A Manhattan Oasis on Roosevelt Island

Looking out the aerial tram window at Roosevelt Island in New York City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Looking out the aerial tram window at Roosevelt Island in New York City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There is a place in New York City where you can dangle above the East River in an aerial tramway, enjoying spectacular views, then land in a quiet, park-like setting that feels completely different from the usual Manhattan hustle.

Yes, you can drive to Roosevelt Island over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge or the Roosevelt Island Bridge, or you can take the Astoria – Wall Street/Pier 11 NYC ferry, or you can miss the views altogether and take the MTA subway to the Roosevelt Island stop.

But if you can take the tram and don’t mind heights for the 3-4 minute ride, do it!

Here’s a quick introduction from travel expert Robert Reid:

You get on in Manhattan, using a regular MTA MetroCard for the fare.

The closest subway stop to the tram is Lexington Ave – 59th Street.

One of the red cars of the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway from Manhattan (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

One of the red cars of the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway, looking back toward Manhattan (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The cars are pretty spacious, stable, and climate-controlled.

Here’s another view looking north…. the island itself is a skinny two miles long.

View of Roosevelt Island New York City from the aerial tramway (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Another view of Roosevelt Island in New York City from the aerial tramway (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

When you disembark, look for the cute Visitor Center kiosk run by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

Much of the island is residential, so those sections don’t have much for a visitor unless you like walking around condo/apartment buildings, but there are parks and green spaces everywhere to enjoy plus occasional special events.

At the southern tip, with view of the United Nations complex across the river, is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park celebrating an important State of the Union speech that FDR made in 1941.

Also on the island are remnants of its history as a quarrying facility, a prison, an historic lighthouse, a smallpox hospital, and the horribly-named “Municipal Pauper Lunatic Asylum.”

You can walk around, bring a bike, or take the island’s Red Bus.

There are a few restaurants, but if you want something quick and tasty close to the tram and subway stations, try the cafe on the new, modern Cornell Tech campus, in the Bloomberg Center. The coffee and juices are good, too, and the WiFi is free.

There is a whole Cornell Tech art project with installations around the campus – the design you see on the cafe ceiling is Michael Riedel’s “Cornell Tech Mag,” which flows….

“….overhead from the building’s entrance through the cafe and then across the tabletops. Using what he calls ‘the bible for computer technology,’ he rearranged every word in the first four volumes of Donald Knuth’s ‘The Art of Computer Programming’ into alphabetical order, then enlarged all the o’s and l’s. ‘You can imagine it’s like one and zero, or open and closed, or a circle and a line,’ explained Mr. Riedel, who was interested in the resulting abstracted pattern, covering some 5,000 square feet.”

The Cafe at Cornell Tech's Bloomberg Building on Roosevelt Island New York City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The Cafe at Cornell Tech’s Bloomberg Building on Roosevelt Island, New York City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Here is a local blog about living on Roosevelt Island, with events, news, etc., and below is a nice PBS “Treasures of New York” video about the tram:

Have you been to Roosevelt Island? Got any tips? Let us know down in the comments!

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