In the fall of 2019, Lighthouse Park on Roosevelt Island’s northern tip was on the upswing. RIOC acquired no longer used lots from Coler Hospital and planned an extension with diversified activities. Still to come: The Girl Puzzle, large tree plantings and a restoration for the historic lighthouse. What went wrong?
by David Stone
In late 2019, after RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal announced a deal with Coler Hospital allowing for a community takeover of large, unused swaths of space along the east side of the Island, a Town Hall was staged.
Residents gathered with RIOC staff and planners, helping decide how the new space would be used. Play and exploration spaces, swings, hammocks… But we never heard about it again.
The pandemic – but more so in the long run Rosenthal’s dismissal – put a damper on all those hopeful plans. Rumors rumbled about building – Yikes! – a new parking ramp instead.
It took, though, over a year’s worth of complaints before RIOC even cleaned up the piles of debris scarring the property.
Inside Lighthouse Park
Despite inspired efforts by historian Judith Berdy to get more trees in the park, a walk inside doesn’t inspire hope. iDig2Learn, led by Christina Delfico, poured efforts into creating butterfly migration sanctuaries, but that’s not enough either.
Retaining walls just inside Lighthouse Park rot in plain sight. After the muddy, debris-strewn extension area, this is another depressing eyeful for visitors.
The Girl Puzzle… Puzzle
Less than two years after a widely covered ribbon-cutting ceremony, The Girl Puzzle needs extensive repair work on its concrete foundation. The original work was poorly done, and reports say that RIOC knew it.
Days before the announced completion date, the work appeared far from finished.
Dozens of blue markers indicate where work remains undone.
After an original advisory designed to deflect blame for shoddy workmanship and oversight, RIOC has not updated the project publicly.
With RIOC reeling in chaos near the apparent end of the Haynes era, the temptation to say, “Who knows?” is strong. Lighthouse Park symbolizes the rudderless operation RIOC has become.
But with changes underway and hopefully more dramatic ones ahead, we hope the focus on community and history in Lighthouse Park will get some attention.
The lighthouse itself, a historic landmark now fully restored, gets barely any attention from the authorities. After all the investments, like The Girl Puzzle and the extension, we’re watching negligence spread like a virus in the park.