Roosevelt Island has quite the storied history: it was once home to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Sex in the City actress Sarah Jessica Parker; a prison site until 1935 (inmates included Mae West and Billie Holiday); and the chosen location of the soon-to-be opened Louis Kahn-designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park… .
Located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, under the 59th Street Queensborough Bridge, the island is home to about 12,000 people. Over the past few centuries, it has enduredd a bit of an identity crisis. Roosevelt Island was called Hog Island in 1637, then Manning’s, then Blackwell Island in 1686 after its new owner and Manning’s son-in-law, Robert Blackwell.
New York City purchased the island in 1828, where it opened a penitentiary, a lunatic asylum, hospitals, and a chapel. Which meant another name change: Welfare Island. Finally, it was declared Roosevelt Island in 1973, after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And today it is home to new condos, older coops, a chronic care facility, Starbucks and Duane Reade, as well as a new riverside restaurant and bar.
I first visited Roosevelt Island four years ago to watch, what ended up being, rained-out fireworks. Yesterday marked my second visit. After a walk along the Queensborough Bridge on a glorious day, I spontaneously decided to catch the tram from Manhattan to the island.
The tram allows for use of the Metrocard, and costs the same as a subway ride. You can also train it underground, there and back.
On Roosevelt Island, looking at Manhattan below 59th Street…
Smiles from Roosevelt Island, below.