Island Ferry SS Guy Molinari
Island - Mysteries Revealed
New York City is a city made up of many islands and one peninsula. The peninsula is the borough of the Bronx, and then there's Manhattan Island and Staten Island, and Brooklyn and Queens
which form the western portion of Long Island. Those are the five boroughs and then there are many smaller islands
amongst and between -- like Liberty Island
(although it always seems to be in doubt whether it belongs to NY or New
Jersey), Ellis Island (where all the immigrants landed; again, near the Jersey border), Governor's Island (the former military base that is now open to the public), Roosevelt Island (home to the tram),
City Island (up by the Bronx), Rikers Island (with the jail), Randall's Island, and
many more, especially if you start counting the islands in Jamaica Bay,
which are mostly hassoks; Hoffman Island, Swinburne Island, Shooters
Island, and Prall Island which are satellites of Staten Island; Coney
Island (not really an island), and so on.
Of all of these islands,
Randall's Island remains the most mysterious. Tucked beneath the Triboro bridge, about all most sports-minded New Yorkers of a certain
old age know about it is that the Cosmos used to play there. And quite frankly there aren't too many people still alive who know what the Cosmos
was, leaving Randall's Island a complete mystery to most.
Island is not exactly the easiest island to get to -- difficult
even as islands go -- if you don't have an EZ-Pass.
Mine ran out a while back (after my wife's pocketbook was stolen
and we had to cancel/change all of our credit cards), which leaves
me in a situation where I need to pay cash on all of NYC's bridges
and tunnels for the time being.
To get to Randall's Island by car, you take the Triboro Bridge, which connects three boroughs
(Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx).
you cross the Triboro Bridge from Manhattan, you MUST take a toll booth on the
left side, since access to the ramp to Randall's Island is only allowed from the
toll booths on the left. Unfortunately, on the Sunday I tried to get to
Randall's Island, the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority managed to make
it so that all tollbooths on the left were EZ-Pass Only. I was
forced to go to a tollbooth on the right, and then found out I couldn't
get to Randall's Island from there. I had to detour through the Bronx and
back to Manhattan to do the whole thing all over again. The first time through,
the token booth attendant assured me there was a tollbooth on the left
that accepted cash and EZ-pass, but on second attempt, after my 45
minute detour through the Bronx and back again, I literally stopped the car
at the mouth of the tollbooths on the left side and examined each one --
EVERY ONE was EZ-Pass only, which meant the only way I could get to
Randall's Island that day was to tailgate a Chevy Blazer that went through
an EZ-Pass-only tollbooth, scooting in behind him before the turnstile
lever came down on
made me late for the circus. Cirque de Sol is being hosted on Randall's
Island these days. For many years it was located in lower Manhattan at the
north end of Battery Park. Entering the tent for Cirque de Sol after the
show has begun is difficult because it is pitch black; this circus relies
on lights set against dark backdrops to create an effect. And there are
many metal stairs. So if you're
going to the circus with your family in tow, including your 75-year-old
mom and 10-month-old son, make sure you update your EZ-pass and take the
tollbooths on the left. Otherwise it might literally take 35 minutes to
navigate to your seat, with many tenuous moments in between.
the circus boss leans over, whispers into the little boy's ear
"Hey son, you want to try the big top?"
-- Bruce Springsteen
Island also contains one of the most impressive train trestle's
in the New York City area. The trestle allows Metro North and Amtrak
trains to head northward to Boston and other parts north of the city.
Trestle carries Metro North trains and Amtrak trains traveling between NY
on the island, you realize that this is a NYC worker's island. The Fire
Department has a training academy on the island. There are lots and lots of
fire engines of all types. And there are warehouses. Plenty of warehouses with
mysterious goings on. The whole aurora felt somehow familiar; like I'd
been there before. The warehouses; the highway ramp that brings you down
to the island. The bridges and elevated highway.. and then it hit me as I
wrote this article -- the closing scenes from The French Connection! Yes,
indeed, The French Connection was shot on Randall's Island.
Island as viewed from an Amtrak train headed for Boston, atop that
trestle. Lou V's hand reflects off the window of the Amtrak
includes the scene at
the end, where Frenchy's henchman is leaving the island only to see what
looks like the entire NYC police force waiting for him at the other end of
the ramp to the Triboro Bridge, with Gene Hackman holding up his
the warehouse, where Gene Hackman chases Frenchy then accidentally shoots
his partner -- a Randall's Island warehouse! Perhaps the one pictured
warehouse building on Randall's Island is not actually abandoned,
despite the fact that ivy covers the walls and windows of its back
Sports facilities share equal billing on Randall's
Island. Like I said, the Cosmos made Randall's Island their home --
specifically the old Downing Stadium -- before the soccer team moved to
Giants stadium in the 1970's and won a couple of league titles.
Downing Stadium has been replaced by the new Icahn Stadium, opened in
April of 2005. There are also numerous public ball fields on the island.
are a couple of 10 to 12 story buildings viewable on Randall's Island,
which from first glance weren't distinguishable as residential or office
buildings, begging the question "does anyone live on Randall's
Island"? This is the question I hear asked daily by tourists
about Staten Island when I disembark the Staten Island Ferry for home. For
Staten Island -- 19 miles long by 8 miles wide -- a silly question, but
for Randall's Island -- not so silly. The answer -- according to Wikipedia
-- Randall's Island is joined to Ward's Island by landfill (a Robert Moses
project hatched in the 1930's), and the two
islands together have a population of 1,386 living on 2.2 square
kilometers, according to the 2000 census.
Another mystery revealed -- many New Yorkers interchange the names Ward's
Island and Randall's Island, thinking that one must be the prior name and
the other must be the new name of the island -- when it really is one
island with two names, and two separate histories.
leaving the island, my 75-year-old mom said she had visited the island
many times in her youth; it was the frequent location for school-sponsored
picnics and athletic events. So there you go -- Randall's Island wasn't such a mystery after