The tramway from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island is one of the most spectacular ways to travel in New York City. The gondola zips over the East River, leaving the city’s iconic skyline in its wake. But traveling to Roosevelt Island wasn’t always an aerial affair. A lone kiosk under the Queensboro Bridge is a forgotten reminder of the area’s shuttered street trolley system.
Starting in 1909, beautiful Beaux-Arts kiosks serviced a trolley line which ran from Second Avenue in Manhattan and from Queens on the other side of the East River. The trolleys would stop on the bridge, where riders could descend by elevator to Roosevelt Island, which back then was known as Welfare Island because of the many hospitals located there.
There were once five kiosks, ornately decorated with copper roofs and colored, glazed tiles. When the street trolleys stopped running in 1957, three of the structures were sadly demolished. One was moved in the 1970s to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, where it also faced being destroyed. Saved by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, it was restored and transported back to the island, where it currently serves today as a visitor center.
Only one of the old kiosks can still be found in its original location, on Second Avenue between 59th and 60th streets, just underneath the bridge and tramway. The green and white structure is fenced in on a traffic island, where it sits empty, forlorn, and largely unnoticed amid the constant traffic crossing the bridge. The stairs no longer lead to the old trolley line, which was replaced by roads, and the doors marked “Entrance” and “Exit” remain unused, no longer witnesses to a steady stream of pedestrians.