Southpoint Park, the promised people’s place, set aside for Roosevelt Islanders, got lost. It got lost in a bureaucratic, possibly corrupt shuffle, leaving locals out.
By David Stone
Special to The Roosevelt Island Daily
Southpoint Park, Near the Finish Line
In an October board meeting, RIOC president/CEO Shelton J. Haynes said that, after a prolonged reconstruction, Southpoint Park would fully reopen by the end of the year. Even though Haynes was reading from a PowerPoint and is often out of the loop, the claim was striking. Any close look at the state of the park shorelines raises doubts. Moreover, serious work paused in September and has not resumed.
But it’s not just the clumsy, meant to please time frames, it’s how badly the apparent results fail what RIOC and its contractor pledged.
What was promised: West Shoreline
Langan’s rendering of the finished project brought protests over destroying Roosevelt Island’s last natural shoreline, aiming for a mimicking of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The design was meant for tourists, not locals who paid for it.
What we’re getting: Western Shoreline
Can it get worse? The Eastern Shoreline
Resident complaints forced RIOC/Langan to replace some of the world’s ugliest seating. Paths had to be widened for wheelchair access, but the result as the Eastern Shoreline nears opening is gut-wrenching.
What we’re getting: Eastern Shoreline
The final shoreline is so far off this promised rendering, it was hard getting an honest picture from the same perspective.
The Rest of Southpoint Park
RIOC has no answer for the switch that set aside community-based plans developed earlier with Fitzgerald & Halliday in favor of this mess. A months old FOIL request has not been completed. But it’s important noting that the rest of the shoreline is no better. And the original intent of mapping a plan for the Smallpox Hospital’s future was abandoned along with the wildlife, trees and wild grasses.
Here are some before and after perspectives….
Southpoint Park Shorelines, Early Summer 2020
A variety of wild grasses formed a dense network, home to small animals and insects vital to habitat survival.
In a presentation, Langan Engineering, RIOC’s partner, promised the reconstructed shoreline would be more natural than the one it repplaced.
Tree-filled shoreline on the east side of Southpoint Park in 2020 before RIOC sent in the backhoes.
Old growth trees on the Western Shoreline were the last to go, but go they did.
Southpoint Park Shorelines Today
The world’s ugliest benches that your money can buy.
Rock lined corridors to the shoreline pose instant hazards for children and wheelchairs.
Barriers to a thoroughly unimaginative shoreline, too low to prevent children from toppling over.
Ugly benches match ugly chairs. These too are unusable by many with physical challenges as Roosevelt Island drifts farther from its founding barrier free design.
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