Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Fascinating Look at Roosevelt Island in 1980

I came across this short documentary depicting life on Roosevelt Island some 34 years ago. The filmmaker, Richard Cortell, produced the film as a thesis project and it has a delightful early-1980s vibe (think of the flute music from "My Bodyguard").

As a nearly two-year resident of the island, I found it intriguing — in part because of the things that haven't changed.

The high-rises around the chapel on Main Street were already in place, giving the street its current canyon-like appearance. And there was even an ice-cream parlor in that vicinity, just like now. (The current shop only opened about a year ago, and I hadn't been aware that one existed before.)

In 1980, Roosevelt Island was seen as a family-friendly oasis, albeit a place with some of the general challenges of living in New York City. That's also just as true today.

A view from Roosevelt Island today.

It does seem like the handicapped community has decreased since then. And the arrival of the Riverwalk and Octagon apartments has made the island more upscale. (Our own building, Manhattan Park, opened in 1989.)

Manhattan Park, present day.

But Main Street seemed surprisingly bustling in 1980. The island's total population has grown considerably since then — even just in the past 10 years. So you wonder why it doesn't look more active now.