Get an inside look at Roosevelt Island’s first hotel

June 18, 2021

All photos courtesy of Steve Freihon Photography

Roosevelt Island’s first hotel recently opened as part of Cornell University’s new tech campus. Graduate Roosevelt Island rises 18 stories, contains 224 rooms, and boasts incredible views of the Manhattan skyline, Queensboro Bridge, and beyond. The hotel aims to offer a “scholastic retreat” for the Cornell community and New York City visitors, with playful touches like a 12-foot statue of artist Hebru Brantley’s Flyboy in the lobby and neon light fixtures inspired by a Cornell science project in the guest rooms. There’s also a ground-level restaurant and an indoor-outdoor rooftop bar and lounge.

The LEED-certified hotel was designed by Stonehill Taylor and Snøhetta, the firm also behind the adjacent Verizon Executive Education Center.

Graduate Hotels launched in 2014, and today has 29 hotels across the U.S., all in “dynamic university-anchored towns” such as East Lansing (Michigan State University), New Haven (Yale), and Nashville (Vanderbilt University). They’ll be expanding into the U.K. this summer.

“We’re thrilled to make our debut in New York with the first-ever hotel on Roosevelt Island and proud to join the innovative Cornell Tech campus,” said Ben Weprin, founder and CEO of Graduate Hotels. “Each of our hotels are rooted in the communities they serve, and we took great care in creating a highly customized hotel experience that honors the island’s rich history and has an authentic connection to the Cornell Tech campus. Now more than ever, there is a new appreciation for exploring what’s in your own backyard and we look forward to welcoming locals and visitors looking to experience New York from a fresh and unexpected vantage point.”

Los Angeles-based hospitality team Med Abrous and Marc Rose of Call Mom are the exclusive food and beverage partners at Graduate Roosevelt Island. They’ll oversee Anything At All, the full-service, vegetable-forward restaurant on the ground floor, as well as The Panorama Room, a 168-seat indoor-outdoor rooftop bar and lounge overlooking Manhattan (opening in July). The hotel partnered with Brooklyn’s Variety Coffee, and there will also be a Poindexter Coffee Bike Cart parked out front.

Inside, the design from Graduate Hotel’s in-house team draws on the history of Roosevelt Island and the innovative future the campus represents. A 12-foot statue of artist Hebru Brantley’s Flyboy greets guests in the lobby, a 5,000-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, reminiscent of a college library.

On the third floor, the hotel offers several multi-use meeting and event spaces, that can be reserved for everything from weddings to off-site corporate meetings.

Unlike a college dorm room, the hotel rooms are spacious and bright and start at $219 a night. They come with perks from Malin + Goetz and feature artworks from local artists. As CNN first reported, the hotel key cards are designed to look like school IDs featuring well-known Cornell alums, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Presidential Suite spans over 1,100 square feet and has been outfitted in a super funky, retro style.

Located in the middle of the East River between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island has a unique history. Throughout the 19th century, the two-mile-long island, once known as Blackwell’s Island, housed a penitentiary and a number of health facilities, including the New York City Lunatic Asylum and a smallpox hospital, which was built to quarantine and treat people infected with the disease.

In 1875, the building was turned into a nurses’ dormitory and the smallpox hospital was moved to North Brothers Island. The structure was later abandoned by the city in the 1950s. While the Landmarks Preservation Commission declared it a city landmark in 1975, ruins of the original structure remain there today.

Phase one of Cornell’s tech and science campus opened in 2017 after the university won a competition launched by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition to the research, academic, and housing buildings, the plan called for an on-campus hotel to serve the university.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on March 31, 2021, and has been updated with new information and imagery. 


All photos courtesy of Steve Freihon Photography

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