Randall’s Island – actually the conjoined islands of Randall’s and Ward’s – is an ideal city escape in New York’s Manhattan.
Located in the East River, at the height of Harlem and Queens, this peaceful oasis allows you to feel far, far away from the chaos of daily life in New York.
Not surprisingly, this (relative) isolation guarantees a colorful past for this East River island.
Randall’s Island was first developed as a cotton mill in 1807. By the mid-1800s it served as home to an orphanage, a poor house and a center for juvenile delinquents. In 1863, the ‘New York City Asylum for the Insane’ was opened. Today, there are still two psychiatric hospitals on the island, but it is now known mostly as a park and recreational location.
Park development activities began in 1930, and the island now boasts 175 spectacular acres managed by the Randall’s Island Park Alliance.
There’s something for everyone. Pedestrian and bike paths criss-cross the island. Bird-watchers and picnickers abound.
Sports enthusiasts flock to this island with its numerous baseball fields and soccer pitches. The John McEnroe Tennis Academy also has its home here, as does Icahn Stadium, an Olympic track meeting IAAF standards.
This beautiful track is open to the public for “Open Run” nights. It has hosted many professional track meets, particularly when NY was one of the destinations for the Diamond League circuit. Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt broke a 100 meter record here. Long before its current makeover, American sprinter and Berlin Olympics gold medalist Jesse Owens also broke a 100 meter record on this track.
Today, it hosts NY school meets and youth track meets. My son competes here each year, and has also won 100, 200 and 400 meter races for his age category, and was able to take part in the relay races. It’s quite emotional for him to run on such a spectacular track.
Next time you’re in New York, escape the chaos of Manhattan on this peaceful island enclave. If you’re arriving by foot, you can cross by the footbridge at East 103rd Street. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1951. Otherwise you can take public buses that cross over 125th Street to arrive to the island. See you on the bike trails…