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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




By admin


(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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RIHS Receives an Award

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Kiosk gets a Face Lift

By admin

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s Kiosk is being restored.  Here are photos of 100 years of paint being stripped off to reveal the cast iron and even some copper around the windows.

Half cleaned Kiosk

Comparing the two halves



Island Photos Circa 1968

By admin

A friend on the island discovered these 6 photos circa 1968. They show the lsland before any development started in 1970.

Photo 1 The Welfare Island Bridge went directly to the West Road. There was no Main Street. To the south are the Cancer and Neurological Hospitals.

Photo 1

Photo 2 South view of area that now includes PS/IS 217 and Westview

Photo 2

Photo 3 A forlorn and empty Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Next to it is the Good Samaritan German Lutheran Church. The buildings surrounding them were part of the City Home, a home for elderly, sickly and impoverished.

Photo 3

Photo 4 Entwined in the weeds are the three wings of Blackwell House. The north wing was demolished during its 1975 restoration.  To the south is the driveway and entrance to the Central Nurses Residence.

Photo 4

Photo 5 Goldwater Memorial Hospital from the east with the now demolished City Hospital to the south.  The City Hospital was built from east to west across the island.  The walls of the hospital were quarried from the stone on the island.

Photo 5

Photo 6 From the south looking to the island is the Smallpox Hospital. The building to the east of the center of the hospital “H” is Brennan Hall, part of the complex. This building was demolished very soon after this photo was taken.  The buildings just north were part of the complex of nursing school and staff housing.

Photo 6