Mr Bell’s New York: Discovering Roosevelt Island 2


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Sometimes New York gets to me, not in a particularly bad way, just when I’m tired or I’ve been there too many times in a short space of time I can get a little sick of the crowds, the noise and the general busyness of the place.

This time as we drove over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan I looked down and saw the tiny Roosevelt Island, now I’ve seen this island dozens of times before but this time I thought to myself that’s what I’m doing tomorrow, I’m going to that island.

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The next day after a good breakfast I was ready to go and start exploring. Roosevelt Island can be accessed by either using the subway or by cable car, I chose the cable car. The cable car or tramway as they like to call it can be found at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue and tickets cost only a few dollars each way (if you have a Metrocard you can use that to).

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The trams run regularly and take about 5 minutes to make the crossing. If nothing else it’s worth the ride just for the views up and down the East River.

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Once off the tram I felt a bit surreal, the place was so quiet, there are people around and people do live here but it has a much more relaxed feel than Manhattan and that was good. There’s a lot of building work going on here and it can feel a bit industrial but once you get on to the riverside all that gets left behind.

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The tree lined riverside promenade is very pleasant and gives you some great views of Manhattan that you wouldn’t ordinarily get from the usual tourist viewpoints.

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At the end of the promenade are the ruins of the Smallpox Hospital which was built in 1856 and designed by James Renwick Jnr of St Patrick’s Cathedral fame. It’s quite an eerie place even in the sunshine.

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On the southern tip of the island is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park which opened in 2012. I really liked this park and its modernist style and although it was too cold when I was there to sit and take some time out I could imagine doing so in the warmer summer months.

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Incorporated in the park is a bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a quote from his Four Freedoms speech given on January 6th 1941.

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After spending a few hours on the island I’d had enough and decided that I wanted to go back to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan so I headed back to the tram station and left the little oasis called Roosevelt Island.

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At the north end of the island there are a couple of sights worth noting that I didn’t visit. The North Point Lighthouse is a gothic revival lighthouse that was built in 1872 to help light a nearby lunatic asylum, just south of the lighthouse is the Octagon, now home to some high end apartments however you can still visit the “flying staircase” and there’s also an adjoining gallery.

Although Roosevelt Island may not be on the usual New York tourist trail it’s definitely worth visiting if only for a few hours, the tram ride is fun and it offers some great views of Manhattan. Let me know if you’ve been there and what you thought.

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2 thoughts on “Mr Bell’s New York: Discovering Roosevelt Island

  • Anisa

    I actually had friends that used to live on Roosevelt island so I went several times to visit them but never really explored the island. I also always took the subway. Now, Im thinking this summer I should take the tram and enjoy the park.

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