Whether the Greek Isles, Antigua, or Ibiza, islands around the world are this summer’s hottest destination. So much so that some might find their island getaways a tad too crowded with familiar faces. Who wants to run into her tax accountant, co-worker, or ex-fiancé on Mykonos?
For New Yorkers, a less overrun island getaway is now a hop—or, rather, a tramway ride—away, following the arrival of a new hotel and glamorous rooftop lounge showcasing unrivaled views of Manhattan and beyond.
This summer, Graduate Hotels unveiled the 224-room Graduate Roosevelt Island, a LEED-certified, award-winning structure by the architecture firms Snøhetta and Stonehill Taylor. That the hotel is situated on the southern end of Roosevelt Island, however, poses an interesting proposition: Will visitors (let alone New York’s in crowd) be willing to abandon terra firma for a 147-acre islet once inhabited by lunatics and convicts? Unlikelier turnabouts—with far less scenic outlooks—have occurred. And Roosevelt Island certainly has plenty of room for improvement.
A narrow sliver of largely uninhabited land nestled between Midtown Manhattan and Long Island City, in Queens, Roosevelt Island (current population: approximately 12,000), is perhaps best known as the somewhat odious site of numerous asylums, hospitals, and prisons from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s.
In recent years, however, the island has experienced less depressing developments, specifically the construction of the new Cornell Tech campus, and now a new property from Graduate Hotels, which promises to lure more than just visiting academics.
In the downstairs lobby, arriving guests are greeted by a 12-foot cartoon-like sculpture by the artist Hebru Brantley—a playful example of the unstuffy, jaunty aesthetic that permeates the company’s 29 other hotels throughout the United States.
Ceiling-high shelves crammed with various books and textbooks fill the walls, and a bright and spacious all-day café and restaurant offers seasonal, uncomplicated fare. But it’s the hotel’s newly opened Panorama Room that beckons as a destination in its own right.
Roosevelt Island is perhaps best known as the somewhat odious site of numerous asylums, hospitals, and prisons.
The 18th-floor rooftop lounge designed by the James Beard Award–winning firm Parts and Labor Design is at once elegant, contemporary, and retro-feeling. There are nods to Italian futurism, yet the sprawling, 168-seat space bears an unmistakable grandeur that hearkens back to the heyday of New York’s skyline-skimming restaurants, such as Windows on the World and Rainbow Room. Velvety tubular sofas and lounge chairs in deep shades of magenta and blush are oriented for southern views of downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, while the sandy-hued beams of the Queensboro Bridge provide an astonishingly elegant backdrop to the room’s wraparound red marble bar.
Patrons can take in the sweeping vistas of the city’s boroughs (all but Staten Island) over raw oysters and nouveau takes on classic cocktails, including a fizzy spin on the infamous Long Island iced tea. (There seems to be a strong redemption theme here.)
For after-hours revelries, there’s also a modern-Deco, mirrored D.J. booth, designed and manufactured by Daft Punk’s longtime creative director, Cédric Hervet. Should one need further incentive to come for the sunset and to dance until sunrise, there’s a hotel’s worth of rooms down below.
Laura Neilson is a New York–based writer