Saturday, July 21, 2007

That Other NYC: City Island & Roosevelt Island

If you know New York, you can probably reel off its boroughs and most famous neighborhoods no problem: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Soho, Harlem, the Upper East and West Sides, Park Slope, Astoria, the South Bronx, Riverdale, even Flushing and Flatbush. But what about City Island and Roosevelt Island? Eh, not so much. That's because they belong to the other New York, the parts of the city you rarely see on TV or in the movies. These little chunks of land are part of this town but they really aren't integrated into it and they don't belong to any borough. They're like little enclaves, small towns within the big city. However, today, here at Mr NYC, we will give them their due:
  • City Island: This is what one might call a "nautical community." It's like the Nantucket of NYC, a little island floating off the coast - in this case, the coast of the Bronx. But this isn't the tough Bronx of the popular imagination. No, this small island, about a mile long, consists of charming little houses and seafood restaurants. It also has several docks for boats and you have to constantly remind yourself that you're in New York City and not in a New England fishing town. I was there last year and we had a pleasant walk along City Island Avenue, the main street that cuts across the length of the island. We looked at the charming little stores and had a lobster lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the water. Getting there is a bit of a hassle (you gotta drive), but if it's a nice day and you're inclined to see a very different part of this town, it's worth checking out.

  • Roosevelt Island: okay, I'll be blunt, it's nowhere near as charming as City Island but it's a lot easier to get to. You can just get off on the F train or take the Roosevelt Island tram on East 59th street (it's running again after a most unfortunate snafu last year). The island - used to be called Welfare Island - consists mostly of small apartment buildings that look like socialist worker housing. There's also a hospital here. While there's not much of interest on Roosevelt Island, there are two very cool things to see: 1) the stunning view of Manhattan 2) the Ruin! Yes, like Rome or Athens, this city has a ruin - in this case, the Pauper Lunatic Asylum. It's at the very southern most tip of the island and while it's not the world's most attractive ruin, it's makes you think of Old New York, the city that was.

  • For more info of these parts of "that other New York", go to:


    Welcome to Roosevelt Island


  1. I just wanted to add a couple of corrections if I might regarding the "Ruin". Yes it is on the South end of the island. The Renwick Ruin as it is known was the former Small Pox hospital and was designed by James Renwick who also designed St. Patrick's Cathedral.

    The picture you are showing is of the Octagon, another City Landmark, which was the center structure of the former lunatic asylum. In 2005 at the time of your posting it was well under a restoration and now is a finished luxury rental residence.

  2. Mr NYC thanks RI 360 for this helpful corrections.

    Check out this blog, Roosevelt Island 360.


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