Blackwell House, shuttered for twenty years, reopened mid-pandemic. After millions spent on restoration, the historic farmhouse welcomed visitors. But then, tone deaf as always, RIOC reinvented it… as next to nothing special.
By David Stone
Blackwell House, Seen at a Distance From the Internet
You get a flavor of RIOC’s general disregard for this “charming wooden home” from reading its web page. A study in minimalism, the “Just the facts, maam,” approach feels designed for keeping visitors away.
No lures, only scant historic details. But “Visitors are only permitted on the first floor of Blackwell House and encouraged not to linger” sets a standoffish tone.
“…only permitted…” is a grammatical miscue well-suited for high school English. Not important, but telling in how much carelessness gets squeezed into so few sentences. For an alleged Communications Team ringing up hundreds of thousands each year in payroll.
By contrast, a history written by the Roosevelt Island Historical Society comes alive with rich, human details. They actually spur your interest in coming for a visit, something RIOC deflects.
What about when the owner sold his wife…?
Did you know that the last Dutch owner of what was, then, Hog Island was “banished from the province for ‘selling his wife into immoral slavery and for gross immoralities committed by himself…?’”
RIHS does, along with other down to earth details from history.
Among other glaring missteps, RIOC’s deflating website fails to add any how-to information. Like, how do you find the place? What else is nearby? And are there restaurants in walking distance?
The address: “At the corner of East Road and Main Street…” is meaningless for anyone not already living here and, really, for many of them.
In a state of disrepair, followed by neglect, the 17th Century farmhouse, witness to history, sat idle for twenty years. But steady pressure from historian Judith Berdy finally got a rebuild underway.
Cost overruns in the hundreds of thousands ensued, much of it from flawed or non-existent work paid for but found lacking. The main cause was RIOC failures in oversight, but Roosevelt Islanders paid for it all over again.
Finally, in November, 2020, the pandemic raging, RIOC staged a restricted opening.
As the Pandemic Slowly Lifted
By the time public sites reopened in June, many reasonably expected a Blackwell House alive with visitors. But that didn’t happen.
Partly because, also during the pandemic, the state agency declared its external communications restricted to “marketing” and “branding.” Observers worry that a powerful insider took one too many college courses and decided on putting her learning to good use.
Roosevelt Island, it seemed, is more Old Navy than community to RIOC’s brain trust.
Mainly in charge is an alleged Communications Team and its Clueless Division. These deep thinkers show no interest in “marketing” or “branding” Roosevelt Island’s rich trove of historic sites.
That all of them, not just abuses with Blackwell House.
The Special Case of Blackwell House
Early this spring, RIOC started moving out of its longtime free home at 591 Main Street. But the move, inexplicably, sent them into space they knew as too small. And that meant seizing other spaces and using them in ways for which they were never intended.
The Cultural Center, for example, lost space to storage dumps, but nothing was worse than Haynes’s taking over Blackwell House. Although unsuitable and not ADA compliant, it’s now his office.
No wonder encouraging visitors never started.
If you’re lucky enough to catch him rushing between his office and his private parking lot, you might ask him, “Why?”
But don’t expect an answer unless the alleged Communications Team’s on hand and tells him what he thinks.
More from the Roosevelt Island Daily News
- Behind Closed Doors at RIOC, the Strange Promotion of Tajuna SharpeSources tell us that RIOC human resources director Tajuna Sharpe was quietly made Assistant Vice President. No formal announcement followed, but questions rose because of her critical role in the firing of Susan Rosenthal. By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News Tajuna Sharpe and Her Role in the Controversial Firing of Susan Rosenthal “Tajuna
- The George Braithwaite Table Tennis Court unveiling at Capobianco FieldThe Roosevelt Island Daily News The George Braithwaite Table Tennis Court will be unveiled at Capobianco Field, Roosevelt Island, during the late sportsman’s Ping Pong Diplomacy Commemoration on Saturday, Oct. 23, reports Caribbean Life News. Braithwaite, who died last October, was born in Guyana but spent most of his life on Roosevelt Island. Read his
- Yachts Cruise Under the Roosevelt Island Bridge. Everyone Else WaitsEmergency vehicles, cars, bike and pedestrians wait while yachts cruise freely under the Roosevelt Island Bridge during UN Week. Didn’t anyone think about the risks? By David Stone The Roosevelt Island Daily News It’s UN Week, and some disruptions are necessary for security. The Roosevelt Island Bridge draws up, allowing taller vessels to pass. But
- MTA on ‘Mask Blitz’ Following Reports of Low ComplianceJose Martinez, THE CITY This article was originally publishedon Sep 22 at 5:27pm EDTby THE CITY/Sign up here to get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning. Police officers and transit workers distributed a record 26,000 masks in the transit system in the first three weeks of this month — topping the total for the
- Across the East River from Roosevelt Island, new clean energyA report in the New York Post says the state awarded a contract for the Clean Path Project. A 174 mile line will carry clean energy from Delaware County into New York City. Roosevelt Island Daily News The final destination is Con Ed’s Rainey Substation, just north of the Roosevelt Island Bridge. But you wouldn’t