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Coming This Summer: A New Look for Main Street on Roosevelt Island

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A new look for Main Street generates hope, some head-scratching but, overall, one improvement lifts optimism for the strip.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The New Look for Main Street

While some questionable maneuvers will change Main Street, without improving it, one opening may finally increase foot traffic along Main Street.

That is, Jax Schott’s Island OM will welcome fitness fans at 521 Main Street “soon,” according to Shops On Main manager David Kramer.

Island OM follows Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance, energizing a string of storefronts under Rivercross.

On Roosevelt Island Day, Island OM worked out several d.ozen fit Roosevelt Islanders on the Rivercross Lawn

In the works for several years, the new store does something besides improving local fitness. Like MSTDA, it brings foot traffic to Main Street, a badly needed value. Before opening, even during the pandemic, Schott regularly gathered fitness classes outdoors on the Rivercross Lawn.

That promises to get even better now.

But the rest of the news is more likely to roll eyes than inspire visitors.

The Shops On Main Shuffle

Kramer often made claims of filling up storefronts during the now decade long Shops On Main effort. All too frequently, though, reality witnessed few real and lasting enhancements.

Coming this summer, though, that changes, but don’t assume “better.” Questionable moves will increase activity for some of Main Street while rendering others silent.

Probably the biggest and most disappointing contributor to the new look on Main Street is a recently signed deal for moving RIOC from 591 Main Street to the old library space vacated by Swift Emergency Medical’s COVID rapid testing site.

The state agency lived rent free at 591 from the beginning but thanked the owners by refusing to even discuss the end of its lease in July. As a result, RIOC’s been migrating storage into the Cultural Center, an act considered inappropriate and thoughtless by local groups dependent on the space.

Change in plans…

Hudson Related’s failure at getting Southtown Building 9 constructed set the stage. According to an agreement approving construction for Buildings 8 and 9, RIOC’s new home would be in the final structure.

But it’s hard moving into a pile of dirt.

So, they could stay at 591 or move. But without public discussion, they chose gobbling up potential retail space in the heart of town. And this leaves a fresh hole at 591 Main.

The new look for Main Street is a shuffle…

After years with space idle, Hudson Related finally snared a tenant for the former stationery store on the street beneath Island House. And the deal reportedly pulls the also empty Bubble Cool store into the mix.

But the transaction requires emptying out another space as Kramer persuaded Island Wine & Liquor to abandon its Westview location in the move.

Residents sickened by the endless inventory of empty stores may not applaud Hudson Related’s luring tenants out of space it lost after Westview privatized. The machinations are far from neighborly and, again, take place with scant consideration given to local concerns.

Conclusion

While the new look for Main Street on Roosevelt Island includes the welcome arrival of Island OM, other moves scrub some of the charm.

The trade off, trading empty spaces, could be avoided with strong, evenhanded leadership from RIOC. Fending off predatory acts that damage one Island interest in favor of another ought to be discouraged.

But not with this slipshod RIOC administration which, in fact, participates, leaving one space for another with no appreciable benefit to anyone living here.

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