City Paper features Petty’s Island: a tale of oil lords, homelessness and vandalism

City Paper: The Island

On Feb. 4, Riley will debut his newest work at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, at 13th and Locust streets, as part of Philagrafika. His subject is Petty’s Island — a 400-acre, fin-shaped piece of land that sits on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and New Jersey. Never heard of it? You should have. It’s a place littered with well-known and colorful characters — Pennsylvania founder William Penn, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a man who declared himself the island’s king, and even the pirate’s pirate himself, Ol’ Blackbeard. It’s been the epicenter of a battle between developers, politicians and environmentalists since 2003. It’s a place that two endangered bald eagles, guarded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, now call home. And here’s Duke Riley, this rapscallion New Yorker, coming down I-95 to do God knows what with it.

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