Hoffman, Staten Island, New York City
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Hoffman Island is one of two small islands in the Lower New York Bay, off of South Beach, Staten Island. A smaller island, known as Swinburne Island, lies immediately to the south.
Created out of landfill in 1872 and named for former New York City mayor (and then-current New York State Governor) John T. Hoffman , Hoffman Island covers approximately 10 acres (40,000 m²), while Swinburne Island's area is about 4 acres (16,000 m²). The latter island, also of artificial origin, was originally called Dix Island, but was renamed in honor of Dr. John Swinburne, a noted military surgeon during the Civil War.
In the early 1900s, the islands were used as a quarantine station, housing immigrants found to have been carrying contagious diseases when they landed at Ellis Island, and immediately before and during World War II the United States Merchant Marine used both islands as a training station (which opened in 1938); the Quonset huts built during this period still stand on Swinburne Island.
Since World War II ended, city planners and politicians have floated various proposals for what should be done with the two islands. Robert Moses and Bernard Baruch advocated transforming the islands into a city park, but this plan was soon forgotten. In 1961 all existing buildings on Hoffman Island were razed, and since then trespassers have been apprehended on the island from time to time, including one celebrated incident in which a film crew was caught shooting a pornographic movie there. In the 1980s some Staten Island residents proposed building a large homeless shelter on Hoffman and/or Swinburne islands, in response to the city's plans to open new shelters in some of the borough's residential neighborhoods. This plan was never implemented either.
Today, both Hoffman and Swinburne islands are owned by the United States federal government as part of the Staten Island Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area. They are, however, still off-limits to the general public, to protect the islands' avian residents. Hoffman Island hosts a large number of nesting wading birds, including great egret, snowy egret, black-crowned night heron, and glossy ibis. Double-crested Cormorant dominate Swinburne, and great black-backed gulls nest on both islands. Beginning in 2001, harbor seals have been seen wintering around the islands.
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