New York City is arguably one of the most traveled to cities in the world, and definitely one of the most traveled to cities in the United States. Living in NYC for 22 years one could say that they are familiar with all of its nooks and crannies, but that would be a lie. I don’t think that anyone can say that they know all of New York, inside and out, no matter how long they have lived there. There is always something new to discover in New York City. I have lived half of my life on the Upper East Side and the other half on Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is one of these often forgotten or overlooked crannies of New York City.
Where Do You Live?!
When I tell people that I live on Roosevelt Island and they mainly stare at me like they have no idea what I’m talking about. I then attempt to jog people’s memory, by telling them that it is, “the small strip of land between Manhattan and Queens,” or I will ask them, “have you seen the first ‘Spider Man’ movie? Remember in the end when he saves all those people in the red cable car? That red cable car goes to Roosevelt Island.” Recently, Roosevelt Island has become more widely known, partially due to the population growth from the construction of new residential buildings in the past 10-15 years. With this influx of new residents has come a need for new shops, stores, restaurants etc. So many of the old shops have unfortunately closed their doors, and Starbucks and Duane Reade have opened up. However, some new small businesses have also flourished, like RiverWalk Bar & Grill and Nonno’s Focacceria & Pizzeria; And other small businesses have managed to stay staples such as China1 and Trellis Diner (currently under going renovations).
Things to Do – Outside!
If you want a place to take a scenic bike ride or jog, Roosevelt Island has paths all along its perimeter, where not only can you do these things but with an unparalleled view. You have all of Manhattan on the west of the Island, and Queens on the east. The view of Manhattan is probably usually considered nicer, because the Queens side has an old power plant on the waterside, but that’s something to see too.
If you venture to the southern most part of the small island where east and west converge, you have a view of both lower Manhattan and Long Island City. There you have a view of the iconic Pepsi Cola sign in Queens.
The Southpoint Park has recently been renovated and renewed, what used to be a large wild field with a creepy ruin of a small pox hospital, is now pruned and polished with lawns and benches. The small pox hospital still stands, with a new far more enforced fence to keep out graffiti artists, and urban explorers. Though it isn’t in pristine condition it could be argued that its decay makes it an even cooler sight.
Past the Small pox hospital is the new Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. This is a drastic modern twist to the rest of the island’s architecture.
Since it is a memorial, this part of the Southpoint Park is not open at all hours. But when it is open they host events and sometimes have food trucks parked inside. During warmer months they even offer free yoga classes on the lawn; who wouldn’t want to do some sun salutations with views of the east river, the UN, and downtown Manhattan?
All the way on the other end of Roosevelt Island, the Northern most point, there is an old lighthouse that is not in use, but the surrounding BBQ and picnic areas most definitely are. On summer nights there are always crowds grilling until late at night.
One place on the island that isn’t really known of is the free public garden. It is next to the soccer field toward the northern end of the island. In the spring and summer walking through, and getting lost in the little garden is great. Though I don’t know how to go about getting a plot there, just admiring the flowers and plants is a fun activity. Directly next to the garden is public housing for cats, Roosevelt island is home to a community of stray cats. Though this may seem unusual, residents leave them food, and have built a small shelter for them to live in (incase it gets too cold or rainy).
How to Get to The Island
To ride the tram (red cable car) to get to Roosevelt Island you can use a regular metro card ride. Though you can also get there by Subway, (the F line) the tram takes about 5 minutes to get you across and has a much nicer view. Even as a resident who takes the tram regularly, I take my phone out to snap some pictures almost every time I get on the tram. The tram leaves from 60th street and 1st avenue, and drops you off closer to the southern end of the island. The Southpoint park is about a 10 minute walk, and the FDR memorial park is a 15 minute walk. While to walk to the lighthouse (northern point) it will take a good 20 -25 minutes. But there is a FREE bus that picks up at the tram and runs (almost) to the northern end of the island, it also stops out side of the Subway entrance. It makes about 8 stops and runs on a continuous loop. Weekends and non-rush hour times it runs every 15 minutes and during rush hour it runs in double time (about every 7 minutes).
So there you have it, Roosevelt Island is just one stop from Manhattan or queens on the subway, though it isn’t accessible by car from Manhattan it is from Queens. And if you are visiting the United States or New York, or even if you’ve lived in New York your whole life and have never gotten around to visiting this small island, it has a lot to offer, especially now in springtime when the cherry blossoms are in bloom!