An aerial view of New York is hard to come by, but the new Roosevelt Island Tramway offers locals and visitors a three-minute spectacular bird's eye view.
After nine months of renovations, the Roosevelt Island Tramway is finally open to the public. The much-anticipated updated tram shuttles more than 12,000 island residents to and from Manhattan. The modernization of the 33-year-old tramway means reduced travel time, more stability in high winds, decreased electrical and mechanical malfunctions, and two separate cable tracks to combat rush hour traffic.
For the cost of a MetroCard swipe, passengers can hop on the tram for a quick ride to explore island landmarks like the 50-foot lighthouse built in 1872 by inmates once imprisoned at the Blackwell's Penitentiary and the brick and stone Chapel of the Good Shepherd constructed in 1889.
Located between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island was originally named Minnahanonck, or "nice island," by the Native Americans of the Hudson Channel. In its colorful history, the island has been home to the New York Lunatic Asylum, Blackwell Penitentiary, the nation's first smallpox hospital, New York City Fire Department training structures, and now, city residents looking for a little respite from the chaos of Manhattan.
Roosevelt Island is fun for urban exploration year around. The walk around the island is totally possible without getting totally exhausted and you can get fairly close to the "smallpox" hospital on foot. There is a branch of the NYPL there, one pizza place, and the little shuttle bus tours the entire island with stops at each of the odd historical spots.
Roosevelt Island is nice and quiet, feels like a hotel resort campus. But there are small grassy knolls, and the lighthouse is cool. I ran a 5k there around the perimeter and it was awesome. I hear there are all but abandoned pools there perfect for triathlon training.