Will RIOC become homeless, this summer? Their freebie lease runs out…

Will RIOC become homeless, this summer? Their freebie lease runs out…

Will RIOC become homeless when its freebie lease expires in July? Times change, and the state agency faces a whole new set of circumstances. Their free ride may be over.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

Why might RIOC become homeless…?

Final approval of Westview’s Mitchell-Lama exit changes the game for RIOC, which has squatted for free at 591 Main Street for decades.

In some ways, it’s a result of poor judgment, but poorly developed relationships also play a role.

After protracted haggling, RIOC’s hands-off board finally approved the exit plan at a last minute emergency session in July, 2019. A financing deal negotiated by Westview’s managers would expire the next day.

As a courtesy, Westview agreed to two more years of rent free space for RIOC at 591 Main, but that was conditioned by a separate deal.

RIOC planned abandoning the space, leaving a fresh hole on Main Street, in favor of a location set up in Southtown Building 9 as part of that deal with Hudson-Related.

Will RIOC become homeless or move here? COVID Testing Site, Under Construction at 524 Main Street.
Will the COVID testing site RIOC rehabilitated at 524 Main evolve into their new home?

The trouble today is, Hudson never broke ground on that final building. RIOC’s next home is an empty lot, and it likely will be until economic strains from the pandemic end.

With their freebie lease ending in July, will RIOC become homeless…?

The pandemic helping create the problem may also provide a solution. With RIOC’s executives already relocated in new offices, unintended consequences from ambushing former CEO Susan Rosenthal, the remaining staff at 591 Main is thin to non-existent.

You can watch the entrance all day and not see much disturbance as the bulk of the staff works remotely when they work at all. But it’s hard to see any difference. Remoteness is not new for the state agency where they’re more involved with internal conflict than community relations.

That can’t go on forever. Sooner or later, RIOC’s staff must bring their in-fighting home, but where will it be?

Returning to 591 is a possibility, but a free ride seems unlikely after July. RIOC’s current managers appear not to have any working relationship with Westview’s new cooperative team.

Although President/CEO Shelton Haynes works out of new offices RIOC built along the seawall under Motorgate, that was inadvertent. With Rosenthal’s removal, he simply stayed put where he’d anchored as operations chief while her office sat empty.

That area seems inadequate for returning staff, but converting a staff lounge and a conference room may help.

Another favor for Hudson?

More likely, the state agency will again relieve pressure on Hudson’s FlopsShops on Main by taking over space now filled by the wildly underperforming COVID testing center at 524 Main. That area had been filled by the New York Public Library, and Hudson had no answer once they relocated to new quarters.

524 seemed destined to years of vacancy until RIOC took it over for COVID testing. They have never publicly released details of the move but acknowledge Hudson’s involvement.

Huge gaps have previously been filled by providing space for the Public Safety Dept.’s bloated staff, and parking there, at least temporarily, would not set any precedent.

We don’t know if RIOC will become homeless in July, but we’ll have an eye out for moving vans and keep you all posted.

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