The hotel's front desk is watched over by a 12-foot-high sculpture of "Flyboy," a Tuskegee Airmen-inspired character created by Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley

The Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel’s front desk is watched over by “Flyboy.” (Photo by Steve Freihon Photography)

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By Joe Wilensky

Located on the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, the new Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel sports educational themes, with some specific Big Red homages.

The bright lobby is covered in 5,000 square feet of books—mostly mathematics and medical reference texts, in a nod to Weill Cornell Medicine just across the East River—along its walls and up to the high ceiling.

Keycards to guest rooms are fashioned after student IDs, each featuring the yearbook photo of one of four alums with ties to the city (Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54, Howard Milstein ’73, Toni Morrison, MA ’55, and Andrew Tisch ’71).

The hotel room keycards are fashioned after student IDs, each featuring the yearbook photo of one of four alums with ties to the city (clockwise from top left: Howard Milstein ’73, Andrew Tisch ’71, Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54, and Toni Morrison, MA ’55)
The Graduate's room keycards. (Photo: Provided)

The 18-story, 224-room property, which opened last June, is the first-ever hotel on Roosevelt Island. Like the more than two dozen others in the Graduate chain, many of which are located in college towns and cities, it has scholarly-themed décor: the guest rooms are accented with collegiate plaid, and the “do not disturb” door hangers, which are shaped like pennants, are emblazoned with the word “STUDYING” and a cartoon of a grad in cap and gown.

“Our brand is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia,” notes Hotelie Daniel Schor ’04, a partner at AJ Capital Partners, Graduate’s Nashville-based management firm, adding that working on the Roosevelt Island project was a “full-circle moment” that was particularly resonant for him: “It’s an honor to see elements of your own college experience and many of the famous alums and traditions brought to life.”

The Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel (the second-tallest building, left of center) is seen nestled into the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City
The hotel (the second-tallest building, left of center) nestles into the Cornell Tech campus. (Photo: Steve Freihon Photography)

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(Another Hotelie, David Rochefort ’10, was Graduate’s president until last summer; he’s now a partner at Castle Peak Holdings.)

The building offers dramatic views of Manhattan’s East Side, the East River, the 59th Street Bridge, and Queens—most notably in its aptly named 18th-floor Panorama Room, which is an event space and rooftop bar with an outdoor wrap-around terrace. Guest rooms, meeting rooms, and event rooms also offer striking vistas of the city.

The 18th-floor Panorama Room is an event space and rooftop bar with sweeping views of the city
The 18th-floor Panorama Room. (Photo: Steve Freihon Photography)

The Graduate’s other notable design elements include a 12-foot-high sculpture by Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley. It depicts a character named “Flyboy”—wearing aviator goggles and holding a giant light bulb over the front desk—that was inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen.

The hotel, which has already become something of an extension of the adjacent Tech campus, aims to be a locus for Cornellians in New York City—hosting Big Red groups, alumni events, and more.

Top image: The Graduate Roosevelt Island hotel's front desk is watched over by “Flyboy.” (Photo by Steve Freihon Photography)

Published: December 20, 2021


  1. Richard Weir III, Class of 1968

    Are rooms available at this awesome new Cornell hotel on Roosevelt for alums to reserve if they’re coming into the City, but are not members of the Cornell Club in NYC?

  2. Alejandro Badia MD, FACS, Class of 1985

    Perhaps the best rooftop lounge atmosphere and view in the city. That is saying a lot.
    The lobby restaurant is amazing with great cuisine although the ubiquitous medical books caused this former medical student some agita during dessert
    Great job Graduate Hotel and #Cornell!!

  3. Marilyn T. Sugarman, Class of 1981

    Except for the fact that RBG didn’t get married until after she graduated in 1954, so she would’ve been Ruth Bader as an undergraduate, or even Joan Ruth Bader (her given name), the keycard is fabulous. Betting they don’t get returned.

  4. charles camisa, Class of 1973

    what are the rates?

  5. Alfreda Radzicki

    Please include the name of the building’s architect (Snohetta) in the article. Cornell does have a College of Architecture, Art and Planning so should be more sensitive to the issue of attribution.

  6. Melissa Moss

    My son and I loved the Graduate Ann Arbor! Perfect location, and a great coffee/quick breakfast place. Everyone working there was friendly and helpful.
    Looking forward to trying the new Cornell-themed Graduate.

  7. George Elmer Shambaugh III, Class of 1958

    Fantastic transformation of Welfare Island! I remember the ferry at 72nd St.

  8. David S Bilmes, Class of 1978

    We stayed at this hotel for a few nights last summer. Our view looking down the East River toward the UN was spectacular and our room was lovely.
    There is a dining hall open to the public on the first floor of a nearby Cornell Tech building where we went for breakfast, avoiding the much higher price of the hotel breakfast. You can also get ice cream from the Cornell Dairy there!
    Parking on Roosevelt Island is problematic. You can cruise around looking for a spot, or do what we did and park in the garage located next to the bridge from Queens.

  9. Jay Branegan, Class of 1972

    I was disappointed that the hotel didn’t strike a relationship with the Hotel School. After all, it’s on a Cornell campus, and Cornell is said to have a great hotel school. I think a lot of Hotelies would have jumped at the chance to a one-semester internship in NYC, a very different training ground from Statler on campus. Did the Hotel School try to make some arrangement and the hotel company said no, or did the Hotel School not even try? If not, why not?

  10. Constance Colbert, Class of 1976

    I agree with Jay Branegan, class of 1972. This hotel would have been an incredible experience for the Cornell students who are studying to be hoteliers.
    Maybe a relationship can still be negotiated? What a fabulous internship that would be !

  11. Ellen S. Rieser, Class of 1976

    I was floored that apparently Cornell did not bargain with the hotel group for a relationship with the Hotel School. The Hotel School is one of the finest in the world, and Cornell has offered internship opportunities for students in the other colleges in NYC, now that Cornell Tech is there. If the hotel group said no to any internships, why did Cornell agree to this? Unless there are internship opportunities for students, I doubt alumni will want to support this hotel. For sure I won’t.

  12. Jason R Gettinger, Class of 1964

    I recommend a stop at the cafeteria in the Tech building named for a recent mayor of NY, who came up with the idea of offering free land on Roosevelt Island to university partnerships, which Cornell/Technion won. He then contributed his personal funds. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, a salad bar, hot food, beer, wine, Cornell ice cream. On the other hand, the food at the Graduate Hotel lobby restaurant is good, light, but the service is inattentive, even as the place is certainly overstaffed with employees at the podium during lunch. I understand the hotel contracts out its food and beverage service. I have yet to try the Panorama bar. Oh, there is a nice pub near the F train station on the Island. I play tennis in the bubble next to Cornell Tech. Watched it grow.

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