Roosevelt Island is a mixed income, racially diverse waterfront community situated in the East River of New York City between Manhattan and Queens and is jurisdictionally part of Manhattan. It is a narrow island, about 3km long, with a maximum width of 240m, in the East River of New York City. Roosevelt Island was known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1973, and before that Blackwell’s Island.
The Island’s Aerial Tramway, which connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan has become the iconic symbol of Roosevelt Island to its residents. We enjoyed the views from the tram – NYC on the left and Roosevelt Island on the right of the river.
Blackwell House – This simple well-proportioned house, built for James Blackwell between 1796 and 1804, is the sole surviving building on Roosevelt Island which dates from the period when the island was still privately held property. The Blackwell family owned and farmed the island from the late 17th century until 1828, when it was sold to the City of New York.
Along the west promenade, we passed a three part 1996 sculpture situated in the East River by Tom Otterness, entitled the “Marriage of Real Estate and Money”. We thought it quite amusing.
On the northern end of the island is Lighthouse Park, designed by the firm of Quennell Rothschild and Partners in 1977, includes the fifty foot Gothic style stone lighthouse built from the island’s stone (Fordham gneiss). Legend has it that an industrious patient from the nearby lunatic asylum built a structure where the lighthouse is now situated, fearing an invasion by the British.
Opened in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge is a cantilever bridge and is the longest bridge spanning the East River. The bridge helped transform Queens from a largely rural area into a bedroom and working coummunity. In 1930, before the Roosevelt Island Bridge was constructed, a four-cab elevator service began between the lower deck of the Queensboro Bridge and the island.
Before the Brooklyn Bridge spanned the East River, before the Statue of Liberty first graced New York Harbor, and before skyscrapers rose above New York City’s streets, the utility companies that would eventually become Con Edison were already building the energy infrastructure needed to fuel and sustain the city’s growth. Today, Con Edison operates one of the largest and most complex — yet most reliable — electric power systems in the world. Con Edison delivers electricity to more than three million customers through the world’s largest system of underground electric cables — some 94,000 miles — complemented by 36,000 miles of overhead electric wires.
The Roosevelt Island Bridge is a lift bridge that connects Roosevelt Island to Astoria in Queens, crossing the East Channel of the East River. It is the sole route to the island for vehicular and foot traffic without using public transportation. When the bridge is open it provides ships with 30m of vertical clearance.
There are quite a few more interesting sights on the island but we didn’t feel comfortable carrying our camera around. We felt somewhat unsafe walking around the residential areas, especially those on the northeast of the island. All-in-all a good day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but be prepared for some weirdness with a zillion wheelchair blazin’ senior citizens and disabled younger looking thugs roaming the streets while you try to look inconspicuous and go about your business. The rumors are true, it’s haunted by the lingering souls of the insane asylums and of the US’s first polio hospital.