Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Gentrification Turning Roosevelt Island into an Urban Landscaped Refuge For Former Manhattanites or Consumer Cesspool For Long Time RI'ers?

You Tube Video of Roosevelt Island, an Island place from 1980

The New York Observer had an interesting article on the changing nature of Roosevelt Island:
For new residents, Roosevelt Island is an urban suburbia, a landscaped refuge from cramped quarters in Chelsea, the Upper East Side or the East Village.
At the same time, veteran Islanders notice their close-knit community changing. Everyone I spoke with mentioned that the population--which includes United Nations employees, Memorial Sloan-Kettering oncologists and senior citizens--is getting younger. Old-timers notice a more affluent populace, with closer ties to Manhattan.
"One of the things that I loved about the Island in the earlier days is that it was truly international," explained Marie LeBlanc, a multilingual teacher who has lived there for 15 years. "And it seems like more New Yorkers, people that have been living in New York for a while, have been moving to Roosevelt Island."
Long-time residents worry that their affordable housing will turn market-rate. There are fewer areas for kids to play; parking spots are more difficult to find; and public transportation is strained.
This message I received from a former resident newly returned to Roosevelt Island captures some of the anxiety that gentrification is causing among long-time residents.
As a former resident returning to the island, the changes are refreshing and disturbing at the same time. I lived in Brooklyn over the last few years and noticed massive development and improvements to the neighborhoods there. Although it was aesthetically appealing, there were a lot of problems. The community changed as more people moved in, especially higher upper class to wealthy. Gentrification has caused more problems in certain areas as there will always be people who are trapped in their neighborhoods unable to leave due to financial instability. I fear that Roosevelt Island maybe turning into these gentrified communities as the demand for higher quality real estate increases.

As for the increase in restaurants and the new Duane Reade, I found it refreshing that businesses are coming onto Roosevelt Island. I question the placement of the stores however. I would have to travel a long way to get a slice of pizza or anything from Duane Reade. The Eastwood area from 510-580 Main Street needs some revitalizing. I remember a bakery and the old pizzeria that was just downstairs. Also the M&D has a limited supply of goods so to stick with the new American trend of one-stop shopping, Duane Reade or Gristides would be a better choice (although they are both at polar opposites of the island).

I feel as if the island is on the verge of turning into a consumer cesspool, filled with upper middle to upper class New Yorkers making the lower middle class standard of living on Roosevelt Island a thing of the past taking away from the essence of affordable decent housing just a 10 minute ride away from the city. Hopefully that won’t happen. Here’s to hoping.

If you were thinking of living on Roosevelt Island in the 1980's, here's what the NY Times had to say then.
It is an island of baby strollers and children playing fearlessly in the street, sparkling vistas of Manhattan and refreshing breezes. It is also an island of silent nights, little street life and none of the pulsating activity to be found just across the river. For people who seek proximity to the city but prefer a relatively safe and quiet place to make their home, Roosevelt Island may be a good choice.

''My kids are safe here, the parks are great and I have a fabulous apartment,'' said Sheila Velez, who moved with her family to Roosevelt Island in 1977. ''We did it for the children - to give them a place to play, and to grow up.''
Times change and New York City grows and evolves. Sometimes for the good other times times not. It can be managed but it is inevitable. Otherwise it dies.


Anonymous said...

That was a great read. Compare that with the most current "Living In" piece from last year. Just look at the comments about PS 217 back then. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

The term gentrification references a subject area that was formerly downtrodden or seedy or undesirable. Please cite one thing that is no longer available to residents due to any of the development. The RIOC-controlled retail is still lousy, and any stores that are not here are due to RIOC or lack of business from existing residents. The development, such as it is, is controversial, but NOBODY ANYWHERE develops large-scale low-income housing these days. The funding is simply not there, and it doesn't really work. Exhibit A: Co-op City. Before you disagree with that, tell me - are you living there?