GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Hannibal Lecter, the fictional villain in "Silence of the Lambs," said it sounded "charming." Author Nelson DeMille made it the centerpiece of his 1997 thriller about deadly viruses and hidden treasure.
Since the infancy of the Cold War, Plum Island has been the site of an animal disease laboratory; access is limited to scientists, support personnel and, on rare occasions, invited guests. Because of its remote location a mile and half off the eastern tip of Long Island's north fork, it frequently has been the target of rife speculation about what really goes on there.
The general public could someday get access to the 840-acre pork chop-shaped oasis now that the federal government is moving its animal disease research functions to a new lab in Manhattan, Kan. With a "For Sale" sign about to go up at Plum Island, the General Services Administration is seeking community input on what should be done with the property. A hearing was held Wednesday in Connecticut and another is scheduled for Thursday on Long Island.
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 Agent Clarice Starling told Lecter: "There's a very, very nice