Much like wide swaths of New York City outside of Manhattan south of 96th Street, Roosevelt Island has long been fetishized as a strange “other” amidst the urban life of New York City. Cut off from both Manhattan and Queens by water, the largely residential island with a few hospitals sits amidst the East River. The 59th St. Bridge passes over it, and only the F train, the Q0102 and a tram — how neat! — service the island. Its residents love it for its access and idyllic qualities amidst the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.
With the announcement earlier this week, though, of a brand new applied sciences campus run by Cornell University on the souther end of the two-mile landmass, life could change on Roosevelt Island. The school will start to open in 2017, and city officials expect it to be fully built out by 2027. The plans call for housing for 2500 students and another 280 faculty members, and the Economic Development Corp. says the campus alone will create 8000 new jobs. For an island with 12,000 residents, those totals represent a large influx of people.
Already, transportation advocates are casting a wary eye on the project. In a lengthy press release on the campus, the word “transportation” appears just once, and it’s unclear at this stage how Cornell will improve accessibility to the southern part of the island. It’s a manageable half-mile walk from the F train, but that walk is a relatively long one compared with how close, say, Columbia, NYU and Fordham are to their nearest train stops.