Is the now finished Southpoint “renovation” an example of tasteless bureaucrats run amuck or something worse? Redeeming virtues are few, and a walk through repeatedly brings up the question: Why?
By David Stone
Look at What RIOC and Partner Langan Call the Southpoint Renovation
When I was a kid, “urban renewal” was the next big thing. Aging cities revived with fresh designs breathing new life into public spaces. I can still remember the rendering of a future Court Street in my hometown, Binghamton. A decade later in Buffalo, wags jeeringly replaced urban renewal with “urban removal.” Millions invested yielded empty streets and sent people racing to the suburbs.
I thought of that when I walked through the Southpoint renovation for the first time. A view from the rendering, promising a vital new space, shows the contrast between pledge and reality.
Funny thing is, this is the closest RIOC/Langan comes to matching what they promised Roosevelt Islanders. But that was Sales, right? Now, we’re in Operations.
In a marketing blurb, RIOC invites visitors to “…rediscover the riverfront while relaxing on accessible seating.” These seats are not accessible, of course, nor are all but a few others in the reconstructed area. Embedded in mud and decaying leaves, these seats are not just ugly as sin, they’re unfinished. Mold has already got a foothold in the unsealed wood.
Near completion, the East Promenade required adjustments after residents pointed out that the pathway was too small for wheelchairs. The mismatched paving shows the fix, but it’s awkward and bordered by carelessly placed loose gravel.
The beat goes on…
One surprising fact, visitors openly preferred the old roadway for strolling. The sign, by the way, bans bikes on “pathways, sidewalk and rest areas.” Have they even been here? There is no sidewalk; and there are no rest areas, just rocks and loose brush.
Multiple residents expressed concern about the unprotected, boulder-strewn shoreline. Of special concern is incomplete fencing at Four Freedoms Park. Easily walked around at any time, day or night, with access to construction trailers and supplies, it’s also an open invitation for graffiti.
A half-dozen lounging chairs on the West Promenade will likely be popular, although limited in number. For some, they’re also much too close to an unprotected roadway.
Southpoint renovation: Compare the promise with the reality
Scrubby as it is, consider this match from what RIOC/Langan pitched Roosevelt Islanders.
An exact comparison is impossible because the view Langan created was imaginary, but Roosevelt Islanders deserved something closer to what they got stuck with.
A number of these clunky stone structures crop up along the East Promenade. None are visible in the renderings, but our best guess, they’re intended as entries to an unpaved and apparently abandoned pathway aligning the promenade. Wires restrict entry, but just barely. These appear too narrow for wheelchairs and yet another klutzy miscue in planning.
RIOC’s farcical social media posting promises “…quiet strolls through winding pathways lined with lush vegetation…” created from the Southpoint renovation. But we couldn’t find any. Neither can anyone else. Lined with poorly matched boulders is more like it.
What a mess this is. The saddest point? It can never be undone. The Southpoint Park residents helped build, paid for and enjoyed is gone, save limited space inside that RIOC/Langan hasn’t gotten their paws on yet.
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