Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island, formerly known as Welfare Island and before that Blackwell's Island, is a narrow island in the East River of New York City. It lies between the island of Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens to its east. Running from Manhattan's East 46th to East 85th streets, it is about two miles long, with a maximum width of 800 feet, and a total area of 147 acres.

The island is part of the Borough of Manhattan and New York County. Together with Mill Rock Island, Roosevelt Island once had a population of about 12,000 prior to the bomb. The land is owned by the city, but was leased to the State of New York's Urban Development Corporation for 99 years in 1969. Most of the residential buildings on Roosevelt Island are rental buildings.

Following the bomb, Roosevelt Island suffered a great deal of damage from the throw debris from the explosion of Midtown Manhattan. The tram service connecting Roosevelt Island to Midtown was destroyed on the midtown end, leaving one small bridge connecting to Long Island City in Queens as the only means out of the city. Subsequent fires, looting and food riots on the island left what was once a prosperous neighborhood in ruins in the aftermath of the bomb. Business began to close one by one, residence left for the outskirts of New York City, and now Roosevelt Island is like a shell of its former self, a proverbial ghost-town with a population of only 700 on the island. Streets are untended, cracked and dusty, weeds growing up between the broken pavement. It is not an uncommon sight to see old newspapers blowing across the street and the boarded up windows of shops and apartments.

Major IC Events


Although Roosevelt Island is located directly under the Queensboro Bridge, it is not directly accessible from the bridge itself. In 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tramway was constructed to provide access to Midtown Manhattan. New York City Subway access via the IND 63rd Street Line finally arrived in 1989. Located over 100 feet below ground level, the Roosevelt Island station is one of the deepest in New York City's subway system.

Roosevelt Island's residential community was not designed to support automobile traffic during its planning in the early 1970s. Automobile traffic has become common even though much of the island remains a car-free area. The MTA Bus Company Q102 route is still operating between the island and Queens obviates the need for automobiles to some extent.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) operates an on-island shuttle bus service from apartment buildings to the subway and tramway for a fare of one dollar (fifty cents for seniors and disabled people). The bright red buses are highly visible.

The Roosevelt Island Tramway, lost service in November of 2006 when the bomb destroyed its midtown Manhattan destination and has been in disrepair ever since.



  • The Roosevelt Island Station at 694 Main Street is the only subway access on the island, and connects to Queens and Manhattan's Upper East Side.
  • The Ichihara Bookstore at 413 Main Street services the local community as the only operating bookseller on Roosevelt Island.
  • The New York Public Library once operated the Roosevelt Island Branch at 524 Main Street. Following the bomb, the library branch was closed due to the colossal monetary loss the library suffered with the destruction of its central branch in Midtown.
  • A timeline of Roosevelt Island's storied history pre-bomb can be found here.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License