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Roosevelt Island wants more tourists now, says the New York Times. Do we?

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In an article desperately in need of a fact checker, the New York Times says Roosevelt Island wants more tourists. But the writer also says there’s an exit for the island from the Queensboro Bridge. So, accuracy wasn’t high on their agenda.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Why This Overlooked Residential Island in N.Y.C. Wants Tourists

…rings the headline, but puffery that it is, the article never answers that question.

Even ignoring the knuckleheaded assumption that an island wants anything, the article’s direction is clear. Graduate Hotel’s excellent public relations team twirled the Times into publishing an article that’s all but an infomercial, except in name.

Don’t blame Graduate, though. Their team reaches out to everyone in media, including The Roosevelt Island Daily, stirring interest. But they might’ve hoped for better from Alyson Krueger who proves herself unable to research the simplest of facts.

And where’s the fact checker when Shelton Haynes, who nominally runs RIOC, is attributed with repeating the long debunked claim of 14,000 local residents?

Roosevelt Island’s population has, in fact, hovered around 11,000 for the last decade. According to the 2010 census, it was 11,661, and that was before over 1,000 left with the closing of Goldwater Hospital.

It’s possible that Haynes didn’t actually say that. It’s not in quotations, but that’s the number traditionally used in misleading potential Main Street businesses.

Lobby Graduate Hotel Roosevelt Island
The Graduate Hotel, in our experience, deserves all the praise it’s gotten, but certainly something better than the gaffe-filled feature in the New York Times.

So, why is this overrated newspaper publishing without fact checking? And who says Roosevelt Island wants more tourists?

The population lie wasn’t the only gaffe. They actually got Haynes’s job title wrong: “…the president and chief operating officer of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, which functions like a local government.”

Haynes is actually the chief executive officer, and if RIOC “functions like a local government,” then Russia’s a thriving democracy.

Don’t local governments have voting and media liaisons for keeping constituents informed, things like that? Just asking…. because the Times obviously didn’t.

And how’s this for a head-scratcher?

Later this summer, Southpoint Park will open on the southern tip of the island. “It will be similar to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where you can walk right up to the water,” Mr. Haynes said.

New York Times/Why This Overlooked Residential Island in N.Y.C. Wants Tourists

Does FDR Four Freedoms State Park know about this? Because they’re already there. And there’s a Southpoint that’s been open for ten years, as of August, nearby.

But the greatest gaff of all: “The island battles an unfair reputation as being hard to reach despite access from the F train, the ferry, the Queensboro Bridge and of course the island’s unique tram.”

Funny, after thirty years here, I still can’t find that Queensboro Bridge exit ramp. Or an entrance.

And not a word about transportation infrastructure already stretched to its max with tourists at various times nor about a critical lack of parking. Motorgate has 200 person waiting list for reserved parking, and Main Street’s situation worsened when the New York State Shelton J. Haynes Parking Area ate up formerly open spaces for the CEO and his guests.

Ah, those “tree-lined promenades…”

“In these late-pandemic days, the appeal of the area is obvious. It’s possible to walk through its parks and not see another human. Families, especially, appreciate the open fields, tree-lined promenades and playgrounds.”

New York Times

Walk through the “parks and not see another human?” Really? Maybe after an ice storm or a hurricane.

And please show us those “tree-lined promenades.” There is exactly one, surprisingly adjacent to the Graduate Hotel, and it includes less than 5% of the the shoreline.

Here’s a promenade view the Times missed…

Roosevelt Island wants more tourists, but is this how we get them?

Indeed, the East Promenade is lined with this pigeon poop smeared bench RIOCs neglected for months on end.

But we’ll spare readers photos of multiple collapses along the promenades because, well, why pile on?

But it wasn’t all bad…

Information about the Graduate Hotel gave the place a well-deserved positive spin, and a couple of locals contributed smart and accurate (!) insights.

Paul Krikler, for example, clarified the deficiency of commercial offerings, pointing out that, despite becoming a two-wheeler mecca, we don’t even have a bike shop. (Somebody wake up David Kramer, please.)

And Jax Schott, her fitness business being the best thing happening in Main Street retail in years, talked about her strategy for bringing in business to the Island’s traditional commercial core.

But if Roosevelt Island wants more tourists and that’s the honest point of this article…

…why is there zero mention of our historic sites, long considered our top draw?

RIOC’s CEO plays along, never mentioning even the historic site he recently moved into in defiance of community wishes.

Nowhere is the 19th Century Smallpox Hospital so many travel here to see mentioned. And neither is the historic lighthouse…

No mention of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd either nor did The Octagon, where Nellie Bly staked her claim and Charles Dickens expressed his horror, make the cut.

If the Times article was really about attracting tourists, that looks like a major gaffe. But as the many errors indicate, it was never about Roosevelt Island.

It was about the Graduate Hotel and done, as so many Times articles are, with an eye on advertising revenue, not facts.

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