Ben Weprin, CEO of the company behind Graduate Hotels, is standing tall on the unfinished rooftop of the building he has spent four years willing into existence. Once complete, this will be the only hotel on Roosevelt Island, a two-mile crust of grass and concrete that runs alongside Manhattan's eastern shore. "Every time I'm up here, I still can't believe this is happening," Weprin says. "It's unreal."
Many New Yorkers might say the same. For most of them, Roosevelt Island is little more than a curious patch of land they cross over while driving from Manhattan to Queens. As Weprin stands on the roof, he seems to revel in the counter intuitiveness of it. Today's sky is wet and heavy, and in the distance, the Chrysler Building appears as a cold silhouette against a gray background. "Over there is the old insane asylum," he says, gesturing to what this place was once most famous for. "That's where they'll put me, eventually." But Weprin doesn't appear to be insane. Instead, he's an entrepreneur with a keen eye for opportunity.