Roosevelt Islander Online: There Are 8 Million Stories In The Naked City

There are 8 million stories in the Naked City – this one begins climbing a staircase up from Welfare Island, (now Roosevelt Island) to the Queensboro Bridge and then walking across to Manhattan.

The 1962 TV Program Naked City episode titled Carrier gives us a look at the Welfare (Roosevelt) Island staircase to the Queensboro Bridge.

After 14 years of self-imposed exile, a young woman who carries a deadly infectious disease leaves Welfare Island (now called Roosevelt Island) for Manhattan, alerting the NYPD to a potential plague.

Watch the full Naked City episode of Carrier. The Welfare (Roosevelt) Island scenes are at the beginning and end.

From 1919 to 1955 there was vehicle and pedestrian access from the Queensboro
Bridge to Welfare (Roosevelt) Island.
According to Neil Tandon writing for the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS):

… The Elevator Storehouse, opened in 1919, housed an elevator that
transported cars and people from the Queensboro Bridge down to the present-day
Tramway Plaza. In addition, it contained storage space and a reception ward
for the island’s Metropolitan Hospital. The building, whose main lobby was on
its top floor, was nicknamed the upside-down building and was featured in
Ripley’s Believe It or Not for its peculiar design. With the opening of the
Welfare Island Bridge, the building closed in 1955 and was demolished in

According to the
NYC Ambulance History Facebook Page:

The top floor of the Elevator Storehouse, as it was known, was a ‘Reception
Hospital’ or ER, where patients were evaluated and treated before being put on
the elevator for transfer to one of three hospitals on the island: Metropolitan,
City or Island. The first two were relocated in the early 50’s while the shell
of Island Hospital remains standing. The Elevator Storehouse served as the
central materials supply depot for the Department of Hospitals…. It was demolished to make way for the Roosevelt
Island Tram.

The only legal way for pedestrians or bicyclists to get across the
Queensborough Bridge for a long time was. (starting at Manhattan side) take
the stairway at the south side of the bridge at 59th street to the upper_

Then use the narrow walkway alongside the southern (eastward heading) roadway
– which had lots of girders sticking through it… – _halfway_ across the
bridge until you were over Welfare Island.

Then… another stairway sticking _out_ from that walkway, over the water, and
leading to a passageway _under_ the lower level which took you over to the
roof of the hospital building. (There might have been another stairway to get
back up the flight).

Then… you’d go across the roof of the building to the elevator and be
brought down to street level of the island…

In 2015Cornell Tech Assistant Director of Government & Community Affairs Jane Swanson reported that Cornell Tech raised the subject of pedestrian access from Roosevelt Island to the Queensboro Bridge with the NYC Department of
Transportation during the Bloomberg administration in 2013, but at that
time the Bloomberg administration was not interested in pursuing a
feasibility study due to its scale, complexity and cost.

Ms. Swanson added that Cornell Tech was:

… very much in favor of this…. Providing pedestrian access to the
Queensboro Bridge is something that we support very much….


… we would love this idea to pursue it but it probably is a long
shot… never say never and we are open to all sorts of different ways
of approaching it….

Here’s the discussion.

In 2019, a Roosevelt Island resident asked former Roosevelt Island Operating Corp President Susan Rosenthal about pedestrian access to the Queensboro Bridge and Ms Rosenthal responded as follows:

HEY SUSAN! Has RIOC ever investigated the possibility of
reinstating access for Roosevelt Island residents to the Queensboro
bridge?  I recently came across some old news articles and found that
RIRA made a presentation to Community Board 8 back in 2007 to try and
convince them that – for multiple reasons, including safety, the
growing Island population and strain on public transit and general
connectivity – it was important to reinstate pedestrian access to the
Queensboro bridge from Roosevelt Island. 

I understand that the bridge is under the City’s control.  That said:
Would RIOC support residents in a push to raise this issue again at
Community Board 8 and/or with the Department of Transport? 

The importance and utility of creating this link has only grown since
2007.  The Island population continues to grow.  Two new Riverwalk
buildings are planned right next to the bridge.  We now have Cornell
Tech.  A hotel is being constructed, and an Executive Education
Center.  Amazon will be building its new HQ2 directly south of the
bridge in Long Island City.  The ferry and Tram are great, but a
walking link to Manhattan and LIC would be transformative for the
Island (and frankly, they seem like a good idea from a
safety/evacuation plan point of view). 

There are so many people and entities on the Island (including RIOC)
that would benefit from this increased connectivity.  What can we as
Roosevelt Island residents do to push this issue?  If RIRA were to
raise this again, could it count on RIOC’s support?  Would RIOC be
willing to play a role in bringing together representatives from Hudson
Related and Cornell Tech to urge them to support this proposal? 

SUSAN: Yes, having such an elevator or stair connection to the 59th
Street Bridge does seem to be a good idea in theory, but several
feasibility studies have shown we don’t have the land area on the
Island to build it. We would suggest that you contact City Council
Member Ben Kallos’ office directly to inquire more about other current
plans being discussed. 


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