Main Street, Out Of Exile: Roosevelt Island, Home To New York City's Dullest Retail Strip, Heading For Long-Awaited Makeover

Roosevelt Island Main Street Apartments

There's a scene in the otherwise not-so-good horror flick Dark Water that packs a solid laugh for New York City real estate watchers. Well, several scenes if you're the sort who finds the idea of haunted bathtubs amusing, but the one we're thinking of is when John C. Reilly's real estate agent proudly describes a Roosevelt Island apartment building (spoiler alert: it's haunted) to Jennifer Connelly as featuring "brutalist school" design. Which, as much as we love newer Roosevelt Island rental developments like Manhattan Park, is certainly a fair enough way to describe the East Berlin-style retail strip (above) that runs down the center of Roosevelt Island. While the community's quiet, city-within-a-city vibe is a big part of what makes Roosevelt Island apartments appealing, no one will mourn the passing of those identical, charmless facades. The good news, of course, is that those facades are indeed on their way out -- Roosevelt Island Operating Company is soliciting bids for a company to give that drab main street a long-overdue makeover that could make this loveliest of non-Manhattan Manhattan neighborhoods that much more appealing.

Considering how excited Roosevelt Island was to get its first Starbucks and Duane Reade just a few years ago -- that's right, there was a part of NYC without a Duane Reade as recently as 2007 -- it's hard to understate just how big a deal this is. The blog Roosevelt Islander gives much of the credit to the influx of new apartments on Roosevelt Island (both rental apartments and the sprawling Riverwalk condo development), and exults in the long-awaited arrival of Manhattan-style modernity on the little island in the middle of the East River.

"The Time has finally arrived. New ideas may soon be forthcoming to change the empty, dreary, depressing... Roosevelt Island's Main Street Retail corridor," Roosevelt Islander's eponymous/anonymous blogger exults. "Government, in the form of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. may finally be out of the business of retail management on Roosevelt Island."

Or at least that will eventually be the case. The Request for Proposals on Roosevelt Island's main street is just that, but the process should proceed fairly quickly if a good enough bid emerges. Roosevelt Island is already a nice -- if very particular and unique -- place to live, but the arrival of 21st century commerce on the island can't help but make it that much better.