many were arrested over the course of five days.
The one protest that sealed U Thant Island's fate came from Duke Riley. One night during the convention he went out to the island and placed a flag, declaring it an independent state. His statement said that he was trying to "reclaim the island back into the public domain."
Riley was not allowed on the island because of the tightened security that night but rather because the island had become an animal sanctuary. It is now home for two kind of birds: double-crested cormorants and great black-backed gulls.
The sign put up by Chinmoy's group is still up, so if you have good eyes you might be able to make out the island from afar. Or if you are taking the 7 train you can always remember that at one point you are right below a bird sanctuary.
Just don't get arrested trying to get a better look at it.