US govt's bioweapon and animal disease R&D island up for sale

For more than 50 years, Plum Island, off the eastern end of Long Island's North Fork coast, has been home to the US government's Animal Disease Center. The government is opening a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Kansas, and so the lovely little island is up for sale. On the island, scientists have studied a variety of hardcore pathogens, from anthrax to foot-and-mouth disease. It was also ground zero for biological weapons testing and development during the Cold War, leading to much intrigue, conspiracies, and fiction set there. Now, environmental groups hope to turn Plum Island into a nature preserve. From the Associated Press:
PlumislalalalalalalaSeveral speakers at the hearing also said they preferred the island be retained as a nature preserve, including a representative of the Audubon Society, who urged a thorough study of the bird population...

Besides the laboratory, the island is home to a defunct U.S. Army base and a charming little lighthouse that looks out onto Long Island Sound. And, as fictional FBI Agent Clarice Starling told "Silence of the Lambs" villain Hannibal Lecter: "There's a very, very nice beach...."

Gary DePersia, a top real estate broker in the Hamptons on Long Island's south fork, said the possibilities for the island are nearly unlimited. "It could make an awesome resort, with condos and room for a golf course," DePersia said.
Lab's move begins to lift mystery around NY island

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  1. Bah! Unimaginative luggards. How about:

    * Most Dangerous Game hunting preserve
    * A “Lost” theme park.
    * Breeding colony for mutant coyote soldiers.
    * Coaling station for new trans-Atlantic zeppelin lines.

  2. I actually grew up not too far from Plum Island, glad to see they’re finally offloading the place. Near as I can tell the place has been nearly vacant for at least the past 20 years or so anyway.

  3. Anybody trying to monetize Plum Island is going to have an uphill battle for search engine rankings. Unless they can figure how to work “Animal Disease Center” into their marketing somehow.

  4. I don’t know what is more horrifying to me- that they’re selling off the home of Lyme Disease, or the fact that rather than doing this work on an island, they’ll do it in the future in the middle of gad damned Kansas.

    1. Yeah, well, we can nuke Kansas if we need to. People would notice if Long Island went missing.

      I can’t imagine what the cleanup costs would be. I predict a future site for urban exploration. If I win Powerball (the only way to win is not to play!) this week, then I’ll wait a few years for the island to sit before lowballing the gov’t.

    2. Wrong Plum Island – Lyme disease is from Connecticut and this is Plum Island, New York. (I had the same confusion at first.)

      1. It was my understanding that the disease first appeared in humans in Lyme, CT, which is across the way somewhat from Plum Island NY. Carried by deer or birds, the thinking goes, it escaped from Plum Island and now we all get to enjoy it. At least Kansas is farther away from me.

        Meh, we’re all doomed.

        I think I read the Lyme disease thing in the book Lab 257.

  5. I’m arrogant enough to want the entire island for myself. It would be horribly impractical to maintain as a private residence, but it might be nice to set up shop on one end of the place, then leave the rest open to the Audubon Society, NGS and the like. They get to document native flora and fauna of the northeastern US, and I get to have a cozy, isolated home where I can finally realize my potential as an author, or maybe a crazed hermit.

    1. With all respect, you can realize your potential as an author, or as a crazed hermit, or as BOTH at the same time without needing your own island. Which is to say, don’t let your lack of a personal island stop you.

  6. “It could make an awesome resort, with condos and room for a golf course,” DePersia said.

    SyFy Channel movie of the week?

  7. I’m sure BP’s giant oil slick will have spread to this island and gently cleansed it of any potential biotoxins long before the new owner is ready to take possession.

  8. @#7 Well aware its still been in operation, but the number of people heading back and forth/actively claiming to work there has been dropping steadily since I was a kid. And I can’t remember the last time I saw more than one person on the Plum Island ferry. Knew a guy who was working on ground water clean-up over there about 10 years ago, his exact words were “skeleton crew”.

    1. ‘ . . . his exact words were “skeleton crew”.’

      Wait.

      The place is staffed by the Undead?

      Whoa!

      1. Plum Island is the setting for Romero’s recent Survival of the Dead movie, so ryu is right-on.

  9. Wow, this is really smart. Let’s take the most dangerous and damaging pathogens in the world off of a quarantined island and put them in the geographic center of the country where simple human error coupled with high plains winds could disseminate highly infectious plant, animal and human diseases far and wide. Good idea.

    I actually just got back from a weekend seminar that included heavy doses of learning about tissue culture and proper lab procedure. Anyone that knows about the eventual probability of serious human error in a lab knows that placing such a high stakes laboratory above ground in the middle of Kansas is FUCKING STUPID. I read about this years ago and hoped it would never happen. The placement of the site has more to do with the state of Kansas grubbing for pork scraps than it does with safety or any kind of reason.

  10. My wife worked there as a veterinarian (prior to the terminally stupid “office of Homeland Security” being formed). Not only are the beaches beautiful, but there are thriving seal and turtle populations. The BOQ from the Army days is still there and the island has a fresh water pond.

    We lived in CT and the government ran a 110 ft ferry from Old Saybrook, CT to the island. She used to get stuck out there during the winter when the weather in the Sound was too rough to cross, not to mention the Plum Gut.

  11. Oh duh. Sorry, the link to the previous thing story was right there.

    Too much staring at computer screens for me, it seems.

  12. The book Anon #26 mentioned that claims Lyme disease came from Plum Island is Michael Christopher Carroll’s Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory. I haven’t read it yet to see if its allegations are plausible; it’s sitting in the big stack o’ books to be read.

    I agree on the stupidity of moving the research center to Kansas, but look on the bright side: If there’s a breach it might put a severe dent in monoculture Big Agriculture and make HFCS more expensive than sugar, so we could have real coke again without importing it from Mexico.

    I wonder if they work with samples of UG99 wheat stem rust? That would lead to a lot of excitement if it got loose in the US midwest.

  13. This island also has a beautiful 1827 lighthouse and is where the Long Island Sound, Gardiner’s Bay, Long Island’s North Fork, and the Hamptons (the South Fork). At any given weekend during the summer there are literally hundreds of boats on either side of the island.

    It’s nearby Gardiner’s Island, the only intact piece of real estate from a Royal Grant issued in 1639 and still entirely privately owned by the original family (it was purchased from the Montaukett that year as well). Odd piece of feudalism surviving in America today.

    Given its location, I think the $50-80 million range is extremely low, this is a short boat ride from Shelter Island, Montauk, East Hampton, and other extremely expensive places. A preserve or a park would be fantastic, the area is built up enough, although the North Fork is still somewhat isolated. You can get a good look at the island from the Orient Point-New London ferry. I took it two years ago on a roadtrip.

    I would agree that a quarantined island is far superior than the middle of the Great Planes, of all places. Maybe someone’s district is being rewarded. Plus where would the scientist rather work? If we really wanted isolation, I’m sure there’s an Aleutian island somewhere…

    1. I agree that $50-80 million would be on the low side. I have a Sotheby’s catalog from 2008. It lists a 18 acre, empty, waterfront property in Sagaponack for $45 million and a 3 acre, waterfront property with 6 bedroom house in Wainscott lists at $21.5 million.

      I could easily see the island going for well in excess of $100 million. I guess more then enough to pay for a few acres in Kansas.

  14. Does it have a hollowed-out volcano?

    BB should open some kind of trust for BB users to contribute (or at least pledge) money to buy the island!

  15. There’s a very, very nice beach. Terns nest there. There’s beautiful…

    Terns? Once they build timeshare condos, it will be turns for us, too.

  16. “It could make an awesome resort, with condos and room for a golf course,”

    Christ, what an asshole.

  17. Ah… so I’m not fully opposed to killing off all livestock in the US. I guess I’m a little unclear on how this would work, but I understand that American raised meat is not so healthy, contributes to global warming, and consumes agricultural resources inefficiently. So, wouldn’t elimination of say, 100% of the beef production in the American midwest be.. ultimately a pretty good thing ? Maybe we should just let Kansas … keep going with this one.

  18. It would be amazing if the fort and accompanying building could be saved and preserved. The old labs and PIADC buildings are cool (and no, Lyme disease did not originate on the island – sheesh the general public will believe anything!) but the parade grounds, old ‘town’, fort and other buildings deserve their place in history. Some staff who work on the island say that the buildings look like someone walked out and turned the key – everything inside preserved as though frozen in time.

    1. Here’s the location of Plum Island, NY:

      http://maps.google.com/maps?client=opera&rls=en&q=plum%20island&oe=utf-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wl

      http://tinyurl.com/38twr4j

      Here’s the location of Old Lyme, CT, the first known location of Lyme disease:

      http://maps.google.com/maps?client=opera&rls=en&q=old+lyme,+ct&oe=utf-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=Old+Lyme,+CT&ei=ePBpTNyXN4K-sQPL3tn8Bg&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ8gEwAA

      http://tinyurl.com/37s29ct

      You might notice, they’re about 10 or 15 miles away from each other. Old Lyme is almost the closest land point due north. So don’t go telling people that “Lyme disease did not originate on the island” with any degree of certainty, you really don’t know.

      You can take your “historical parade grounds” and stick them up your ass. The US government has no fucking business researching or developing any type of bioweapons. The island should be burned, and anyone who worked in any capacity with developing bioweapons should be charged with treason and crimes against humanity.

      BTW, I was just diagnosed with Lyme disease an hour hour ago, so maybe I take it a bit personally.

  19. I live extremely close to Plum Island. It is not closing and relocating due to security risks, it was deemed “financially wasteful” to maintain an entire island for the facility’s current functions.

    It’s a shame it has to close. The facility was a one of the largest employers in our area… for professional researchers, security, ferry captains, janitors, etc. I know a great deal of people who will be losing their jobs.

    Of course the AP focuses more on how Gary DePersia, some out-of-touch Hamptons schmuck, says the island “could make an awesome resort, with condos and room for a golf course.”

    Perhaps DePersia should be the first test subject for the new Kansas facility…

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