It’s been called Blackwell’s Island, Welfare Island, and was once home to insane asylums, prisons, and hospitals, but today Roosevelt Island offers unique views and attractions to visiting history enthusiasts.
One of many reasons to visit Roosevelt Island is the famed tramway, which has been around since the 70s and offers the most unique commute in the city. Named the Roosevelt Island aerial tramway, it was the first tram in the country to be used for urban transportation and was originally meant to be a temporary solution until the subway was completed. Having recently undergone major upgrades, it is now the most modern urban aerial tramway system in the world. You may remember seeing the tram on the big screen as it was prominently featured in the Spider-Man film.
Riding the tram costs the same as the metro; however it is a much more interesting and scenic alternative to the subway. While riding the tram you will glide above the Upper East Side and the East River for an unprecedented view of the city below.
Also on the island is the gothic revival North Point Lighthouse, situated at the northern tip of the island. Built in 1872, it’s purpose was to help light an asylum, the Octagon, that is since long gone. In fact it was one of the first institutions for the treatment of the mentally ill in the country. Having been completely restored, the Octagon Tower is now a high-end apartment building.
Additional landmarks include the medieval looking ruins of the former Smallpox Hospital and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Built in 1856, the ivory-covered façade of the Smallpox Hospital remains standing and is currently being transformed into a new park.
Getting around the island is made easy with the island bus system called the Red Bus, which is free to take from one end of the 35-city-block long island to the other.
Offering an oasis of promenades, greens spaces and breathtaking views of the city skyline, this is one off the beaten path attraction not to miss; especially now that spring is finally here!
For more information on the tram, visit www.rioc.com/transportation.htm