Sunday, September 16, 2007
Main Street, a tram ride away from Midtown
One of the fun things about New York is getting to a place within the city bounds where you can say, "This is New York City?!?" City Island and Governors Island are two of my favorite places to do that. Yesterday, M. and I added another one to the list: Roosevelt Island. I work not far from the aerial tram, but it wasn't until this weekend that I finally rode on it. It's like a tourist attraction, but it's actually part of the public transit system. It's supposedly the only one in the U.S. that's considered merely a means of getting from point A to point B, where the scenic element is just icing. You pay with a swipe of the Metrocard, not any overpriced tourist admission. The island itself, especially along Main Street, gives you the feeling that you've slipped into a somewhat-dreary planned European town built during the 70s. The architecture of Northtown, the first group of buildings constructed after the island, once devoted to asylums and prisons, was redeveloped as a residential community, is, let's face it, kind of drab. But it has the benefit of being situated on such a cool, thin little strip of land. Main Street feels very un-Manhattan with its one-of-each uber-planned character: one cleaners, one salon, one thrift store, one public school, one library, one post office. Other developments north and south of the original residential enclave, such as the Octagon, have improved upon the look of the Northtown, and there's now a Starbucks and a Duane Reade in buildings that have gone up closer to the F subway stop. The market-rate rents are slightly cheaper than what you'd find in Midtown or the Upper East Side, but not all that much cheaper, from what we learned. I think I'd feel isolated if I lived on the island because there's no direct walking access to Manhattan. There's a bridge to Queens, the tram and the subway and that's it, as far as I could tell. And while the tram was fun, I think it would be a headache, literally and figuratively, on a more regular basis.