Roosevelt Island is a narrow, two-mile long island in the East River of New York City, lying between Manhattan to the west and Queens to the east, but it’s also one of the last true frontiers in Manhattan real estate. Close enough to Manhattan for a pain-free commute on the tram or F train while being far enough away to be nothing like its larger island sister, Roosevelt Island offers lovely views — and acres of green space and a waterfront esplanade — without the big-city bustle, or price tag. Once (in)famous as Welfare Island, Roosevelt Island is now an up-and-coming neighborhood, with a few successful new condominiums to its credit and several more new construction apartment projects underway.
Owned by the city but leased to the state for 99 years, Roosevelt Island occupies a unique position in the annals of New York City. Famous guests of its now-defunct penitentiary include Mae West, Billie Holiday, Emma Goldman, and Boss Tweed of the Gilded Age’s Tammany Hall. Blackwell House is one of New York City’s few examples of eighteenth century architecture still standing, while the recently reopened Roosevelt Island aerial tramway is an iconic part of New York City life, and a quirky component of the Upper East Side’s skyline. With lush green parks, mostly car-free streets and only a handful of businesses and restaurants, Roosevelt Island feels like nothing so much as a suburb in the middle of the East River. With new construction ready to join the existing restaurants and condominium of Riverwalk Court, Roosevelt Island ranks as one of the better values in Manhattan real estate, and as a neighborhood with an uncommonly bright future to match its unusual location.