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Get to know Roosevelt Island

Given that it sits in the middle of the East River, just a short distance from both Manhattan and Queens, 2-mile-long Roosevelt Island can feel surprisingly distant from the rest of the city. The fact that it is impossible to drive there from Manhattan — it’s necessary to take either an aerial tram or an F train to the Roosevelt Island stop — adds to the atmosphere of it being its own quiet, self-contained world. (It is possible to get there from Queens by car or bus, via the Roosevelt Island Bridge.) For much of its history, Roosevelt Island was known as Welfare Island and was the home of a number of hospitals. Beginning in 1969, it was redeveloped with apartment towers including contributions by noted architects Philip Johnson and José Luis Sert. The most recent addition to its residential offerings is the 1,200-unit Southtown development, which opened in 2013.
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Commerce & Culture

Fewer than 10,000 people live on Roosevelt Island, so compared to other neighborhoods of the city, shopping and dining options are limited; the opening of a Starbucks in Southtown was a noteworthy event. Still, a handful of restaurants along Main Street and a number of other sites draw day-trippers. Foremost among them is the Four Freedoms Park, dedicated to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, at the island’s southern tip. It opened in 2012 following a design created by architect Louis Kahn prior to his death in 1974. There are also six landmarks from the 18th and 19th centuries, including the Blackwell House (a farmhouse from 1796) and the stunning Octagon, constructed in 1839 as part of an insane asylum and now incorporated into an apartment building. Gallery RIVAA (Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association) is an interesting and underappreciated space hosting exhibits by contemporary artists.

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