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Roosevelt Island: A Place That Actually Exists

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When it comes to Roosevelt Island, New Yorkers fall into three categories: 1) Those who live on Roosevelt Island. 2) Those who have briefly fantasized about life on Roosevelt Island, visions of saved down payment dollars swimming in their brains, before immediately snapping out of it and vowing never to think such thoughts ever again. 3) Roosevelt whatnow? It is for this latter category that journalists often take up the cause of trying to explain this mysterious two-mile strip of land floating in the East River, technically part of Manhattan and best known for its bland apartment towers and creepy hospital ruins. Today it's the Wall Street Journal having a go, and the buzzword is one that sticks in the craw of many city dwellers: Roosevelt Island is downright suburban.

After getting into the history and failures of the master-planned community (Philip Johnson's "no cars!" rule never quite caught on), the Journal's Craig Karmin focuses mainly on the latest additions to the real estate scene, including the Riverwalk buildings from the Related and Hudson companies. Sales have been mixed, mirroring the bumps and bruises of the larger NYC market, but the developers feel like they've found a strategy that works. Says a Hudson exec, "Our motto used to be: Manhattan's Newest Village, but we realized people considering living here didn't want urban. They wanted open space, water views, something more peaceful." Adds one happy islander, "We were looking for someplace with a suburban feel but since I work long hours in midtown, we didn't want a long commute."

Of course, beneath every blissful suburb lies a few rotten truths, and we're not talking about Roosevelt Island's underground trash tubes: "Retail and dining options are few; there is one supermarket for the entire island, though Fresh Direct delivers. With the tram to Manhattan under repair until early fall, transportation off the island has become limited." And the developers aren't sure when they'll feel like exercising their right to build more glassy condos, if ever. They'll have to see how the war goes, first.
· Roosevelt Island Pitch: Better than the 'Burbs [WSJ]