About the long-neglected tree beds on Main Street, a resident wrote, “They are first and foremost eyesores, and then safety hazards. It’s impossible to believe — No, wait – not impossible — the neglect going on this long.” We took a look around on the 4th of July weekend. Neglecting the center of town seems a RIOC habit.
by David Stone
The point of tree beds on city sidewalks is to make the surroundings more attractive while providing a home for greenery. They should be welcoming places, an oasis in the middle of concrete and asphalt.
On Roosevelt Island, they’re neither. Instead, they’re an embarrassment, repositories for weeds, and – as one resident put it to us – “first and foremost eyesores, and then safety hazards.”
We walked around on the 4th of July weekend to see for ourselves, confirming the neglect going on for years now.
Take a look at these pictures and see if you can spot the problem. It’s not just that the tree beds are full of weeds. It’s not just that they haven’t been planted in years.
It’s that they’re a disgrace, an indictment of those responsible for Roosevelt Island’s public spaces.
And there are plenty of those. First, there’s the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a state-run entity that is, in theory, responsible for the island’s physical plant. Then there are the Shops On Main and the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, both of which are supposed to be advocating for the island community.
Going the Other Way on the 4th
If not in population, then in attention, Roosevelt Island has tilted south over the last decade. With the opening of FDR Four Freedoms State Park, Southpoint and Cornell Technion, eyes turned away from the community core on Main Street.
The Main Street Canyon is where the town started, and it’s still where most people live. This makes the neglect stark. And it tells us why subway and Tram riders visiting Roosevelt Island, for the 4th of July and the rest of the year, immediately turn south.
Few ever see the landmark community that changed New York City’s urban focus and helped drag it out from its worst days in the 1960s and ’70s.
But as we made our way north, starting at the well-appointed New York State Shelton J. Haynes & Friends Parking Area, the story was more than tree beds abandoned.
From Blackwell House to Westview, we saw an unbroken chain of neglect. Even though a tough resilient community still came out to dine at Nisi, the rawness of Main Street stands out. It’s as if RIOC hung out a sign: Don’t Come Back… if you wandered this far away from the main event in the first place.
Conclusion: When Community Managers Neglect Urban Spaces
The neglect is especially striking because it’s so unnecessary. With just a little care, the center of town could be a showplace, a jewel in Roosevelt Island’s crown, an attraction for residents and visitors alike. Instead, it’s an embarrassment that says much about those responsible for its upkeep.
What do you think? How would you rate the job being done by those responsible for Roosevelt Island’s public spaces? Let us know in the comments.
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