Cover for Coler ED Robert Hughes with Judy Berdy and Momo mug

500 or Let Me Count the Ways Judith Berdy Has Helped Roosevelt Island


Thursday, October 21st, is a big, but quiet day. It marks the 500th day in which Judith Berdy stitched our community together since the pandemic began. Her From the Archives series features art, history and architecture knitting our common values and the world around us.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Getting To Know Judith Berdy

While Berdy is justifiably proud of her achievement, hanging in there, meeting her commitment, day in and day out, there’s a broader picture.

Thirty years ago, a newcomer to Roosevelt Island, my wife signed us up for a history lesson in Goldwater Hospital. A local historian, Judith Berdy, was leading a tour of WPA murals by Ilya Bolotowsky, Albert Swinden and Joseph Rugolo, preserved on the hospital’s walls. Little did any of us know, then, that she’d also lead the charge in radical preservation. As the hospital came down, making way for the Cornell Technion campus, she was hard at work, persuading the university to save the artwork by finding new homes for it.

That was done, and you can read all the details here.

Roosevelt Island Historical Society Kiosk
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society-managed kiosk greets tens of thousands of visitors in all seasons.

Over the next thirty years, it was impossible to escape Berdy’s activism on behalf of the Island. She, for example, swung the deal for bringing the historic kiosk that now acts as a Visitor Center to its new home. In its prior, active lives, it served as an entry point for the streetcar line across the Queensboro Bridge, with a stop for elevators to and from Roosevelt Island.

But there’s a lot more, and it’s less visible…

After starting the Roosevelt Island Daily, I began sticking my nose in everywhere, and Judith Berdy kept showing up. She is the most indefatigable volunteer ever gracing Roosevelt Island.

Judith Berdy at the Cornell Tech Maker Lab, another of her interests, in 2019.

And it’s not just historical stuff. She’s served on the volunteer advisory boards at both Goldwater and Coler Rehabilitation Hospital where she’s stll active. When seniors need somewhere to go on holidays for a hot meal and warm companionship, she’s always there, apron on, serving up food for the hungry or isolated.

Roosevelt Island’s got a treasure in Judith Berdy, and we tip our hat to her on the eve of her community-binding From the Archives online series.

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