Explore NYC: The Islands of New York City

A Private Tour of the Islands of New York City

New York City is more than just a city – it’s several cities brought together to form a larger mega-city! There are several islands that are an important part of the fabric of New York City. CityWalksNY provides visitors looking for a truly immersive New York City experience a personal tour of Roosevelt Island and Randall’s Island. Take the Roosevelt Island tram to explore the island of the same name. Most people are familiar with Ellis Island with its important place and rich history in American immigration. Then there is Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands tall and watches over New York Bay. In recent years people are starting to re-discover Roosevelt Island and Randall’s Island as the local government has revitalized parts of the island as public space, performance and event venue and a fantastic summer getaway.

Roosevelt Island

The forgotten islands of the city include Roosevelt Island, located in the East River between Manhattan island itself and Queens. At one point in its extensive history, the Island was known as Welfare Island for its hospitals. During its long and interesting history, the island has been home to a variety of different institutions from prisons to hospitals, mental asylums, lighthouses and residential buildings. Roosevelt Island is home to a myriad of architectural styles, marking the different phases of development and the changing administrators for the island.

Today the island boasts multiple residential buildings with 11,500 full-time residents on the island. Today Roosevelt Island also boasts a beautifully restored lighthouse, the Blackwell Island Light. Also on the island are 2 large parks on the island, Southpoint Park near Goldwater Memorial Hospital and Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park opened as a state park in 2012. For quick and easy access to Roosevelt Island, hop on the recently restored tram that reopened in 2010.

Roosevelt Island has seen considerable investment from the private sector as well with Cornell University announcing the establishment of a Technology Research campus on the island. Announced in 2010, the new initiative is a joint venture between Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. With the ground breaking ceremony held in 2014, the building of the new campus is currently underway and with classes slated to start in late 2017.

Randall’s Island

Randall’s Island is often skipped over because of the bridge that spans across the island. With 1,650 full-time resident’s on it’s also another small island that is often forgotten in the frantic pace of New York City. With an area of 520 acres, it’s not a small piece of land at all. Even though there are several vehicular and pedestrian bridges leading visitors to the island, it’s often forgotten in the shadow of its larger sibling, Manhattan Island. At one time or another Randall’s Island has been home to an orphanage, a poor house, burial grounds for the poor, an asylum, a hospital of homeopathy and eventually was even a home for Civil War veterans.

There a variety of facilities on the island for hospitals, shelters, the New York City Police Department and The New York City Sanitation Department. One of the more memorable and unique facilities that exist on the island is the New York City Fire Department’s training academy where all new recruits train. Hopefuls looking to join the Fire Department of New York City must go through the grueling training regimen that includes removing people trapped in cars, providing emergency care to injured civilians, to rescuing people from burning buildings. While this facility is not open to the public because of the inherent dangers associated with fires and the risks they may pose for civilians.

During its storied history, Randall’s Island has been host to a number of important and memorable events, including the men’s Olympic trials in 1936 and women’s Olympic trials in 1964. Today there are a number of facilities on Randall’s Island that are frequently visited by locals and visitors alike. In 2005, Icahn Stadium was opened on the island along with a major renovation of the park space surrounding it. Not long after, in 2008 a renovated golf center was opened on the island. In 2009 the island added a newly built tennis center featuring 20 courts, a cafe and indoor facilities for men and women. In the winter the courts are bubbled over for continued use by patrons through the harsh New York winters. The park also boasts 60 athletic fields for use in sports ranging from football, rugby, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and field hockey.