Like condos? Because it belongs to the federal government, and has been operated by the National Park Service since 1932. And what else would you want there, anyway? Besides being a fine place for a stroll or jog, the mostly wooded island contains the District’s only monument to President Theodore Roosevelt. More than a century before the island was turned over to the feds by the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Foundation, it was known as Mason’s Island, the farming estate of George Mason’s grandson, John. The family abandoned the property around 1832, nearly 30 years after a causeway to the Virginia shore produced stagnant water on the island. The land changed hands several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, and a pair of fires destroyed the mansion that Mason had built there. It’s just as well nothing habitable remains. A green space dedicated to one of America’s great conservationists probably ought to stay green.
Why was nothing ever built on Roosevelt Island?