Southpoint Reflections: What We Had, Wanted and Got


This week marks the two year anniversary of the day RIOC began the wholesale destruction Southpoint Park. Everyone agreed that the seawalls needed fixing, but there the agreements end. Going against community wishes developed during yearlong planning, the state ripped away to devastating effect.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Then and Now at Southpoint

Consider the contrasts along the east shore of Southpoint Park.

In July 2020 before RIOC brought in the shovels and backhoes, the east shore was blanketed with trees and underbrush in a naturally developed shoreline. You can see the original animal sanctuary set up by the Wildlife Freedom Foundation on the left.

The same view in 2022.

All the natural vegetation was ripped out and replaced with the hideous Shelton J. Haynes/Langan Rock Farm. It’s so ugly that nobody from RIOC showed up for its opening. When Governor Kathy Hochul’s team announced it, they included only sunset photos where you’d focus on the skyline, not this sick mess.

What RIOC promised they were building in this spot…

The reality in 2022 does not resemble what RIOC and it partner Langan Engineering said they were building when they tore up Southpoint.

What Could Have Been Made of Southpoint Park

Throughout 2018, Roosevelt Islanders took part in planning a future for Southpoint Park with Fitzgerald and Halliday. The plan was approved by the board in early 2019, and President/CEO Susan Rosenthal said they were ready to go.

It was all good until it wasn’t.

For reasons unexplained and unchallenged by its out of the loop board, RIOC’s deep thinkers independently changed the plan. The result is the embarrassment you see today.

RIOC’s new plan, under Shelton J. Haynes, dismissed an agreement for comfortable seating for physically challenge visitors. Instead, for millions, we got logs joined with metal braces.

What Southpoint Might Have Been Before RIOC Cancelled the Community Plan

RIOC says the Shelton J. Haynes/Langan Rock Farm has “lush vegetation,” but here’s what lush vegetation actually looks like. This is Battery Park, also run by a public benefit corporation, like RIOC, but with sensitivity, brains and awareness RIOC lacks.

Roosevelt Islanders agreed on the need for a refreshment stand in Southpoint.

Seasonal refreshment stand in Battery Park.

Splurging on the Shelton J. Haynes/Langan Rock Farm, RIOC invested exactly nothing inside the park itself. But this seasonal stand reflects exactly what the community called for and RIOC dismissed.

There was once even a perfect location for it.

Rather than tuck a refreshment stand here where visitors to Southpoint and Four Freedoms Parks could relax, RIOC plowed under all of the wild grasses and smashed the trees into pulp.

Finally, the community wanted some place for kids to play. Like this…

Inexpensive fun and cooling in the summer heat in Battery Park.

We even found a welcoming location under shady trees for it.

A splashing pool for kids and kids at heart had plenty of spaces where it would fit. Here’s one.


Unless and until some way is found for bringing responsible, community-oriented leadership to Roosevelt Island, results like these are inevitable. Neither elected officials nor RIOC’s hapless board seems able or willing to change Governor Hochul’s hold on Roosevelt Island through Shelton J. Haynes and company.

Best hope: When the state’s lease runs out in 2068, but with development nearing completion, maybe an early termination is possible. Maybe, one day, Roosevelt Islanders will vote for the leaders who spend their money currently without any kind of consent.


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