This NYC Island Gets Its First-Ever Hotel—and the Views Are Spectacular

The Graduate Roosevelt Island offers never-before-seen views of New York City

Graduate Roosevelt Island room

Steve Freihon Photography for Graduate Hotels

If you think you know all the best spots in New York City, this island between Manhattan and Queens might be new to you. And even if you’ve heard of Roosevelt Island, only now can you actually spend the night there, thanks to the opening of Graduate Roosevelt Island on June 1, Roosevelt Island’s first and only hotel.

But why would you want to stay on Roosevelt Island?

For starters, the Graduate Roosevelt Island offers never-before-seen views of New York City, thanks to its vantage point in the center of the East River, with Manhattan’s stunning skyline on one side, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge butting up against it, and Brooklyn and Queens on the other side. And if you look north on a clear day, you can even see the Bronx shimmering in the distance.

Still, it’s not just the views, which can be seen from various rooms out of the 224 in the 18-story hotel and from the soon-to-open rooftop restaurant and lounge. The hotel is the latest part of the fascinating and impressive Cornell Tech campus, a massive project started by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg all the way back in 2011 to stimulate the technology economy in NYC. The ultra-modern hotel, sustainably built by internationally-acclaimed architecture firm Snøhetta and NYC’s Stonehill Taylor, is surrounded by equally eco-friendly and state-of-the-art campus buildings that are as stunning as they are sustainable. Graduate Roosevelt Island fits right in, with a LEED-certified building, used recyclable materials in its construction, and has highly efficient heating, cooling, and LED lighting systems, reduced water consumption, waste reclamation programs, healthy indoor air quality, and more.

Graduate Hotels, which are found near or on university campuses around the country, are known for being fun and funky, and Graduate Roosevelt Island—their 29th property—is no different. The interior design blends Old School and New Age, taking inspiration from both the history of Roosevelt Island and the future of technology that the Cornell Tech campus embodies.

Upon entering the lobby, guests are greeted by a custom 12-foot sculpture created by Hebru Brantley, a version of his iconic Flyboy character who appears to be holding a (giant) light bulb above the reception desk, a modernized vintage apothecary cabinet. But it’s also hard to miss the floor-to-ceiling shelves lining the walls filled with 5,000 linear feet of textbooks, lending the atmosphere an academic feel. The space is still bright and airy, with Persian-inspired rugs, mid-century light fixtures, a variety of lounge seating, and the hotel’s all-day restaurant and wraparound bar.

Graduate Roosevelt Island exterior

Steve Freihon Photography for Graduate Hotels

View of NYC from Graduate Roosevelt Island

Devorah Lev-Tov

Graduate Roosevelt Island lobby with Hebru Brantley sculpture

Steve Freihon Photography for Graduate Hotels

The Loft at Graduate Roosevelt Island

Graduate Hotels

Upstairs, rooms have a residential feel, paired with those incredible views. The décor references technology through the ages and the local culture, as seen through lamps with a Morse code of the Cornell fight song on the base, a neon light fixture inspired by a science project from a Cornell alum, and integrated audiovisual devices. Design highlights include benches upholstered with oil painting-like tapestry of Dutch colonial life in a nod to NYC’s past, custom art pieces by Matt Buchholz and Brooklyn-based artist Ashley Cunningham and a wallpaper made from Brantley’s drawings in the bathroom.

While it’s been hard to draw New Yorkers to the island in the past—even though it is accessible via subway, tram, ferry, and car, and has some incredible green space, including Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park—the dining outlets at the hotel are undoubtedly going to make this little island a hotspot. New York City natives Med Abrous and Marc Rose of popular Los Angeles restaurants and bars Genghis Cohen, Winsome, and The Spare Room, are responsible for the food and beverage at the hotel, which includes the full-service restaurant Anything At All on the ground level; the Panorama Room, an extraordinary indoor-outdoor rooftop bar and lounge with sweeping views of the city; and more than 3,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Abrous and Rose have tapped Executive Chef Ja’Toria Harper, Pastry Chef Lindsey Verardo and Beverage Director Estelle Bossy to oversee all food and beverage programs, and they have partnered with Brooklyn’s Variety Coffee on the solar and battery-powered Poindexter Coffee Bike Cart, which will offer coffee and a selection of grab-and-go items in the hotel's courtyard.

The hotel's crown jewel is the Panorama Room, a sleek and sexy rooftop bar and lounge designed by award-winning firm Parts and Labor Design. Opening in July 2021, it has a dash of cinematic drama inspired by futurism with plush purple velvet banquettes, a mirrored DJ booth, an Art Deco-inspired bar with neon lighting, and an outdoor terrace with those never-before-seen views of the city.

Last but not least, this summer, the hotel has transformed its event room into a space inspired by the iconic Tom Hanks film, "BIG." Known as “The Loft” at Graduate Roosevelt Island, this pop culture moment taps into nostalgia with items like a fortune-telling Zoltaire machine, bunk beds, a trampoline, a pinball machine, a vintage Pepsi vending machine, and of course, a giant floor piano. “The Loft” is available for private bookings, and families can join the fun at Family Saturdays this summer, a series of kid-friendly activities in partnership with PlayDay.

Rates at Graduate Roosevelt Island start at $219 per night. To book a room, visit the hotel's website.

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