Atlas Obscura's Islands of the Undesirables, Part 1: Roosevelt Island

Aerial view of Roosevelt Island
Aerial view of Roosevelt Island
Photo: Philip Capper

Atlas Obscura is a great collaborative website where a community of everyday explorers help discover and share amazing, hidden spots around the globe.

In a new series on the site from historian and journalist Bess Lovejoy titled Islands of the Undesirables, five of the New York islands where we have stored our sick, criminals and unwanted residents are profiled. The first in the series covers Roosevelt Island.

The city bought the whole island in 1828 as a location for charitable and corrective institutions. Their plan was to create a “city of asylums.” In part this was a desire to create more humane institutions for the criminal and the mentally ill, although these places don’t necessarily look humane to today’s eyes. Within a few years of the purchase, two fairly grim institutions opened up—a penitentiary and a lunatic asylum. While the island was eventually home to more than a dozen different institutions, these two are among the most storied.

The full article is a fascinating short read on the complicated history of Roosevelt Island and it's "undesirables."

Roosevelt Island
Matt Coneybeare

Matt Coneybeare

Editor in Chief

Matt enjoys exploring the City's with his partner and son. He is an avid marathon runner, and spends most of his time eating, running, and working on cool stuff.

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