Roosevelt Island Tram Celebrates 40 Years

It was meant to be temporary, but 40 years later, the Roosevelt Island tram is still running and now a symbol of New York City. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.

The 14,000 residents of Roosevelt Island have been taking in quite a view on their daily commutes since 1976.

"Seeing the skyline every day, it kind of gives you chills," said Kristi Towey, a Roosevelt Island resident.

On Tuesday, the Roosevelt Island Tramway turned 40, a milestone that brought out scores of people to celebrate North America's first commuter tramway.

When it was constructed, the aerial gondola was only meant to be temporary, until the F line was extended to what had become a residential community in the middle of the East River.

Greg Paravati has been a tram operator since the beginning.

"When they hired me, they said, 'You'll have the job for two years, then the F train is going to open. And 17 years later, it never did," Paravati said. "Finally, when it did, we were too popular."

And popular it is. It gets upwards of 6,500 riders per day day. Last year, it broke records, serving some 2.7 million people.

Commuters swipe their MetroCards and pack cars that travel parallel to what is now known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

Over the years, the tram has become popular with tourists, who ride it to see the Manhattan skyline from above. NY1 saw them snapping photos during the four-minute ride.

"We came by subway, and now, we want to see the city from another perspective," said one tourist.

That perspective often attracts Hollywood to the tram.

"It was the scene of 'Nighthawks,' 'Fear Factor,' 'Spiderman 1,'" said Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

Over the years, it has had its share of real-life problems. In 2006, it got stuck, stranding dozens of people for hours. By 2010, the tram was outdated, prompting a complete overhaul.

For the people who have taken it since day one, it's hard to imagine Roosevelt Island without it.

"I don't think I sat down for about the first three or four weeks because the view was so exhilarating," said Joyce Short, a Roosevelt Island resident.

A view that leaves commuters wanting to look out the window instead of at their phones.

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