Roosevelt Island is a beautiful and sometimes missed location when people visit New York City, New York. However, Roosevelt is easy to get to from the city and a fun way to spend an afternoon. Here are some of the things we did while visiting Roosevelt Island in New York City.
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Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park
Roosevelt Island Cat Sanctuary
How To Get To Roosevelt Island
– Roosevelt Island Subway Station
– Roosevelt Island Tramway
The Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital was opened in 1856 with 100 beds, as the Renwick Smallpox Hospital. When the hospital opened, Roosevelt Island was called Blackwell’s Island and later Welfare Island.
The hospital was open because of smallpox outbreaks within New York City. Despite the availability of smallpox vaccines, there were still outbreaks as well as new immigrants arriving in the city every day. The location was chosen because of its isolation.
The Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital closed in 1875 and eventually became a maternity and charity hospital and nurse training school, but fell into ruin about 100 years after it was closed. The island was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1873 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The city of New York is currently restoring the building in a $4.5 million project, and will be opened to the public once that restoration is completed.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island was opened in 2012 after nearly 40 years of planning. The four-acre park sits at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City.
The name for the park came from the Four Freedoms that President Roosevelt mentioned in his 1941 State of the Union address. To get to the park, walk south on the island past the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital. From that location, you can see the United Nations headquarters, Queensboro Bridge, and an amazing view of Manhattan.
The park has a number of green spaces, and because the island is home to Cornell Tech, you can see students lounging in the grass and other green areas. You will also be able to see the bust of President Roosevelt, which was sculpted in 1933.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park broke ground in 2010 and was dedicated in 2012, with attendees such as Tom Brokaw, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and President Bill Clinton.
We were surprised to run into a cat sanctuary on Roosevelt Island, something we definitely were not expecting! The cat sanctuary is run by the Wildlife Freedom Foundation (WFF) and houses 22 cats.
To get to the Roosevelt Island Cat Sanctuary, travel south from the subway or Roosevelt Island Tramway, and you will find the cat sanctuary just north of the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital.
You can easily take the New York City Subway to Roosevelt Island. The island is a stop on the F Line, and was opened in 1989. The subway station is 100 feet below the ground because it travels under the river, and is the fourth deepest stop of all the NYC subway stops.
As of 2016, the Roosevelt Island Subway station saw 6,630 riders each day.
We took the subway to Roosevelt Island but took the Roosevelt Island Tramway on the way back, which was super fun. The tramway is aerial, meaning it travels parallel to the Queensboro Bridge and over the East River, between Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway opened in 1976 and was the very first commuter aerial tramway in North America. Although the tram is not operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), it does use the MetroCard and has free transfers from MTA.
There used to be a trolley system and a footpath to the island on the Queensboro Bridge, but they closed in the 1970s. When the tramway opened, they had also considered a ferry to the island but the tramway was selected instead.
The Roosevelt Island Tramway makes around 115 trips per day, and runs every seven to eight minutes 20 hours a day.