Hey! Is it RIOC Christmas time already?

Hey! Is it RIOC Christmas time already?

RIOC Christmas comes but once a year. Holiday decorations underwhelm, and this year, the state boasts uninspired spending and shrinking imagination.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Back in 2017, RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal, appalled at the absence of holiday cheer on Roosevelt Island, cut a deal with Hudson-Related for sprucing things up. Together, they pitched in $75K, paying Neave Decor for lights, a tree and other fixtures in multiple locations. It ran for three years and was interrupted last year by the pandemic.

But in spite of good intentions, RIOC Christmas failed to pass muster with many Roosevelt Islanders. Spread too thin, skimpy, used decorations, it excited only on the Rivercross Lawn where a bright, colorful tree played host for a music-filled lighting ceremony.

That was then, though, and this is almost now. Losing Hudson-Related as a co-sponsor, RIOC retains its lack of imagination, hoping to replicate what didn’t work before with half as much money.

And it’s worth noting that, sparse as it is, the money pitched in comes from residents from Cornell Tech to the Octagon. But, again this year, most won’t see RIOC-sponsored decorations anywhere near their homes.

In a cost-saving gesture, RIOC cuts decorations for Riverwalk Commons out of the budget.

RIOC Christmas 2021

In a memo set for board approval in September 29th, RIOC returns Neave for another three year turn. Neave has an impressive track record around the area, but not on Roosevelt Island, starting with 2017 when the company brought in used, already soiled decorations.

Now, RIOC wants holiday decorations covering much of the same area, but cutbacks from previous inadequate years are part of the deal.

RIOC culls the heard of “standing bucks” set up in the Tram Plaza, for example, allowing only four. And skimpy adornments across Riverwalk Commons are scrapped altogether.

This leaves the community’s most visited area out of the RIOC Christmas party.

Only four return in 2021. Maybe the guy on the left, refusing a ribbon, will be left behind in the storehouse.

Returning, thankfully, will be the tree encircled by faux gifts on the Rivercross Lawn. With a little luck, the current administration will stage a festive lighting ceremony on par with the Rosenthal administration.

Ben Kallos, NYC Council Member, Tree Lighting 2019
In 2019, RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal (in red) made the holiday tree lighting a party with live music and even a dancing city council member Ben Kallos.

Roosevelt Landings loses the “… swag of 14-inch Garland Lit with warm white LED minis and our (4) 12-inch red bows at the corners of the swag.” But the non-working “Tram Fountain” display of large, pre-used ornaments returns.

What might have been…

Without spending ten cents more, RIOC Christmas might be so much better, although the skimpy investment from this free-spending state agency is an embarrassment.

Instead of underwhelming along a limited strip of the Island, why not consolidate around the festive tree on the Rivercross Lawn? As we know from past years, people will flock to attractions there, and it’s relatively central to the community.

Slide down the sled and march in the reindeer. RIOC’s holiday investment may still be too small, but its impact will be enhanced.

And one last thought. If RIOC can’t recruit pal Hudson-Related, why not scare up some funds from the other building managers? That would require, though, developing cooperative working relations with them, including those alienated by recent, clumsy political maneuvers.

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