In those days there wasn’t much happening on Roosevelt Island. The island was being redeveloped for residential use, but much of it was still vacant. Large weedy fields sprouted fences to keep the few people who ventured there far from the long-boarded up buildings that once housed facilities for prisoners, the mentally ill, and others the city wanted kept far from the general population. But even the new mixed-use residential areas were largely deserted, as they served a population that abandoned this island every day to work elsewhere. When we arrived – midafternoon on a sunny week day – it was, literally, deserted. The glimmering towers of Manhattan looked very far away, unreal, and equally without evidence of human activity.
Adding to the oddity of being in a place where there were plenty of signs of human activity, but no humans to be seen, was that all the new buildings were built in the same blocky style, using the same brick, with identical plain signs that identified the use (“Drug Store” or “Restaurant”) without any names, graphics or further explanation.
It felt like we had stumbled into an Orwellian dystopia.
Pretty soon our imaginations took over: Clearly, we were the last survivors of a traumatic event that removed all other humans from earth. We had escaped to this island, but we needed to avoid detection, as any “humans” we might come across were likely alien imposters and part of the evil plot that had emptied out the shimmering city across the river. Obviously they were establishing their new world order here and it was a soulless world devoid of art, humor or human warmth.
We spent the entire afternoon exploring the island in the warm fall sunshine, conducting reconnaissance, and occasionally ducking out of sight to avoid detection.
It was a blast to just play, amazing to be so close to the city and yet so completely on our own.
The world has changed so much since that day.
Thank you, Richard. I still think of you and miss you.