What happened to the promised Lighthouse Park expansion?

What happened to the promised Lighthouse Park expansion?

It’s January 9th, 2020, and a Lighthouse Park expansion is on the table. Led by Assistant Vice President Jonna Carmona-Graf, RIOC brought the community together in the Good Shepherd Community Center. The goal: Getting everyone’s ideas and values on how to do it best. The result: An unlicensed, unmanaged dump abandoned to nature.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The promised expansion in Lighthouse Park

Back in the day, RIOC really did seek community input. And Roosevelt Islanders responded on a cold winter night, gathering in Good Shepherd Community Center. They volunteered ideas and critiqued the state’s options.

Carmona-Graf, a highly regarded expert after 23 years with New York City Parks, had been with RIOC for less than a year, running Capital Planning and Projects.

The plan was general with hopes that community sentiment would fill in the blanks. (See the expansion plan here.) And Roosevelt Islanders responded. Even on a cold winter night, they packed the community center and dug in with their ideas.

The expansion area, where old buildings were torn down and a seldom used parking lot remained, ran from the current Lighthouse Park all the way down to the grassy island where the Octagon dog run sits. It was partly inspired by the success of FIGMENT NYC 2019, which showed that visitors would come in droves for a clean park experience.

Today, the promised new park space is a dumping ground, free parking for contractors unneeded materials.

RIOC, Carmona-Graf said, had $11 million set aside for the project. There would be more trees, places to play, picnic areas and improved restrooms.

Community involvement in public projects matters because, well, it’s the community that has to live with the results. And RIOC got avid collaboration from Roosevelt Islanders.

While few saw the slowdown COVID would soon cause, even fewer – like nobody – foresaw RIOC’s abandoning the whole project.

This is how Lighthouse Park looks today.

The Lighthouse Park expansion area today. This is not what RIOC or the community envisioned in 2020. But the new RIOC sees Roosevelt Island differently.

“Have you seen the growing mess that’s building up across multiple spaces in the new construction holding area east of the Coler Hospital?” a resident asked.

“Walking past the other day, I noticed it has gotten worse with piles of random timber, plastic buckets and many other unnecessary piles of construction rubbish.

“A disgusting welcome to Lighthouse Park for those taking the East Promenade.”

RIOC’s Lighthouse Park Dump

Plans for Lighthouse Park’s expansion were dropped suddenly last year.

The expansion would’ve added new features and activities to Lighthouse Park while repairing damage from various storms. But Carmona-Graf left RIOC in June 2020, under unexplained circumstances, and the project died with her.

Compost dumped in the now empty lot.

What’s left is an unlicensed, unmanaged dump that violates city law. It’s a Lighthouse Park expansion in name only.

More recently, RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes mumbled something about putting in a new parking garage costing around $4.5 million. Ugly as that is, it beats the hell out of the dump we have now.

Pitch in a few bucks for The Daily’s expenses

Thank you.

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