Roosevelt Island


The Roosevelt Island is an island in the East River, within the borough of Manhattan, New York City. It lies between Manhattan Island to the west and the borough of Queens, on Long Island, to the east. 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).

In 1637, the island was purchased by Dutch Governor Wouter van Twiller from the Canarsie Indians. The English took over in 1666 and it became known as (Captain) Manning's Island. In 1686, Manning's son-in-law, Robert Blackwell, became owner of the Island and named it after him. In 1776, Blackwell's Island was confiscated by the British during their occupation of New York. In 1796, Blackwell house was built and today, it is oldest structure on the island.

On July 18, 1828, the City of New York bought Blackwell's Island as a place for charitable and corrective institutions. In 1832, a penitentiary was erected in the island. In 1839, the New York Lunatic Asylum opened. The Smallpox Hospital, built by convict labor, opened in 1856. The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, designed by British architect Frederick Clarke Withers, opened in 1889.

In 1909, the Queensboro Bridge opened to traffic, connecting East 59th Street in Manhattan to the borough of Queens, passing over Roosevelt Island. The island cannot be accessed directly from the bridge itself. Today, vehicular traffic uses the Roosevelt Island Bridge from Astoria, Queens.

In 1921, Blackwell's Island was renamed Welfare Island. In 1939, the Goldwater Memorial Hospital opened as a chronic care and nursing facility. The Bird S. Coler Hospital opened in 1952. The Welfare Island Bridge to Queens opened in 1955. In 1969, the New York State's Urban Development Corporation (UDC) took a 99-year lease on the island and created a plan for 5,000 apartments housing 20,000 people.

In 1973, Welfare Island was renamed Roosevelt Island. In 1976, 2,141 apartments was completed and the aerial tram opened as a temporary form of transportation until the completion of the island's subway station (opened in 1989), but became a symbol of Roosevelt Island and a tourist attraction. It still operates today.

In 1984, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) was created by the state legislature.


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Roosevelt Island


New York City


Queensboro Bridge


Bridges NYC


Blackwell's Island, fragment of the Bird's eye view of the City of New York by John Bachmann, published in in 1859.


NYC parks


NY Roosevelt Island


Roosevelt Island and East River, between Manhattan (right) and Queens. Photo dated July 21, 2017. Source: Kenneth Wilsey, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Below, the Roosevelt Island Tram and Queensboro Bridge. Credit: Tagger Yancey IV / NYC Tourism + Conventions.


NYC Roosevelt Island




Blackwell's Island


Roosevelt Island