New York City’s Roosevelt Island will soon receive hotel guests for the first time — a new set of arrivals to a slim, mile and half long island in the East River with an eye-opening past and a high-tech future.
The 224-room Graduate Roosevelt Island opens to guests on June 1. Sitting at the entrance of Cornell Tech’s innovative new campus, the 18-story tower will be the Graduate brand’s 29th property and its first in the city.
“To be able to have a hotel in New York City still rooted to campus, still rooted to a major university like Cornell … and really what is supposed to be the gateway to the tech industry for New York City, was a really unique opportunity for us,” said David Rochefort, president at Graduate Hotels and a Cornell alum.
The growing graduate-level Cornell Tech campus — the first phase of which opened in 2017 — is a new chapter for Roosevelt Island, which earned attention in the 19th century for its penitentiary and workhouses, a smallpox hospital, and an asylum for the mentally ill.
Pioneering investigative journalist Nellie Bly pretended to be mentally ill to be admitted to the asylum, resulting in an 1887 series called “Ten Days in a Mad-House” that exposed abuses and poor conditions at the facility.
Traces of that troubling history remain on the island, but now gleaming 21st-century buildings are springing up at Cornell Tech. The Graduate aims to bridge old and new, with nods to the island’s history, Cornell’s past and a state-of-the-art future.