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Now Looking Back, One Long Year: RIOC Builds On Budget


RIOC Builds On Budget

2020 Budget Proposal Continues the Upgrades

RIOC’s promising 2020 budget amounts to the state agency’s seizing a rare moment. “An economic boom in real estate…” enables upgrades never before possible. But then…

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island News

That’s what we wrote, a year ago, with RIOC’s next budget aligning with long neglected infrastructure.

But a year later, that budget got a hole blown through it, and the prospects for 2021 are grim.

And Rosenthal is gone too.

Our losses are steep, and we’ve got a mountain in front of us.

And here’s a look back for perspective.

RIOC Promising 2020 Budget, Susan Rosenthal at Tree Lighting
At RIOC’s 2019 Tree Lighting, president Susan Rosenthal talked about infrastructure, the core of RIOC’s 2020 budget

The Island is currently experiencing an economic boom in real estate with the construction‐in‐progress for Southtown Building 8 and 9, the completion of phase 1 of the multi‐billion‐dollar Cornell Tech campus site, and the evolution of the original residential complexes.

RIOC 2020 Budget Proposal

Under President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, RIOC seizes a rare chance to build on budget. It’s a unique time in our history to rebuild, and the balance sheets and accounting show it.

Taking office in 2016, Rosenthal stared down neglected infrastructure. She openly targeted it, and as luck had it, money was available.

The Roosevelt Island Bridge helix, in critical condition for years, was finally made safe. Deteriorated seawall railings, a regular topic of local news articles, were rebuilt.

She complimented these upgrades by joining with RIVAA to empower the artists’ Island of Art vision. New works are in place and more on the way.

But 2020 may top them all…

Heading the list of upgrades for next year are Lighthouse Park and the Nellie Bly Monument designed by Amanda Matthews.

What it will look like: the Nellie Bly tribute and how it wedges into Lighthouse Park. Let’s assume the lighthouse icon is a mistake, and it won’t turn into something out of a Hopper painting.

Lighthouse Park grows south, eating up Coler’s beat up parking lot and digesting it as green space. In an exciting turn, RIOC’s asking residents to help plan it out. A community workshop is on tap for January.

And don’t forget FIGMENT NYC. The 2020 annual is already set to land in the park in June.

RIOC’s promising 2020 budget proposal builds by setting aside a whopping $39,791,000 for capital improvements. In addition to Lighthouse Park and the Nellie Bly Memorial, there’s financing for ongoing projects. Sportspark modernization continues, and the Youth Center, Blackwell House and Motorgate should be finished off.

RIOC’s Building On Budget Perspective

Under tough financial limits, the Island’s physical needs fell far behind. The helix threatened public safety, and Sportspark aged gracelessly.

But there was always a lot more talk than money.

Then, with Cornell Tech first phase nearing completion, Southtown adding two buildings and the WIRE buildings evolving, money suddenly showed up. Rosenthal led RIOC on a charge.

New seawall railings circle the Island, and the helix is no longer a threat to collapse. Both Tram Plazas have been redone, and meanwhile, work on the 2nd Avenue elevator is underway.

As a local observer, we report on critical issues with RIOC all the time. We expect standards as high as they promise. In this case, they’re coming through. The benefits will stand for generations.

David Stone

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