11. Roosevelt Island Was Once The Equivalent of Riker’s Island

Roosevelt Island Lighthouse

Though the island is now residential and a tourist attraction, there used to be a penitentiary on the island. The city once used it as a place for “undesirable” people. The main building was completed in 1832 and eventually had a north wing when Bellevue Hospital was divided and sent some of its inmates to Blackwell’s Island.

The penitentiary housed around 7,000 inmates, all of whom had to perform daily labor. It contained 221 cells, most of which were filled with minor offenders. The Blackwell’s Workhouse was a punishment center for many “drunks and disorderlies” who were assigned to workhouse shops or other institutions. Convict labor produced institutions on the island including the Charity Hospital, Penitentiary, Alms House, Hospital for Incurables, Workhouse, and Asylum for the Insane. It closed in 1936, shortly after Rikers Island opened.