Tour Guide Narration: Historically home to correctional facilities and hospitals, the island, previously called Minnahononc (by native Americans), Blackwell's Island (by the family that once owned it), and Welfare Island (named for the penitentiary that once operated there), Roosevelt Island (renamed in 1973 in anticipation of a Louis Kahn memorial that was never built) is now poised to burst at its seams. A population of 10,000 is projected to grow to an estimated 18,000 two years from now.
You've seen this tram in movies, and you may remember the incident in April 2006 when people got stuck on two trams over the East River for seven hours. There is a thrill factor here. Because the transportation authorities would like less of a thrill, the tram is scheduled to be down for maintenance from June 10 through 18, and in 2009 the system will be shut down for at least six months in a $25 million overhaul. Be advised to work around these dates.
Because of the expansion of the population and the limited access to the island (also, by an erratic-running F train and the Q102 bus) folks have started to worry about the island's growing pains. See, for example, the article in the New York Sun titled Roosevelt Islanders May Be Left Hanging.
The Manhattan entrance to the tram station is located at 60th and 2nd Avenue. A Metrocard ride of $2 one-way is required; $4 for round-trip. The Roosevelt Island station is at the top of the lower southern third of the island. The ride lasts 4 or so minutes.
After leaving the station, I walked around to the west and into a small visitor's center. A nice woman handed me a small black and white brochure and explained the features of the island. By this time, I had already walked many miles along a boring promenade on the Manhattan side of the East River (that one can see in the slide of the East River), and so, I said I was only physically able to see some part of the island. After promising to come back later, I set out for the southern end, following her tip that most people visiting the island come there to see the Smallpox Hospital. YES! I was all for that. Along the way, I enjoyed the promenade and looking at the buildings on the east side of Manhattan from this different point of view. The second to last frame shows the Campanile Building on the left and River House on the right, two great luxury residences of the Classic New York era on the Manhattan waterfront of the East River. Greta Garbo lived in the Campanile (related WOTBA posts in Garbo Walks), and the Dead End Kids cavorted on E. 53rd. St. And beyond, the United Nations complex.
Images: tram ride to Roosevelt Island, June 5, 2008.
Next: The Smallpox Hospital, and more fabulousness to come. And, yes, a map.