Quick Tips!

FrugalNYC's Islands Of NYC - Roosevelt Island


New to FrugalNYC? Click here to add FrugalNYC to your RSS reader or Subscribe to FrugalNYC by Email.

Several weeks ago I tweeted about doing a series called Islands Of NYC.  Today we are starting with Roosevelt Island (aka Welfare Island, aka Blackwell's Island), a place I call "a small town in the middle of NYC".  NYC is so diverse in many ways that you can spend a lifetime exploring all the hidden gems it has to offer.  Roosevelt Island has become one of those gems for me.

Before visiting the island, I did not know much about it.  The only exposure to Roosevelt Island I had was from a movie called Dark Water, starring Jennifer Connelly, and some light reading about the island's history.  The first time I took the F train over to Roosevelt Island, the nearly deserted subway station seemed a bit eerie.  The station is nice and clean, just deserted during the day.  As I took the escalators up to the surface I continued to have an ominous feeling, as if someone or something was following me.  I suggest you don't watch Dark Water by yourself in the dark on a rainy evening or read about the history of the mental hospital on the island before making your first visit.  Just go visit the island and then watch the movie or read more about the island.

The subway escalators up to the surface took a minute or two.  The subway station is one of the deepest in NYC.  Once you get to the surface, you are greeted with a gorgeous view of midtown Manhattan right across the East River.  Outside the subway station, you can catch the Q102 to Queens Plaza or the $0.25 island shuttle.  I prefer to walk, so I started walking toward the NYPL branch during my first visit.

Roosevelt Island's most famous star is the Roosevelt Island Tramway.  Over 26 million passengers -- including commuters, tourists, students and seniors have used the tram. Each cabin accommodates a capacity of 125 people, makes approximately 115 trips per day, and about 100 on weekends. It glides at approximately 16 miles per hour and travels 3,100 feet. At its peak it climbs to 250 feet above the East River. Two cabins make the run every fifteen minutes from 6:00am to 2:30am (3:30am on weekends) and continuously during rush hours.  Read more about the Roosevelt Island Tramway on NY.com.  The tram will take any metrocard (Thanks for the correction JB).  The cost is also $2.25 like the cost of a regular bus or subway ride.  The first Spider-Man movie featured the Roosevelt Island tram.

For a self guided tour of the island you can visit the island's visitor's center, located near the tram station.  You can download a self guided tour for Roosevelt Island or pick up a physical copy at the visitor's center.  I spoke with and did an interview with Judith Berdy, President and Historian for the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.  Below is a summary of our interview.

FrugalNYC's Interview with Judith Berdy

FrugalNYC: How long have you been living on Roosevelt Island?
JB: 32 years and still love living on Roosevelt Island.

FrugalNYC: How long have you served on RIHS?
JB: I've been active on RIHS since living here.

FrugalNYC: How would you describe life on RI?
JB: Quiet. Not chaotic like many Manhattan neighborhoods. Roosevelt Island is a smaller community with close friends and a small neighborhood feel.

FrugalNYC: Are there any major food markets or apparel shops in RI?
JB: There are only 14,000 people living on Roosevelt Island, so there are not that many amenities locally. There is a supermarket - Gristedes. There is also a Saturday green market. FreshDirect delivers to Roosevelt Island and has been doing so for 8 years now. The island was one of the first markets for FreshDirect during their pilot program. Most people leave the island to shop since we are so close to the city (Manhattan).

FrugalNYC: For those who are planning to move to NYC, what makes Roosevelt Island stand out?
JB: It is a nice quiet community and affordable. It's only 3 minutes to midtown Manhattan. There are five different companies managing the buildings here, so the cost of living here can range from affordable to very expensive. Every building is different, there are Condos and rentals.

FrugalNYC: When do you get the most visitors to Roosevelt Island? Are they mostly locals or tourists?
JB: Most visitors come during the weekends. We get 60 - 200 a day. Ninety percent of our visitors come via the tram. We get mostly tourists with about 10% local visitors.

FrugalNYC: Are there tours of the island? What is the cost of the tour?
JC: Tours are available in advance by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society in small groups of up to 20 visitors.

Interesting Facts About Roosevelt Island
  • Waste in the Roosevelt Island is collected by an Automated Vacuum Collection System. This is the only AVAC system serving a residential complex in the USA.
  • Famous former residents of Roosevelt Island include "Grandpa" Al Lewis of The Munsters, who has a playground named after him, and Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City
  • The F Train is the only MTA train that stops on Roosevelt Island
  • Roosevelt Island is only two miles long
You can get to Roosevelt Island via the F train, MTA Q102 Bus or the Roosevelt Island Tram.  Via the F train, just get off at the Roosevelt Island station.  Once you are on Roosevelt Island, you can walk, bike or grab the ROIC Red Shuttle for 25 cents a ride!  My personal preference is walking, since you can take pictures, enjoy the scenery at your own pace and get a little exercise all at the same time.  You can bike fairly easily, there is usually not that much traffic during the day.

FREE Things To Do
  • There are a number of parks on the island to visit.
  • NOTE - A public restroom can be found at the Lighthouse Park and by the Tram station.  Important for families with younger kids!  I mention this because we left early due to lack knowledge of these amenities during one visit to the island.
  • Green Market - buy your healthy foods here.
  • Summer time outdoor movies - Can't beat a free movie!
  • Playgrounds - young kids will enjoy
  • Cozy Library  - Not much foot traffic from what I see.  I enjoy just sitting down and reading some magazines.
  • Waterfront walks - I mentioned earlier I enjoy walking.  Nothing better than walking by the river!
  • Picnic - There are not too many restaurants on the island.  Bring your own food and have a picnic.
More Roosevelt Island via Blogs and Websites

You can find out more about Roosevelt Island from the below sites and blogs. You can find additional ideas and find the latest happenings on the island using the following resources.

If you don't have any weekend plans or are looking for a Frugal Getaway, visit Roosevelt Island.  I hear the weather should be nice.  Share your thoughts and tips about Roosevelt Island in the comments.

For additional links to frugal tips and tricks follow me on Twitter. If you would like to contribute to FrugalNYC in any way feel free to contact me via email.

Photo by Designatednaphour


Older Articles in Archive