Monday, January 4, 2010

Roosevelt Island Then (1968 Welfare Island) And Now (2010) In Pictures - Come See More Of Welfare Island At Exhibit Celebrating RI's 40th Anniversary

Wheelchair in Welfare Island Doorway Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

With the start of the year 2010, let's look back at what Roosevelt Island was like in 1968 when it was an undeveloped Welfare Island serving the ill, impoverished and elderly as compared to the present day courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) and Google Maps.

From RIHS:
The Welfare Island Bridge went directly to the West Road. There was no Main Street. To the south are the Cancer and Neurological Hospitals.
Image of 1968 Welfare Island Bridge From (RIHS)

From Google Maps, the current Roosevelt Island Bridge.


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From RIHS:
South view of area that now includes PS/IS 217 and Westview
Image of Area That Now Includes PS/IS 217 and Westview From RIHS


From Google Maps the current 360 degree view of PS/IS 217 and Westview.

There's More!




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From RIHS:
A forlorn and empty Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Next to it is the Good Samaritan German Lutheran Church. The buildings surrounding them were part of the City Home, a home for elderly, sickly and impoverished.
Image of 1968 Good Shepherd Chapel From RIHS

From Google Maps, the current 360 degree view of Main Street and Good Shepherd Chapel.


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More images from 1968 Welfare (now Roosevelt Island) including Blackwell House, Goldwater and the Smallpox Hospitals available at RIHS.

Also, RIHS and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. (RIOC) are sponsoring a photo exhibit celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Roosevelt Island.

Octagon Staircase Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

According to RIHS:
An exhibition of thirty-two photos is the first in a series of events that will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1969 agreement between the City of New York and the State of New York for the redevelopment of Welfare Island, as Roosevelt island was formerly called. The kick-off event, co-sponsored by The Roosevelt Island Historical Society and The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York, features photos taken before construction of a residential community on the Island had begun.

Despite their forbidding air of abandonment, the massive castle-like buildings of Welfare Island fascinated Suzanne Vlamis, compelling her to photograph these grotesquely beautiful structures. The photos of the old hospitals, asylum, labs and churches, taken by an adventurous young woman, were exhibited in 1972. Welfare Island: A Spirit of Place Past, includes these photos, as well as others never exhibited before. The show is at the Octagon Gallery, 888 Main Street on Roosevelt Island, from December 20 to January 31. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 9, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

"When I discovered a newspaper article that reviewed an exhibition of photographs of Welfare Island, the former name of Roosevelt Island, I knew I had to locate the photos and share them with today's audience,” said Judith Berdy, President of The Roosevelt Island Historical Society, which organized the exhibition and is co-sponsor with The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.


“Suzanne Vlamis managed to capture the life of the island at a unique juncture; five of its seven active city institutions had closed, and it had yet to be designated as the home of an innovative experiment in housing and community-building,” added Stephen Shane, Chief Executive Officer of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

According to Vlamis, "I found an eerie beauty there. I was compelled to capture those places that were grotesquely beautiful: the massive, bulky hulks of buildings, the elegant castles, the stone and the light."

Suzanne Vlamis documented the architectural remains of the abandoned sites over a period of three years, from 1969 to 1971, often without knowing the names of the buildings, since there were few identifying signs. Her companions were her cousin Theo, who had worked at a nearby luncheonette, or a boyfriend/bodyguard, whom she coaxed into accompanying her over the Queensboro Bridge, through Queens and across the 36th Avenue Bridge. As she wandered about the island, she might see thieves stripping the copper from the buildings, or face a dog eager to nip at her ankles as she rode by on her bicycle.

"Welfare Island is where people were sent. Many lives were saved and nurtured, and others expired," said Vlamis. The photographs that she took forty years ago testify to this small island's boundless capacity for healing and constitute a pause before the start of a new, residential era.

Other anniversary events scheduled throughout 2010 will include presentations about the history of the architecture and the parks of Roosevelt Island, as well as the integration of hospital residents into the community, plus a free summer outdoor movie series of major motion pictures that were filmed on Roosevelt Island, among other events and projects.


Strecker Laboratory Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

18 comments :

Anonymous said...

This is so great!! This Island has such a rich, long history.

I used to look over to this island from the FDR as a child and wonder about it.

I saw the Tramway being built when I was in High School and it was completed in 1975- I refused to ride it with my friends.

I became a Resident of this very special Island that is part of my home city of NY in 1982.

I have been on the Tram a million times by now, my first trip, I refused to even look up from my seat, I have a fear of heights.

I love this Island, there is no place like it in the City of New York.

It has such an interesting, somewhat haunting history.

Let us remember why the Agreement was signed in 1969 to develop this nearly- abadoned Island. It was to provide " Safe Affordable Housing for Everyone".

Let us also remember that Goldwater and Coler Hospitals were here before any Residential building was completed.

Their missions are extremely important, they serve mostly bed-ridden, very sick patients that are also residents of this Island.

Those Hospitals must remain here, they cannot be torn down to make room for some more Luxury Housing or a Luxury Hotel.

Looking forward to going to the photo exhibit at the Octagon.

I used to ride my bike by "The Octagon", when it was just an abandoned tower and walked by it on the day my Mom went to be with the Lord in Coler Hospital.

JMS
WV

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