Mr. Goodman shares his memories of a Roosevelt Island childhood from another time and place.
I grew up on a small island in the middle of New York City.
Roosevelt Island is like the Oreo filling between Manhattan and Queens.
It’s 2.5 miles long and smack-dab in the middle of the East River.
Yet, if you ask any New Yorker, they’ve probably never heard of it.
You mean Randall‘s Island?
No, that’s where the concerts are.
You mean Governors Island?
No, that’s the Coast Guard Island.
You mean Rikers island?
No, that’s the prison.
Ruins of a smallpox hospital.
Cornell Tech’s futuristic campus.
An old, haunted farmhouse.
Cherry blossoms every April(ish)
Amazing skyline views at every step
I’ve traveled the world — Roosevelt Island is still the place I most want to go back to.
Roosevelt Island is my happy place.
It’s home — even though I haven’t lived there in 13 years.
When you walk the outer rim of the island, it feels like The City is a world away.
So many conversations and shenanigans with so many amazing friends over the years.
GROWING UP ON
In the 1980s, the island was mostly grass, trees, parks, and nature.
There were only four buildings, one street, a free red bus, and a narrow drawbridge to let cars on and off.
You needed a pass to park on the street. These large, colorful pieces of paper could be obtained from a booth near the bridge when you entered the island … or, from the public safety office.
You couldn’t have dogs because they didn’t want them pooping all over the place.
I got to ride an aerial cable car over the river to get to school every day.
On the southern tip, a tall, green, wooden fence blocked off a collection of dilapidated ruins. It was very easy to climb around the fence and explore the other side.
Each year, the Island hosted a Halloween parade. Kids of all ages dressed up, marched down the street, and bobbed for apples at the end.
Later that night, the street inevitably hosted an epic egg fight that left it stinking for days.
A public elementary school (I was there from K-3)
An ice cream shop and candy store
An incredibly dirty grocery store
A Chinese restaurant with an ever-changing name
Sketchy pop-up carnivals by the tram
Playgrounds that left splinters in your hand after each visit
An always-evolving selection of trains and schedules (Q, S, N, R, F …)
Grandpa Munster smoking a cigar and scaring kids
The Capri Pizzeria – home to Italian ices and sugar water drinks
A restaurant that got busted for selling drugs. (As a kid, I always thought they put these drugs in the hamburgers so you would get addicted and come back for more)
In my spare time, I served as stage manager and assistant sound booth operator.
The Island is quite different these days.
The mixed-race, mixed-income, nature-filled utopia that I grew up in has been replaced by something that feels similar to the rest of the city.
Open, overgrown fields have been replaced by an ever-increasing number of overpriced condos.
Local drug stores and restaurants have been replaced by Duane Reade, Subway, and Starbucks.
My friends are long gone, though my mom still lives there.
And yet, it’s still my happy place.