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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Roosevelt Island and Hillary Clinton

Roosevelt Island is the classic Cinderella Story - a perfect metaphor for the first woman president Hillary Cinton's vision for America.

Connecting with American history while bridging political progressives, are the twin symbols, backdropping Hillary Clinton's speech, from New York City's Roosevelt Island, expected today Saturday, June 13, 2015. It's one of her first (of many more) campaign speeches, as the first woman president.  

American colonial history includes the 1637 colonial era purchase of Manhattan from the local Native Americans.  The island is an example of the American Dream concept, because it grew from a colonial purchase made by the Dutch, into a place where indigents and criminals were once housed. Today, the island is named after one of America's most beloved political families and is an upscale middle class community.

Roosevelt Island is a narrow island in New York City's East River. It lies between Manhattan Island to its west and the borough of Queens on Long Island to its east, and is part of the borough of Manhattan. It is about 2 miles (3.2 km) long. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation estimated the population was about 12,000 in 2007.


In 1637, Dutch Governor Wouter van Twiller purchased the island, then known as Hog Island, from the Canarsie Indians.

After the English defeated the Dutch in 1666, Captain John Manning seized the island, which became known as Manning's Island, and twenty years later, Manning's son-in-law, Robert Blackwell, became the island's new owner and namesake. (Blackwell Island Lighthouse picture below.)

In 1796, Blackwell's great-grandson Jacob Blackwell constructed the Blackwell House, which is the island's oldest landmark, New York City's sixth oldest house, and one of the city's few remaining examples of 18th-century architecture.

Through the 19th century, the island housed several hospitals and a prison. In 1828, the City of New York purchased the island for $32,000 (equal to $687,224 in 2014), and four years later, the city erected a prison on the island; the Penitentiary Hospital was built to serve the needs of the prison inmates. By 1839, the New York City Lunatic Asylum opened, including the Octagon Tower, which still stands but as a residential building; it was renovated and reopened in April 2006. The asylum, which was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, at one point held 1,700 inmates, twice its designed capacity.

In 1852, a workhouse was built on the island to hold petty violators in 220 cells. The Smallpox Hospital, designed by James Renwick, Jr., opened in 1856, and two years later, the Asylum burned down and was rebuilt on the same site; Penitentiary Hospital was destroyed in the same fire.

In 1861, prisoners completed construction of Renwick's City Hospital (renamed Charity Hospital in 1870), which served both prisoners and New York City's poorer population.

In 1872, the Blackwell Island Light, a 50-foot (15 m) Gothic style lighthouse later added to the National Register of Historic Places, was built by convict labor on the island's northern tip under Renwick's supervision. Seventeen years later, in 1889, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, designed by Frederick Clarke Withers, opened.

By 1895, inmates from the Asylum were being transferred to Ward's Island, and patients from the hospital there were transferred to Blackwell's Island. The Asylum was renamed Metropolitan Hospital. However, the last convicts were not moved off the island until 1935, when the penitentiary on Rikers Island opened.

The 20th century was a time of change for the island. 

The Queensboro Bridge started construction in 1900 and opened in 1909; it passed over the island but did not provide direct vehicular access to it at the time.  In 1930, a vehicular elevator to transport cars and passengers on Queensboro Bridge started to allow vehicular and trolley access to the island. More changes came in the latter half of the century. In 1968, Mayor John V. Lindsay named a committee to make recommendations for the island's development.

A year later, the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) signs a 99-year lease for the island, and architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee create a plan for apartment buildings housing 20,000 residents. In 1971, the island was renamed Roosevelt Island in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and four years later, planning for his eponymous park,Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, started.

Blackwell Island Lighthouse on Roosevelt Island

Federal funding for redevelopment came from the New Community Act. In 1976, the Roosevelt Island Tramway opened, connecting the island directly with Manhattan, but it was eight years before the New York State legislature created the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) to operate the tramway.

The tramway was meant as a temporary solution to the then-lack of subway service to the island, which began in 1989 with the opening of the Roosevelt Island subway station, on what is now the F train.

During the 21st century, the area became more gentrified. In 1998, the Blackwell Island Light was restored by an anonymous donor.

In 2006, the restored Octagon Tower opened, serving as the central lobby of a two-wing, 500-unit apartment building.

In 2010, the Roosevelt Island Tramway reopened after renovations.

In 2012, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was dedicated and opened to the public as a state park.

Construction of the new Cornell Tech campus began in January 2014, and plans to begin the school's operations on the island in 2017.

Obviously, all the history and progress are visual symbols of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign goals. 

Moreover, the Hillary Clinton speech today is showcased by gorgeous weather, providing a sunlit view of New York harbor. These are terrific salient messages to support the campaign of a political presidential trailblazer who is destined to be our nation's first woman president! Go Hillary 2016!

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