Don’t Forget the Island
Filled with rich culture and history, Roosevelt Island is a site to see in New York. Judith Berdy, the Roosevelt Island Historical Society president tells of a land of historical features and inspiring stories but with the reawakening of Roosevelt Island the history may be fading away.
In 1966, Judith Berdy came to Roosevelt Island as a dental student at the Goldwater Hospital. Many of the nursing and dental programs were on Roosevelt Island because there were so many hospitals on the island at the time. But in 1966 the only functioning buildings on the island were the Goldwater and Coler hospitals. Roosevelt Island was an abandon and forgot about landmass in between Queens and Manhattan and around the early 1960’s structures were torn down and houses deserted. Judith says she did not pay attention to all of buildings; it just looked like an old run down little island. Throughout her studies at the Goldwater hospital she worked close with the other hospital on the island, Coler Hospital. That’s where she met and befriended the chapel pastor of the hospital Rev. Oliver Chapin. Rev. Chapin took Judith on a tour around the island and informed her of the history. “He had amazing artifacts that told the story of Roosevelt Island and I loved every bit of it.” Judith Berdy later stayed on the island and helped with keeping the history alive with Rev. Chapin. Rev. Chapin died in 2007 and gave all of his artifacts to Judith. “He wanted to write a book about the island but died before he got a chance, so in 2012 I wrote the The Roosevelt Island Book in memory of him and the history.” Berdy is now the president of the historical society but now express her concern of the island and the history.
In 1973, the island leased out most of it land to the state of New York for 99 years to build more homes for the growing population of New York. This was the start of the reawakening of Roosevelt Island. In 1975, 2000 people moved on to Roosevelt Island and now today with over 14,000 people and 10 housing apartments on the island the historical buildings are very few. One historical building, the Octagon was not torn down but instead rebuilt in the inside and made into an apartment. “What many don’t know about the Octagon is it was once and asylum for the mentally challenged and many of the other buildings on the island were schools for nursing students to learn more about their craft. Roosevelt Island started the third nursing school in America in 1889.” says Judith. Even with the reawakening she feels that the history should be a big part of the island.
Today Judith works in the visitor’s center and tells every visitor’s she encounters about the little island she loves. “Even though there are more people there should be more history for this island and though it feels like it may be fading away Roosevelt Island will still live on today.”