20 Things You Didn’t Know About Randall’s Island

Unlike her, perhaps, more popular siblings, Governor’s and Roosevelt Islands, Randall’s Island is open daily and doesn’t follow the same seasonal rules. Here are a few facts about this tiny island nestled between East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Astoria that you might not know.

Randall’s Island, not to be confused with Riker’s Island of course, is a residential area, mainly one big park with facilities of all kinds, as well as eight miles of pathways to walk and bike on. The island also technically makes up part of the borough of Manhattan.

The Island which is made up of 480 acres, once comprised two separate islands, Randall’s and Wards. According to the city’s parks website, for hundreds of years the islands were used not as a public park but as a location for a range of public facilities including a boys’ home, a hospital, and a home for civil war veterans.

The islands were first designated for recreational use by Robert Moses (a New York state big wig), and the park was opened in 1936 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with the new Triborough Bridge. In years following, the Little Hell Gate Channel and the wetlands surrounding it were filled by debris from construction projects in Manhattan, joining the two islands into a single one.


However, by the 1980’s the island had fallen into disrepair and only after serious renovation projects like that of Governor’s and Roosevelt was Randall’s reincorporated into mainstream public life. The new Randall’s Island brings back to New York City the glory of the park that once hosted a roster of national superstars including Duke Ellington, Jesse Owens, Pelé and Jimi Hendrix. The island’s history of hosting musical greats of course continues today.

Throughout the year various activities take place including, historic, bike, marsh, and garden tours, yoga in the park and Zumba classes; as well as public art shows and movie nights. But perhaps the most famous activities to happen on Randall’s Island are the music festivals. Musical events have been happening on the island since 1938 and today,  Governors Ball which happens in June, Panorama in July, and Electric Zoo in September are some of the cities most heavily attended events and happen right on the island.

photo: @jermcohen via Instagram
photo: @jermcohen via Instagram

Randall’s is also home to one of the city’s largest Urban Farms. The sustainable garden and outdoor classroom has a mission aimed at offering local children and families the chance to learn from agriculture in an urban setting as well as teaching life skills. The farm is located at the southern end of the island.

If you lean more towards sports than art, Randall’s can also be your new favorite island. Among the multiple athletic fields available for public use is the Icahn Stadium, which accommodates both national and international track and field events!

photo: @matankorrub via Instagram
photo: @matankorrub via Instagram

The park is open daily from 5 am until 12 am and you can get there by taking the M35 bus from the northeast corner of 125 St. and Lexington Ave., walking or biking across the 103 St. footbridge, or unlike the other islands, you can also drive.

Here’s a quick (albeit very outdated video) about the history of the island and the initiatives that have been put in place to make it the friendly place it is today:

Featured image: electriczoo.com

Also published on Medium.

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