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February 12th Presentation – The Uppity Women of Downtown New York

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The Uppity Women of Downtown New York

Presented by Kathleen Hulser,  Public Historian

As New York grew in the 19th century, its reputation as sin city ballooned almost as fast as women’s skirts. Just living in such a volatile place could endanger a woman’s most precious possession: her reputation. Today, the search for women who tested boundaries and redefined roles turns up a passel of uppity gals whose bonnets and ribbons cannot hide their bold spirits. Hulser will lead a presentation of some fascinating personalities, including Nellie Bly and Emma Goldman, who have ties to Roosevelt Island.

Sponsors: The Roosevelt Island Historical Society and

The New York Public Library, Roosevelt Island Branch

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

This program is FREE and Open to the Public

This program is funded by the office of City Council Member Jessica Lappin

Row 1: Mary Rogers, Madam Restell, Emily Roebling. Row 2: Victoria Woodhull, Emma Goldman, Nellie Bly, Eleanor Roosevelt.



Sandy’s Impact on Roosevelt Island Landmark

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Hurricane Sandy devastated our Lighthouse Park on October 29, 2012.  The seawalls were breached; the park was flooded. The two wooden walkways leading to the lighthouse were destroyed. There was extensive damage to the park including loss of power to the lamp posts,  loss of many older trees and new sink holes. Lighthouse Park is closed for the immediate future due to the extensive damage.

Light House Park Flooded after Sandy 2012

Photo by Judith Berdy 2012



Opening of the FDR Four Freedoms Park

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Click here to view the FDR Four Freedoms Park website.

The park is open Thursday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. only.























































Plattsburgh State University School Nurse Training Class of 1965 returned to Welfare Island

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On Friday, September 21st, over 50 members of Plattsburgh State University School Nurse Training Class of 1965 returned to Welfare Island, now Roosevelt Island. This group of students studied not only to be registered nurses but school nurse teachers. They were at Plattsburgh for an intensive four year program that ran all year. They received the equivalent of an RN and teaching degree in what would now take five years to complete.

The students spent their first and last year at Plattsburgh and came to NYC to do practical nursing at Metropolitan Hospital (The Met). By the time the Class of ’65 arrived, The Met had moved to Manhattan.  Each day the students were driven from  the Central Nurses Residence  to The Met, which is located at 97th Street and First Avenue.  The second year the students relocated to a residence, Draper Hall, which had been newly built in Manhattan.

The alumni had a tour of The Met on Thursday (9/20/12) and a full day of visiting the hospital and remembering their time there. On Friday (9/21/12), they came to Roosevelt Island where Judith Berdy, RIHS Board President, guided them on a full day tour of the island including Lighthouse Park, Octagon, Main Street, Southpoint Park as well as passing by many of our island landmark structures. Everyone was most impressed with the great views of The Met from Lighthouse Park; where a group photo was taken.

Though little is left of the sites some remembered, the island was most impressive to them and interesting memories were shared among the group. The nurses recollected how they became big city sophisticates and recalled that returning to campus was boring. It seemed that many of the students were busy swallowing goldfish.



Jane’s Tour Comes to The Roosevelt Island Historical Society

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On Sunday, May 6, 2012 more than 50 people toured the Island led by four tour guides from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.


Tour Guides from RIHS

People gathering for Jane's Tour with RIHS



Two Great Walking Tours – Led by The Roosevelt Island Historical Society

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5th Annual Cherry Blossom Walk

Saturday, April 21stat 11 a.m.

Meet at the R.I.H.S.Visitor Center

Tram Plaza, Roosevelt Island

Reservations: or 212-688-4836


Suggested Donation $10 to RIHS

5th Annual Magnolia Blossom Walk

Sunday, March 25th, at 11 a.m.

Meet at The Octagon, 888 Main St.

Suggested Donation $10 to RIHS



WINDOWS ON WELFARE ISLAND – Opening Reception Sunday, February 19, 2012

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The Roosevelt Island Historical Society


WINDOWS ON WELFARE ISLAND – Photographs by Dannielle Hayes

Octagon Gallery – 888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, NY 10044
February 18 – March 18, 2012
10:00  a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily

Opening Reception

Sunday, Feb. 19th

1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society
Thanks to:
Becker+Becker, PRC Management, RIVAA
for information: 212-688-4836




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Octagon Gallery

888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, NY

Gallery Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

February 18 to March 18, 2012




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Commentary by Judith Berdy

Photos by Brian Blazak

Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy shares her thoughts and some pictures from opening day at the new Southpoint Park.

Southpoint Park opened today (August 2, 2011) after years in the works. I stopped by briefly to see what has materialized from mounds of debris and acres of weeds.  The approximately 7 acre park weaves south from the gate just south of Goldwater Hospital to the southern end of the Smallpox Hospital. The FDR Four Freedoms Park site is south and will open late in 2012.

Just outside the east gates and inside the west gates are cast iron columns salvaged from the City Hospital, which was on the site.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

The stone walls (Fordham Gneiss) quarried on the Island and salvaged from the City Hospital form a serpentine low winding bench and/or fence through most of the park area.

Image From Brian Blazak of RIHS

Thanks to Alyce Russo, former RIOC Director of Planning, who stored the stones for future use.

Unfortunately the first structure you see is the comfort station, in blue and gray, two colors that have no relation to anything on Roosevelt Island.  It is super size and great for school and camp groups.

Image by Brian Blazak of RIHS

Wide asphalt paved roads and paths make it easy for vehicles to use the roads. They seem a little wide and overwhelming in some areas.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

The hills, which cover tons of rocks now, are gently sloping downwards and kids and teens seemed to love to run up and down them. The plantings are mostly wild flowers and black eyed Susan’s.  No fancy lawns or gardens here.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

Inter-spaced in the hills are remnants from the old hospital entrance including an orb that once signified the entrance to the Maternity Hospital on the site.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

The cul-de-sac that will eventually include the FDR Hope Memorial has a lovely grove of trees surrounding it and overlooking the Smallpox Hospital.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

The landmark Smallpox Hospital (not Renwick Ruin) is surrounded by a high fence and unfortunately the weeds and debris have not been removed from around it.  This is a pity, since the building should be the showpiece of the park.  Hopefully this will be remedied soon.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

The landmark Strecker Memorial Laboratory just northeast shines with its wonderful restoration and it is pleasantly placed in a setting befitting this lovely structure.

Image from Brian Blazak of RIHS

It is not a cafe, but a power conversion station for the F and M subway lines. Perhaps it is the perfect site for a few tables and a Cappuccino Cart.  Modern steel benches dot the area. They look out of place and a bit too modern for the classic site.

It is wonderful to watch the river from paths that were blocked by debris and overgrown vegetation for years.  This may not be the High Line, but it is our new connection to the river and our southern tip. Considering all the convolutions the park went through, I am glad it is finally here!

For information on the landmark Smallpox Hospital and Strecker Laboratory go to




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(where in the world is Roosevelt island?)

An exhibition of maps created over a 350-year period reveals the effort to delineate the topography and the changing role of Roosevelt Island: from a private Dutch colonial holding to the site of an extensive array of social welfare institutions operating from the mid-19th century to the current day.

Explore the island history through these eight unique maps from the archives of

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society

The exhibition is on display in:

The Octagon Gallery

888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island

Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The exhibit is FREE and will be on view through August 20, 2011.



Window Display Invites Memory and Creation in Depiction of Artists’ Residence within Ruins

Mnemonic design involves “a personal connection to a space,” according to Ellen Ivanits. Her plan for an artists’ residence built in the partial structure of the Smallpox Hospital, now in ruins on Roosevelt Island, invites artists to use memory in an act of creation. On view in the window of 513 Main Street, Roosevelt Island thru August 30, 2011

R.I.H.S. Visitor Center Kiosk

Visit our historic center to obtain information about the island history, walking tours, maps, events, sites and information about the newly opened Southpoint Park.

Open Thursday, Saturday, Sunday 12 noon to 5 p.m. and Friday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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