Roosevelt Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island-Main Street.jpg
Main Street on Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island is located in Manhattan
Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island (Manhattan)
LocationEast River, New York County, New York, USA
CoordinatesCoordinates: 40°45′43″N 73°57′00″W / 40.761927°N 73.950093°W / 40.761927; -73.950093
Area0.23 sq mi (0.60 km2)
Length2 mi (3 km)
Width0.15 mi (0.24 km)
United States
StateNew York
CityNew York City
Population9,520 (as of 2000)
Density41,391 /sq mi (15,981.2 /km2)
Ethnic groups45% white (non-Hispanic), 27% black, 11% Asian or Pacific Islander, and .3% other races
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the island in New York City. For other uses, see Roosevelt Island (disambiguation).
Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island-Main Street.jpg
Main Street on Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island is located in Manhattan
Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island (Manhattan)
LocationEast River, New York County, New York, USA
CoordinatesCoordinates: 40°45′43″N 73°57′00″W / 40.761927°N 73.950093°W / 40.761927; -73.950093
Area0.23 sq mi (0.60 km2)
Length2 mi (3 km)
Width0.15 mi (0.24 km)
United States
StateNew York
CityNew York City
Population9,520 (as of 2000)
Density41,391 /sq mi (15,981.2 /km2)
Ethnic groups45% white (non-Hispanic), 27% black, 11% Asian or Pacific Islander, and .3% other races
The 1889 Chapel of the Good Shepherd in modern surroundings

Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in New York City's East River. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east, and is part of the borough of Manhattan. Running from Manhattan's East 46th to East 85th Streets, it is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long, with a maximum width of 800 feet (240 m), and a total area of 147 acres (0.59 km2). Together with Mill Rock, Roosevelt Island constitutes Manhattan's Census Tract 238, which has a land area of 0.279 sq mi (0.72 km2).[1] and had a population of 9,520 in 2000 according to the US Census.[2] The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated its population was about 12,000 in 2007.[3] The island was called Minnehanonck by the Lenape and Varkens Eylandt (Hog Island) by New Netherlanders, and during the colonial era and later as Blackwell's Island. It was known as Welfare Island from 1921 to 1971.[4] It was re-named Roosevelt Island in 1971 after Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt Island is owned by the city, but was leased to the state of New York's Urban Development Corporation for 99 years in 1969. Most of the residential buildings on Roosevelt Island are rental buildings. There is also a cooperative (Rivercross) and a condominium building (Riverwalk). One rental building (Eastwood) has left New York State's Mitchell-Lama Housing Program, though current residents are still protected. Three other buildings are now working toward privatization, including the cooperative.


The following is a timeline of the history of Roosevelt Island since European colonization:[5]

Roosevelt Island in the East River, with Manhattan above and Queens below.
New Jersey is in the background.


Though small, Roosevelt Island has a distinguished architectural history. It has several architecturally significant buildings, and has been the site of numerous important unbuilt architectural competitions and proposals.

The island's master plan, adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation in 1969, was developed by the firm of Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The plan divided the island into three residential communities, and is noteworthy because it forbade the use of automobiles on the island; the plan intended for residents to park their cars in a large garage and use public transportation to get around. Another innovation was the plan's development of a 'mini-school system,' in which classrooms for the island's public intermediate school were distributed among all the residential buildings in a campus-like fashion (as opposed to being centralized in one large building).

Looking at Manhattan from north of the Queensboro Bridge

The first phase of Roosevelt Island's development was called "Northtown." It consists of four housing complexes: Westview, Island House, Rivercross, and Eastwood (also known as the WIRE buildings). Rivercross is a Mitchell-Lama co-op, while the rest of the buildings in Northtown are rentals. Eastwood, the largest apartment complex on the island, and Westview were designed by noted architect Josep Lluis Sert, then dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design. Eastwood, along with Peabody Terrace (in Cambridge, Massachusetts), is a prime example of Sert's investigations into high-rise multiple-dwelling residential buildings. It achieves a remarkable level of efficiency by triple-loading corridors with duplex apartment units, such that elevators and public corridors are only needed every three floors. Island House and Rivercross were designed by Johansen & Bhavnani. The two developments were noteworthy for their use of pre-fabricated cladding systems.

Subsequent phases of the island's development have been less innovative, architecturally. Northtown Phase II was developed by the Starrett Corporation and designed by the firm, Gruzen Samton, in a pseudo-historical post-modern style. It was completed in 1989, over a decade after Northtown. Southtown (also referred to as Riverwalk by the developers) is the third phase of the island's development. This phase, also designed by Gruzen Samton, was not started until 1998, and is still in the process of development. When complete, Southtown will have 2,000 units in nine buildings.[16]

Roosevelt Island Red bus

As of 2013, six of the Southtown buildings, with a total of 1,200 units, have been completed. Residential development of Southtown has brought new retail businesses to Roosevelt Island, including a Starbucks and a Duane Reade. Roosevelt Island has long had a limited variety of restaurants, but as a result of Southtown development, new restaurants appeared: Nonno's Foccaceria, Fuji East, Riverwalk Bar & Grill (2009) and Pier NYC (2012) on the West Promenade.

The Octagon, one of the island’s six landmarks, was restored in 2006. Originally designed by Alexander Jackson Davis in 1839 as part of the New York Lunatic Asylum,[17] the national landmark and LEED Silver green building is now a high-end apartment community. It also houses the largest array of solar panels on any building in New York City.

Roosevelt Island and Queensboro Bridge

In addition to Louis Kahn's Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, whose public dedication on October 17, 2012, was tangled in litigation,[18][19] the island has also been the site of numerous other architectural speculations. Rem Koolhaas and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture proposed two projects for the Island in his book "Delirious New York": the Welfare Island Hotel and the Roosevelt Island Redevelopment Proposal (both in 1975-76). That proposal was Koolhaas's entry into a competition held for the development of Northtown Phase II. Other entrants included Peter Eisenman, Robert A. M. Stern, and Oswald Mathias Ungers.

In 2006, ENYA (Emerging New York Architects) made the island's abandoned southern end the subject of one of its annual competitions.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is located on 4 acres at the southern tip of the island. It was opened on October 17, 2012, and is dedicated as a New York State Park.


A new Roosevelt Island Tramway car in operation
Roosevelt Island subway station interior

Although Roosevelt Island is located directly under the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, it is not directly accessible from the bridge itself. A trolley used to connect passengers from Queens and Manhattan to a stop in the middle of the bridge, where passengers took an elevator down to the island. The trolley operated from the bridge's opening in 1909 until April 7, 1957.[20] Between 1930 and 1955, the only vehicular access to the island was provided by an elevator system in the Elevator Storehouse that transported cars and commuters between the bridge and the island. The elevator was closed to the public after the construction of the Roosevelt Island Bridge between the island and Astoria in Queens in 1955 and demolished in 1970.

In 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tramway was constructed to provide access to Midtown Manhattan. New York City Subway access to the rest of Manhattan and to Long Island City, Queens via the IND 63rd Street Line began in 1989, but access to the rest of Queens did not start until 2001. Located more than 100 feet (30 m) below ground level, the Roosevelt Island station (F train) is one of the deepest stations below sea level in the New York City Subway system.

Roosevelt Island's residential community was not designed to support automobile traffic during its planning in the early 1970s. Automobile traffic has become common even though much of the island remains a car-free area. The MTA Bus's Q102 route operating between the island and Astoria obviates the need for automobiles to some extent.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) operates an on-island shuttle bus service from apartment buildings to the subway and tramway, called the Red Bus, for a fare of 25 cents (10 cents for seniors and disabled people). The bright red buses are highly visible.


As of the 2000 census, Roosevelt Island had a population of 9,520. Fifty-two percent of the population (4,995) were female, and 4,525, or 48%, were male. The population was spread out with 5% under the age of 5, 20% under the age of 18, 67% between the ages of 18 and 65, and 15% over the age of 65.[21]

The racial makeup of the island was 45% white (non-Hispanic), 27% black (non-Hispanic), 14% Hispanics or Latinos of any race, 11% Asian or Pacific Islander, and .3% other races.[21]

The median income was $49,976. 37% had an income under $35,000. 40% had incomes between $35,001 and $99,999, and 23% had an income over $100,000.[21]

55% of the total households were family households, and 45% were non-family households. 17% of the residents were married couples with children, and 19% were married couples without children. 36% of the households were one-person households, and 9% were two or more non-family households. 3% were male-based households with related and unrelated children, and 16% were female-based households with related and unrelated children.[21]

In April 2006, the Octagon, a 500-unit luxury rental building, opened its doors. Many young, affluent tenants occupy the studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units.[citation needed] 100 of the units therein are set aside for middle-income residents. Also in 2006, a multi-building luxury condominium called Riverwalk[22] completed construction of its first buildings.

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The neighborhood is part of Manhattan Community Board 8.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation operates and maintains the island's government and infrastructure. The United States Postal Service operates the Roosevelt Island Station at 694 Main Street.[23]

Waste on Roosevelt Island is collected by an automated vacuum collection (AVAC) system—which uses a system of pneumatic tubes. This is the only AVAC system serving a residential complex in the United States.


Roosevelt Island, as with all parts of New York City, is served by the New York City Department of Education. Residents are zoned to P.S. 217/I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island School, which opened in 1992, combining together schools at various locations on the island.[5] The Child School and Legacy High School serve K–12 special needs children with learning and emotional disabilities.

On December 19, 2011, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that a joint Cornell University-Technion-Israel Institute of Technology graduate school of applied sciences will be built on the Island. The $2 billion facility will include 2 million square feet of space on an 11 acre city-owned site, which is currently used for a hospital. Classes will begin off-site in September 2012, with the first classes in the new facility scheduled to start in 2018. The campus will take almost 30 years to be fully complete.[24][25]

Public libraries[edit]

The New York Public Library operates the Roosevelt Island Branch at 524 Main Street.[26] The library began in a community room, then moved to its own building in 1979. In 1998, the library became a branch of the NYPL system.[5]

Roosevelt Island buildings


Roosevelt Island has its own community newspaper, The Main Street WIRE, founded in 1979 and published every two weeks. The WIRE derives its name from the first four residential buildings constructed on Roosevelt Island: Westview, Island House, Rivercross, and Eastwood. Current and back issues are available online.[27] Volunteers deliver the newspaper to every residential door in the community.

The newspaper confines its coverage to Roosevelt Island matters, reporting on community concerns ignored by other New York City media, including issues that arise by virtue of Roosevelt Island being a community within New York City which is operated by the State (not the City) of New York, with a local "authority" called the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) in charge. For several years, The WIRE has editorialized in favor of a stronger element of elected home rule for the community, and various small steps have been taken in that general direction. Most recently, the Residents Association (RIRA)[28] has been in the process of mounting an election which will serve to nominate members to the Board of Directors of the RIOC. The Governor will retain the final nominating power, however.

Since the mid 2000's, resident bloggers also provide community support by consolidating various important resources for local news, events, politics, and community issues, including development, transportation, and tourism.[29][30][31][32]

Notable residents and visitors[edit]

The prison at Blackwell's Island, 1853

Prisoners on Blackwell's and Welfare Island[edit]

Visitors who exposed conditions on Blackwell's Island[edit]

Former residents of Roosevelt Island[edit]

Current residents of Roosevelt Island[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Detail of Roosevelt Island, from the Taylor Map of New York (1879)




Video games[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FactFinder" United States Census Bureau
  2. ^ Hughes, C.J. (September 2, 2007). "An Island Joins the Mainstream". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ According to the US Census 2000, Mill Rock Island (Census Block 9000) is unpopulated.
  4. ^ a b c Pollak, Micheal (December 14, 2012). "Name that Island". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-16. 
  5. ^ a b c "Timeline of Island History". Main Street Wire. 
  6. ^ Rodriguez-Nava, Gabriel (2003). "The Rise of a Healthy Community". NYC24. Columbia University School of Journalism. 
  7. ^ Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348. , p.29
  8. ^ a b c "Transportation". Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  9. ^ Blackwell's Island at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ "Welfare Island to be Restudied". The New York Times. February 11, 1968. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  11. ^ Lorch, Donatella (October 29, 1989). "The 'Subway to Nowhere' Now Goes Somewhere". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  12. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M. (November 30, 2010). "Quirky Tram Runs Again, Delighting Its Riders". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  13. ^ Babin, Janet (August 2, 2011). "Park Reopens on Roosevelt Island". WNYC. Retrieved November 23, 2012. 
  14. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W> (October 17, 2012). "Dedicating Park to Roosevelt and His View of Freedom". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Innovation. Unbound.". NYC: Cornell Tech. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Brockmann, Jorg; Harris, Bill (2002). One Thousand New York Buildings. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal. p. 268. ISBN 978-1-57912-237-9. 
  18. ^ "A Monument to Roosevelt, on the Eve of Dedication, Is Mired in a Dispute With Donors", The New York Times on-line, October 16, 2012
  19. ^ "Decades late, FDR memorial park dedicated in NYC", Yahoo! News on-line, October 17, 2012
  20. ^ McCandlish, Phillips (April 7, 1957). "City's Last Trolley at End of Line; Buses Will Replace 49-Year Route on Queensboro Span". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Community" on the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation website
  22. ^ Riverwalk website
  23. ^ "Post Office Location – Roosevelt Island." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on January 30, 2009.
  24. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard "Cornell Bid Formally Chosen for Science School in City" The New York Times (December 19, 2011)
  25. ^ Brooks, Stan "Mayor Bloomberg: New York City Ready To Declare War On Silicon Valley" "CBS New York" (December 19, 2011)
  26. ^ "Roosevelt Island Branch." New York Public Library. Retrieved on December 22, 2008.
  27. ^ "Old NYC 10044". The Main Street WIRE. 
  28. ^ "RIRA Online". Roosevelt Island Residents Association. 
  29. ^ "Partners: Rossevelt Islander Blog". Waterfront Alliance. 
  30. ^ Chan, Sewell; Giambusso, David (August 8, 2008). "Variable-Speed Escalators Off to a Shaky Start". The New York Times. 
  31. ^ Bennett, Chuck (April 18, 2011). "Roosevelt I. statue of disabled FDR". New York Post. 
  32. ^ "Roosevelt Island 360". Become a New Yorker. March 6, 2011. 
  33. ^ "Free Becky Edelson; Funeral Plans Off". The New York Times. August 21, 1914. 
  34. ^ Karmin, Craig (July 23, 2010). "Roosevelt Island Pitch: Better than the 'Burbs". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-01-23. 
  35. ^ Insunza, Andrea; Ortega, Javier (24 October 2013). "Cuánto ha cambiado Bachelet". Qué Pasa (in Spanish). Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  36. ^ Homme, Alexander (October 30, 2009). "Roosevelt Island". "Al Lewis was also known as the the unofficial mayor of Roosevelt Island" 
  37. ^ Senft, Bret (September 23, 2006). "With Style, a Goodbye to Grampa Al". Main Street Wire. 
  38. ^ Eliot Glazer (2007-10-11). "Inside With: Andrea Rosen". The Apiary. 
  39. ^ Comics:Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1 162, Marvel Database Project.
  40. ^ "King Kong: The Monster Who Created Universal Studios Florida", Peter Alexander, Totally Fun Company.

External links[edit]