Janet Falk roasted RIOC’s board in a tour de force presentation that savaged the “ugly” RI Monument. It was as much an indictment of the board for negligence concerning resident opinions.

Falk roasted RIOC Board over this "ugly" monument
IR (or) RI Monument (or Icon), view from Main Street

Janet Falk is a public relations specialist, and her writing and presentation skills are impressive. She is also “a representative of Southtown to the RIRA Common Council,” she said.

Janet Falk

Falk took on RIOC’s board at their September meeting in the Public Comments session. It precedes the official agenda and does not become part of the record.

But what Falk had to say won’t be soon forgotten.

Falk started simply with a message that proved ironic.

“Believe it or not, I am here at the invitation of Susan Rosenthal,” Falk said.

Rosenthal is RIOC’s Board President and CEO, and Falk recalled a an email thread from May. “The subject was the re-installation of the RI Monument on Tram Plaza,” she continued.

“I had believed it was a temporary installation, a three-month trial, starting on October 8, which would have ended on January 8 of this year.”

It’s on the record…

Falk’s right. RIOC’s Real Estate Advisory and Development Committee, which has Yea! or Nay! authority over the monument, granted Hudson a three month trial.

RIOC Board President Susan Rosenthal cozies up with Hudson’s David Kramer at the Monument.

Hudson President David Kramer, sponsor of the monument, listened to public comments, then got a go ahead based on the three month deal. He promised to take down the monument if “residents hate it.”

“But in fact, it was SEVEN months in May and is about ELEVEN months today,” Falk said, her emotions rising.

Falk argues that’s exactly the case as she roasted the RIOC Board in full.

“RIRA voted unanimously against the monument,” she reminded them. RIRA is recognized as the only body elected to represent Roosevelt Island residents exclusively.

Residents submitted comments against the monument, she said, and they were misplaced by RIOC executives. The board never looked at them.

RIOC flopped in promoting the unloved monument…

A jazz band played and a team tried to rally residents. It failed.

Falk roasted RIOC’s Board, laid a foundation, then demanded answers…

After constructing this background, Falk laid five questions at the board’s feet:

  1. On what date did the RIOC Board decide the “temporary” RI Monument would become permanent?
  2. What criteria were used to arrive at that decision of permanent installation?
  3. RIRA, as you may recall, voted overwhelmingly AGAINST the monument. What input did the residents have in that decision of permanent installation?
  4. When and how was this decision communicated to residents?
  5. What criteria and what process would reverse that decision?

Falk spoke and the board, virtually accused of negligence, sat silent.

When she wrapped up, David E. Kapell, a new member who shows signs of assuming a leadership role, broke ranks.

Kapell wasn’t ready to sign on to the “ugly” description, but he said he would take a look.

That willingness puts Kapell one step up on the rest of the board, one made up mostly of residents but followers in practice.

Since Margie Smith’s resignation, it’s rare to see a board member lock into resident concerns openly.

It was refreshing.

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2 Comments

  1. The RI monument is loved by tourists. Almost everyone who has a camera takes a
    picture there. It is wonderful as a tourist attraction for Roosevelt Island. It is a symbol
    for Roosevelt Island along with the tram and is loved by many residents as well.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Susan. There’s a wide diversion of opinion on the RI Monument/Icon, and everyone’s is valid. But I think I should better express what Janet had to say as it relates to your comment.

      First, both Janet and I would agree that the monument is not a “tourist attraction.” Tourists stop for pictures, yes, but they don’t come here, that is, they are not attracted here because of it. It just happens to be here when they arrive by Tram, and tourists take a lot of pictures. You don’t see the far larger number who arrive by subway traipsing down for a picture. They walk by, and it’s ugly and backward from their point of view. They are far more likely to stop at the visitor center for a pic.

      Realistically, the monument is less than any high school art class could come up with, and it’s derivative, stolen from Jim Dine’s LOVE sculpture on Sixth Avenue without any creative variation. Helvetica fonts are the most common in use all over the world, and the monument’s just an eight foot version painted a traditional Roosevelt Island red.

      What irritates Janet — and again I agree with her — is that the monument was put in place only because REDAC approved a three-month trial, after which a committee vote would be taken on it. Although Susan Rosenthal and David Kramer tried to ram it through as a “done deal,” the truth is that REDAC has the final say, not Rosenthal and Kramer. And REDAC never agreed to a permanent installation as far as anything on the public record.

      The three-month trial was required because of fierce resident resentment. Some like it, but a clear majority of those who spoke up to RIOC and on a poll I ran did not. More to the point, when agreeing to the temporary placement, Kramer agreed to take it down “if residents hate it.” Janet thinks he was lying and is unwilling to do so under any circumstances. She cites a unanimous Common Council vote of disapproval as proof of residents’ distaste for it. Yet, there it sits. That’s frustrating and a breach of faith from RIOC and promise from Kramer.

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