Roosevelt Island Nostalgia on a Warm, Sunny Summer Morning


Turning the corner between Westview and Rivercross, it was like going back 30 years to our first years on Roosevelt Island. On a warm, sunny, Sunday summer morning, the East River along the West Promenade was placid.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Some of the buildings across the river were new. The black Trump eyesore suspected of being a holding place for oligarchs’ riches – even that wasn’t built yet.

Rockefeller University’s expansion took away almost all of what’s left of a fortress-like wall that used to flank the FDR Freeway. And the boxy supertall on Sutton is very contemporary in its disregard for the community.

But the view remains so familiar, even after so much has changed.

The East Side of Manhattan stretches away to the north in a long, low line of buildings. In the distance, the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building poke up.

The West Promenade really is an anomaly, the casual way it sets aside room for walkers, bicycles and the best incidental skyline across the water. If it weren’t for that skyline, I doubt I’d ever have stuck with running for 15 years. Every morning, in all seasons, there was that skyline.

Travelers pay a lot of money coming to New York, but this, one of the best scenes in all of the city, will remain unknown to most of them. It’s ours. To this day, I am puzzled that anyone takes a bus up Main Street when we have this.

We lost some things. The exciting red theme that stretched from Lighthouse Park to the then-undeveloped areas where Southpoint and Four Freedoms Park sit today is faded, almost gone.

And greenspace has diminished with development, although it’s still generous.

What is nostalgia?

It’s not sadness, exactly. It’s more like a longing for something that can never be again, for a time that was better in some ways than today.

Nostalgia is looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. And on Roosevelt Island, on a sunny Sunday morning, it’s easy to do.

But there are other moments, too.

The first time I saw the view from Four Freedoms Park was on a chilly spring day. The East River was choppy and the sky broke up into low-hanging clouds.

But even then, the view was stirring, a mix of old and new that never fails to amaze me.

I doubt I’ll ever tire of it.

On Roosevelt Island, we have the best of both worlds – the skyline view that never gets old and the sense of community that comes with living in a small town. It’s the perfect place to spend a sunny summer morning.

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