Upfront Today: Roosevelt Island’s Future


Roosevelt Island’s future rolls large into view at the close of 2019 when a committee takes on three big agenda items. By coincidence, they get critical attention at the same time, and each may permanently alter the community.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Today’s Meeting in Perspective

At 4:30, the Real Estate Development Advisory Committee holds its regular meeting, but “regular” does not mean normal, this time.

REDAC meetings usually draw little attention. Board members talk about items on which it takes positions for upcoming full board meetings. They’re important but seldom strike sparks, and they’re public as required by law.

What makes today’s different is how it may affect Roosevelt Island’s future on several fronts.

What’s the big deal?

Big deals is more like it. Three agenda items are loaded with possible impact.

  1. Discussion of Transfer of Roosevelt Landings
  2. Hudson Related Retail Presentation Regarding Main Street Commercial Spaces
  3. Discussion of “RI” Sign

Roosevelt Island’s future in the balance today…

Changing ownership at Roosevelt Landings brings a chance for reversing a trend by increasing affordable housing.

Roosevelt Island was built on a foundation of economic diversity. That eroded as privatization chewed up resources.

But new owners, L+M and Invesco, say they want to make Roosevelt Landings 100% affordable again. It’s a big deal, and we should learn more about it today.

Results depend on negotiations with Homes and Community Renewal, the State agency that oversees RIOC.

A decade ago, RIOC cut a deal with Hudson Related, handing over Main Street retail management. David Kramer, Hudson’s president, promised Hudson Related would “shock and awe.”

Nobody believes that happened, and Main Street retail is arguably no better today that it was then. That depends on your values.

Now, at a critical juncture, Kramer tells the board what’s up.

Kramer’s a smart, responsible businessman with a salesman’s tendency to over-promote. “Shock and awe” is a good example.

Others include promised openings and claimed lease signings like Onda Mexican and the panini and wine bar.

Failures like Roosevelt Island Urgent Care, Riverwalk Bar & Grill, BubbleCool and Main Street Sweets are never acknowledged.

Expect Kramer to pitch past success and predict more for the future, but will REDAC buy it? New, more critical board members may tip the balance.

It is not known whether he will try to sell the questionable decision to turn an historic church into a speakeasy and outdoor beer hall. Just 25 feet across a fire lane from an unprotected playground.

The critical issue is whether a refreshed board will stand up to Hudson Related or massage local perceptions that the real estate giants own RIOC.

Will the RI Monument sink its feet in Roosevelt Island’s future?

In February 2018, REDAC agreed to a three-month trial for the RI Monument/Sign/Icon.

REDAC decides whether the installation stays or goes.

Some residents like it, but a majority wants it to go. Criticism revolves around its lack of creativity and doubts over whether it attracts tourists.

The nearby Historical Society Kiosk operators complain that it blocks the view, not enhances it.

A decision may come today, but it’s not so much about the sign as it is about who runs Roosevelt Island.

RIOC or Hudson Related?

The meeting takes place at 4:30 today at RIOC’s 680 Main Street Operations Office.

We will report in detail.

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  1. Thank you David for your diligence and dedication to Roosevelt Island residents. I read your work … word for word … every day. I pass it along to new friends when I discover they have never heard of it. Without fail they thank me. Please continue. Best, Susan Jane Leitner

  2. More affordable housing would be great for Roosevelt Island to restore some of the family values here. The rent some of these buildings charge has become absolutely outrageous.

  3. I am strongly opposed to this sign. It’s ugly and an eyesore. Artistically, it says nothing about Roosevelt Island, and it’s inconsistent with our “brand” (wrong color, wrong typeface, wrong logo). David Kramer is out-of-touch with visitors (witness the dud and poorly planned “block party”).
    Here is what people do when they come to Roosevelt Island, whether it is tram or subway: they run over to the west seawall and take a picture with the bridge, the river, the skyline (and occasionally with the tram over the river) … clearly that’s the view people want. The “RI” artwork is just a waste of money, people have voted with their feet: the west seawall is what they want.
    Here’s a photo from the recent “block party”. It looks like the graphics designer only knew how to use Microsoft Work, they didn’t know any typefaces, and they chose a color that doesn’t match any color scheme on Roosevelt Island: either the official “red” brand (see tram), or even the stupid “RI” orange. They didn’t even put their stupid Shops On Main logo. And after spending 5 minutes in Microsoft Word, they sent it to Staples for printing.
    And all of the “block party” signs looked just as pathetic.
    You’d expect this kind of work from a high school student, not a purported experienced real-estate entity. Everything Kramer does looks like Amateur Hour.
    With the exception of his Southtown merchants … there he will do nice signage. But for the rest of the Island, it’s useless, ugly crap. Look at those stupid poles with arrows … does anyone use them? Of course not. This is a communications failure.
    Really, Kramer doesn’t have the chops to do for us what he seems to be able to do for other properties where he has some actual interest. And that’s part of the Kramer brand: making Main Street look like crap so people want to go to Southtown.
    Suggestion: Let’s get rid of the “RI” artwork ASAP, and have Kramer do wayfinding signage … like the kind he does on properties he cares about.
    Frank Farance

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