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Sanctuary Event Space opened on Roosevelt Island


The controversial Sanctuary Event Space opened on Monday, September 30th, and it was low key. Hosting a fund raising event for Titan Theatre, it did so without required licenses in place. However low key, it was a sign of trouble ahead for Roosevelt Island.

Sanctuary Event Space opened with light traffic.
The lights went up as the Sanctuary Event Space opened for a fundraising event to benefit the Titan Theatre Company.

The prestige of the Titan Theatre Company and relatively low attendance for an opening night fundraiser held frustrations in check. But they linger near the surface as RIOC refuses to answer questions about allowing it to take place without required licenses and permits.

RIOC Highs and Lows

RIOC controlled traffic on opening night at the Sanctuary Event Space
As RIOC promised, it’s Public Safety Department controlled traffic heading for the event. Here, a roadblock prevents parking at The Sanctuary.

RIOC came through on its promise to prevent traffic jams. Most visitors arrived on foot after either using public transit or parking in Motorgate.

An orderly, well-dressed crowd came mostly on foot. The atmosphere was upbeat.

The lows brought the highs down. RIOC rejected appeals citing serious shortcomings, and without explanation, let the party go on.

That set a bad example. When the State agency ignores blatant health and safety violations, residents lose.

What’s missing in the Sanctuary Event Space opening ?

Here’s the list:

  • City DOB Permits for building and occupancy
  • State Liquor License
  • FDNY Safety Inspection
  • City Health Department registration and/or inspection.

These are not minor or trivial concerns. Legal requirements are in place for good reason, and it is not within the State’s power to ignore them selectively.

But in this case, they did, and then, they compounded the error by refusing to answer questions about it.

“We’ve got a lot going on here at the moment with switching offices, so bear with us for a bit,” RIOC answered our request.

That was yesterday morning at 9:43.

Case closed.


  1. Many of the issues in your previous article were addressed! Seems like the event went well. Maybe some of the points I previously brought up weren’t completely irrationally.
    Do you have anymore insights to the permits? For example, why would they need a building permit? It doesn’t seem like they did any alterations? The lumber that was previously photographed looked like it turned into flower beds and benches.

    • No, really, they weren’t, and keep in mind it’s not the events that are most concerning. It’s the speakeasy and outdoor beer hall planned for this spring. That’s when the community loses the space as a place of security and calm in favor of outsiders coming to drink and party just across the fire lane from an unprotected playground and picnic area.
      The traffic problems were mitigated because, after we raised the issues, RIOC dispatched a number of PSD officers to control traffic. This was done at residents’ expense, not the event holder’s. In other words, we’re all paying for it, so some outside groups can make a profit. Some great solution.
      Building permits are required for anything more than minor repairs. RIOC, in trying to evade responsibility tried downsizing this to simply “repairs,” but all repairs are not made equally. If outfitting an historic church that lost its last tenant because they were unable to complete an estimated $50,000 in repairs for a public event, including new lighting and plumbing requires only minor repairs, then the world’s a scrambled egg. They didn’t bother getting an occupancy permit that’s mandatory when a building’s use changes, either.
      RIOC’s looking the other way is bad news for the future. Hudson Related’s always had its way with RIOC, and that’s not changing.
      RIOC also maintained accurately that one-day permits are available for special events, but when asked if they’d seen such a permit for this event, they went into the traditional bunker mode. Refusing responsibility, they told me I should call 311 myself. Maybe I’m supposed to give out traffic tickets too.
      Finally, all the rave reviews posted on the Roosevelt Islander blog were from people who live nowhere near the location. Nearest was from Island House. There was nothing north of there and certainly not a single comment collected from any of the parents and families set to lose the safety and security of this place forever.
      It went well for anyone who’s home and family weren’t directly affected. Seems we have our own “Not in my back yard, but it’s just fine in yours” ethos here now. We’re coming up in the world of divisive neighborhoods

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