David Stone
Four Freedoms "...open-topped deck with tall granite walls?"
Four Freedoms "...open-topped deck with tall granite walls?"
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Until stumbling on it  while doing casual research about how the outside media depicts Roosevelt Island, I never realized there was another Roosevelt Island in New York City, very much like ours. I found it on the internet travel concoction, Lonely Planet. The other, alternative universe Roosevelt Island even claims our location in the East River, but it couldn't be, could it? 

In a Featured Article, Best things to do on Roosevelt Island in New York City, which Lonely Planet says they've edited twice, most recently this month, Robert Reid and two-time editor Mikki Brammer cover what you might mistake for our own historic island... until you read a little further.

While we agree that Four Freedoms Park is a great place to visit - and I've been there many times - I've never seen the "open-topped deck lined with tall granite blocks" that Lonely Planet found.

I don't really even know what an "open-topped deck" might be. 

This must be a different place from the one with the sloping tapered lawn lined with shady trees, the bust of FDR and the Four Freedoms tribute in "The Room" at south tip that folks who love the peace and solitude treasure.

About the Roosevelt Island On Another Goofy and Lonely Planet
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Then, there's the Smallpox Hospital, partly designed by James Renwick into which millions have been invested in saving.

Reid loves the the place but apparently knows nothing about the Renwick connection, but credit where credit's due, he does tell readers that the Renwick construction was "the first hospital in the country dedicated to the treatment" of smallpox.

That's untrue but, still, a nice touch.

Hint: Like so many other institutions built on Roosevelt Island, the Smallpox Hospital was intended to remove undesirables from high profile Manhattan where pockets of infection still sometimes flared, even though the current epidemic waned generally.

Ever heard of the North Point Lighthouse? Lonely Planet has.

About the Roosevelt Island On Another Goofy and Lonely Planet
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

The website describes the North Point Lighthouse as "a lonely Gothic-revival lighthouse, built in 1872 by the city to help light a nearby insane asylum, adding, "The asylum's gone."

That makes it the only lighthouse in the world ever constructed to support anything besides water navigation, but Lonely Planet doesn't make a big deal of it.

The hilarity doesn't stop there. It travels south to "Octagon," which is "a block south of the lighthouse."

This other Roosevelt Island, the one in Lonely Planet's alternate universe, has blocks and structures blessed with human emotions.

This other Octagon is different too, although a photo makes it look very much like ours, the one built as a lunatic asylum for women where conditions horrified Charles Dickens and brought Nellie Bly in under cover to experience the abuses firsthand and report on them.

For Lonely Planet, it's a "mid 19th-century remnant was built as an island retreat (that) impressed a young Charles Dickens and then became a hospital before falling into years of neglect."

About the Roosevelt Island On Another Goofy and Lonely Planet
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

That's sure nicer, isn't it?

Concerned that we'd missed such a closely related cousin, I checked out another Lonely Planet page, this one devoted to "New York City attractions."

There I learned about the founding core of our residential community, the WIRE buildings:

"The planned area along the cobblestone roadway resembles a brutalist Olympic village or, as some observe more cynically, cookie-cutter college housing."

What the hell is "cookie-cutter college housing?"

Really? And where might we find this "cobblestone roadway?"

I cut back to the alternative universe Roosevelt Island to see how it shaped up and read that it "has been home to insane asylums and prisons, then hospital outpatients and UN workers. The slightly drab, uniform housing (well, for the most part – there are new condos that glimmer slightly more) feels like an improved version of a Stalinist housing block."

Note: this write up skips over anything historic but does like the Tram and Four Freedoms Park, thereby pretty much sending one and all south only.


Cobblestone roadway in a brutalist Olympic village or an improved version of a Stalinist housing block...?

Which do you prefer?

Me, I'm going for brutalist Olympic village, but only because I can't fathom what that phrase means, which suggests it might be nicer than Stalin.

Roosevelt Islanders who dread the influx of tourists crowding the tram and looking puzzled on red buses owe Lonely Planet a hearty "Thank you."

Few people reading these gems would come here or, if they did, ever rely on Lonely Planet for guidance again.