Main | Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Morning View - Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island, as seen from the Queensboro Bridge, with the reverse shot underneath. Smack dab in the middle of the East River, Roosevelt Island residents are technically Manhattanites, although they receive police and fire services from Queens. Formerly Minnahannock Island, then Hog Island, then Manning's Island, then Blackwell Island, it was most recently known as Welfare Island, not becoming Roosevelt until 1973. The lower shot is the view from the end of my street on the Upper East Side.

As Blackwell and then Welfare Island, it was a dumping ground for New York's unwanted, who were sent to the island's many institutions: The New York Lunatic Asylum, The Smallpox Hospital, The Charity Hospital, and a huge penitentary. There was also a "poor house", the place that my grandmother always moaned that we were destined for. I remember having a vague feeling of dread, wondering what the poor house could be. For some reason, it seemed to be tied to the cost of toys.

Today the island is largely car-free, the 9500 residents access the tiny .23 square mile island by a small vehicle bridge on the Queens side, city buses, the currently out-of-service tramway, and the subway, which only added a Roosevelt Island stop in 1989, at a cost of $800 million, one of the biggest public transport boondoggles in history. For many years, the only access to the island was a giant vehicle elevator which lowered cars and trucks from the Queensboro Bridge, but now the island is inaccessible from the bridge. For a thorough history of Roosevelt Island, go here.

I apologize for making you suffer through my bizarre fascination with Roosevelt Island.

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