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Fishers Island part of Long Island? Credit the Duke of York

The view of Fishers Island from the ferry

The view of Fishers Island from the ferry in August 2017. Credit: Randee Daddona

Fishers Island is part of Long Island?

Indeed it is, thanks in part to a conflict in colonial charters dating back to the 1660s, according to Pierce Rafferty, director of the island's Henry L. Ferguson Museum. 

As the crow flies, Fishers Island is closer to Connecticut — and even Rhode Island — than it is to Long Island. The hamlet even has a ZIP code beginning with 06 like those in Connecticut, instead of 1 like communities in New York.

Despite its location, the island wound up as part of New York, an unusual arrangement that "can be traced to the Duke of York's 1664 land patent, a document that trumped Connecticut's prior claim to the island," Rafferty wrote on the museum's website.

On Monday morning, a tornado touched down on Fishers Island, crumpling wood-frame buildings, uprooting trees and thrusting into the spotlight the swath of land's 230 year-round residents, who prize their island's seclusion.

"Visitors should understand there's a long-standing tradition of neutrality or even hostility to the outside world," Rafferty said. "It's not a simple place to drop into. You have to plan your trip."

The island has one grocery store and a single doctor. There are no taxis and, for more than seven months out of the year, there are no restaurants, Rafferty said. 

The island is not easy to reach. Though it’s part of the Town of Southold, it's only accessible by sea — a ferry from New London, Connecticut — or by small plane.

The population swells in the summer to about 3,000 people, including some of the country’s most affluent families. For much of its history, the island was used for dairy farming and raising livestock.

Because of its strategic location, the outpost was raided by British troops during the American Revolution.

Resort development began in the 1870s and for 12 years it was a day excursion destination, but beginning in 1890, Fishers Island shifted to a seasonal resort that catered to an exclusive clientele, Rafferty said. 

"It's an island that values its privacy and sort of likes to be left alone, quite frankly," Rafferty said.  

The number of full-time residents has been dropping for decades, sounding the alarm to residents who have come to prize the idyllic island for its isolation, but who fear that if the population continues to shrink it may disappear as a year-round community. In recent years, the island has invested in affordable housing and its school's magnet programs attract students from Connecticut.  

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