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Articles of Interest by Jay B. Itkowitz During his Journalism Career

Roosevelt Island set to go on show

Long Island Press, August 28, 1974

In just a few short weeks the state Urban Development Corp. will begin marketing its showcase - Roosevelt Island.

The island, purchased by the city for $52,500 in 1828, is a model of what the state-created UDC can accomplish when building a new, $350 million community from the ground up. Among the many unique facets the new urban environment will offer is a car-free "city within a city" with plenty of open space.

Construction of 2,100 units of low, middle and luxury apartments is nearing completion on the 147-acre island, which lies between Manhattan and Queens and runs under the Queensborough Bridge. Officials of the Roosevelt Island Development Corp., a UDC subsidiary, are preparing for the opening of an information pavilion at 20 East 50th St. on Oct. 1. Renting will begin soon after.

Although only 2,100 of the eventual 5,000 units to be constructed on what was formerly known as Welfare Island will be completed and ready for occupancy sometime this winter, and though no application forms have been made available to the public, the RIDC had already received some 10,000 inquiries about apartments, a UDC spokesman said.

The "city within a city," designed by some of the country's leading architects, will contain buildings from four to twenty stories, courtyards, office space, shops and restaurants, wide open recreation areas, a promenade encircling the entire island, a network of community facilities including health, day-care and library centers as well as a pneumatic tube garbage disposal system.

The apartments will have electric heat with individual thermostats in the rooms. Harvey Walcoff, an electrical engineer on the design and construction staff, said electric heating is more efficient than oil in high-rise apartments.

Eventually the island will house a population of about 17,500, according to the spokesman. It will also offer an aerial tramway to shuttle residents and visitors to and from Manhattan in about three minutes. The spokesman said the tramway, which will parallel the Queensborough Bridge and go to a terminal on Second Avenue, should be ready by next summer.

The uniqueness of the experimental urban community will extend to the island's 16 small schools, which will accommodate an estimated 3,200 students. The schools are being built with large open areas rather than small rooms and will facilitate team teaching and open classroom techniques.

Referring to the school system, the UDC spokesman said: 'You can get what you get in suburbia only three minutes from Bloomingdale's."

To create a town square atmosphere, no cars will be allowed on the island. Cars will be confined to the 2,400-capacity Motorgate Garage near the Queens entrance to the island. To get around, residents will either walk, ride on shuttle buses (UDC is considering the purchase of pollution-free electric buses) or ride bikes on the 8 miles of trails that will crisscross the island.

The island will offer a total of five parks - covering about one-third of the island - including a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, designed by the late Louis Cahn.

The spokesman said the parks are expected to draw a steady stream of visitors, particularly from the East Side of Manhattan, where there is a shortage of parkland.

"It will be closer than Central Park," he said.

Because federal money was used to subsidize the development, 20 percent (or 1,000 units) of the 5,000 units will be for low-income families and 10 percent (or 500 units) will be for low-income senior citizens. An additional 1,250 apartments will be moderate-income units, 1,000 will be middle-class units and 1,250 will be fully-taxed units including 700 cooperatives.

The UDC spokesman said the low- and moderate-income units will rent for $59.70 per room per month (the federal government will subsidize the low-income families unable to meet the $59.70 figure) while the middle-income units will go for $115 to $125 per room. The spokesman was unable to provide cost information regarding the cooperatives.

The spokesman said the rental figures include electricity. However, tenants will pay a surcharge for air conditioning depending on the size of the unit.

Those interested in getting on the mailing list for applications can write the Roosevelt Island Information Pavilion at 20 East 50th St. or call 421-1110.