Occupying the northern tip of Roosevelt Island, this 3.5-acre passive park provides panoramic views of New York City. Known as Blackwell Island in the eighteenth century (renamed Welfare Island in 1921 and given its current moniker in 1973), the landmass in the East River was sold to New York City in 1828. In 1870 the warden of the New York City Lunatic Asylum—built on the island in 1840—reported that a patient had reclaimed the northern point of the landmass with the construction of a seawall. Two years later, the City selected that location for the construction of a lighthouse. Designed by architect James Renwick, the 50-foot-tall lighthouse was constructed of rough-faced grey gneiss quarried by convicts imprisoned on the island. A small yard paved with flagstone encircled the structure and a walk flanked by bollards provided access. The light was decommissioned in 1940, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and partially restored in 1976.
In 1977 landscape architect Nicholas Quennell designed the surrounding park. Stretching between the lighthouse and the Bird S. Coler Hospital, the park comprises slightly undulating topography created with imported fill, an expanse of lawn shaded by mature canopy trees, and a paved walk that lines its perimeter and encircles the base of the lighthouse. Semi-circular concrete benches are located to provide views of Manhattan to the northwest, while elevated terraces provide additional seating and views of Astoria and Ward’s Island. Sunken picnic areas include retaining walls that function as benches, barbeques, and tables. A small wetland near the lighthouse was also designed by Quennell, although it was later filled-in.