Hudson dumps speakeasy in Roosevelt Island Park

Hudson’s plan to dump a speakeasy in Roosevelt Island park space capped a day of changes. Just as RIOC stepped up to protect residents, Hudson released plans to damage the community. Again.

Developing, Hudson plans to dump a speakeasy in Roosevelt Island park space.
Before news of Hudson’s plan to dump a speakeasy in park space, repurposing an historic church, RIOC president Susan Rosenthal and Public Safety acting director Kevin Brown followed up on our report.

“The lights are coming back on at a spooky, nearly century-old Roosevelt Island church — not for prayer, but for partying.”

That’s the lede from a story in yesterday’s New York Post.

And it gets worse.

Adding to their stealth initiative to dump a speakeasy in Roosevelt Island park space, Hudson leaned on The Post for happy face reporting without a local press release.

“This beautiful, historic building has been a place of comfort and celebration for nearly 100 years. As it lay vacant, we knew it had potential to bring even more memories to this community … while maintaining the historical integrity of this incredible structure.”

Hudson Companies’ project manager Alexandra Kaplan

Clueless, but that’s how Hudson explains unloading a speakeasy never discussed with anyone living here.

But First, The Sanctuary Event Space

“Sanctuary Event Space” split the seams on Roosevelt Island for the first time, this week. Tuesday, someone plastered posters on kiosks about a fundraiser for the Titan Theatre Company.

“…at The Sanctuary, 851 Main Street, Roosevelt Island.”

Hudson “leased the former Dayspring Church and is turning it into a health-focused, speakeasy-style bistro, cocktail bar, alfresco beer garden and an event space for community and nonprofit use,” according to the Post.

Before that shock settled in, The Daily discovered a second event already planned: “an intimate pop-up dinner on New York’s most intimate island,” on October 14th.

“La Nueva Mesa kicks off a pop-up dinner series with a wine-paired six-course locally sourced plant based meal,” we found, and it’s only $125 a pop.

Hudson dumps a speakeasy on Roosevelt Island. What’s wrong with that?

Just about everything.

Location, location, location… Isn’t that what real estate is supposed to be about?

The former Dayspring Church sits on a plot connecting Octagon Park, adjacent playgrounds, the soccer field and an exercise park along the West Promenade.

But Hudson thinks this is a great spot for an outdoor beer garden.

It will take away the pleasures of the parks and make the whole area less safe.

RIOC Steps In

Hudson failed to notify it’s partner, RIOC, a State agency, before signing off to dump a speakeasy in Roosevelt Island. After we broke the story, they acted.

A critical concern, among many others, is that vehicle access to The Sanctuary is only possible by driving through a fire lane. There is no stop sign at the end of the lane where it meets the Promenade.

A fire lane bordered by a playground and a park...
The single vehicle access route to The Sanctuary is a fire line bordered by a park, a playground and a daycare center, without sidewalks or lane striping.

No active road exists, and the fire lane, bordered by a park, a playground and a daycare center, doesn’t have sidewalks or lane striping. Worse yet, you get to that only after driving through The Octagon’s parking lot, never intended for two-way traffic.

Earlier, we asked Hudson president David Kramer how he planned to handle the traffic issues. He didn’t answer. Probably couldn’t. Not his problem. He just collects the rent on behalf of Hudson and partner Related, which funnels part of it to Trump’s campaign.

RIOC Forced To Act on Short Notice

“After considering the site, PSD will not be allowing any parking at the site of the event,” RIOC told the Daily, late yesterday. “All existing fire lanes and roadways will be kept clear during the event. Anyone who drives to the event will have to park in Motorgate.

“PSD will be on hand to monitor the situation,” RIOC adds, setting up an Uber turnaround away from the venue so as to minimize traffic congestion. PSD will also monitor noise levels during the event. Anyone who has a complaint, contact PSD directly at 212-832-4545.”

That effectively handles one event, but others are coming along with the detestable intrusion of a speakeasy and an outdoor beer garden on our Parks.

Hudson dumps speakeasy on Roosevelt Island: Other issues

Top of the list: The Sanctuary’s operators have not applied for required licenses but are going full steam ahead anyway.

A search of the city Department of Buildings database does not reveal an occupancy permit, not even an application. And no building permit for construction either.

Both event announcements promise alcohol, not unexpectedly, but there is no license for it.

A well-informed source tells us that “…any venue in the City that intends to distribute or sell alcohol as part of its commercial operation requires at the very least a beer and wine license from the State Liquor Control Board.”

The SLC relies on Community Board 8’s review and recommendation, but The Sanctuary has not appeared before CB8.

Being “..on Roosevelt Island does not negate this requirement,” our source concludes.

Conclusion: About Hudson’s plan to dump a speakeasy in Roosevelt Island…

There’s far more wrong than right with this poorly thought out assault on Roosevelt Island’s quality of life.

RIOC cannot be leaned on repeatedly to insure safety where a business owner disregards it. It’s impossible to see how this location can ever be suitable for a speakeasy or outdoor beer garden.

Imagine tipsy revelers wandering into the parks and along the seawall.

Who cleans up? Who prosecutes the inevitable crimes as we welcome public urination over the seawall?

RIOC deals with the immediate traffic issues, but what about licensing?

It’s clear that Hudson doesn’t care about the quality of life degradation it’s forcing on residents, but laws and regulations are there for a reason.

Someone, hopefully RIOC, maybe The Octagon, needs to step up and say, “Not here, not on Roosevelt Island.”

Before it’s too late.



  1. All your articles are never anything inspiring or positive. Everything is so negative, filled with complaints. Also, what does that picture of them filming have to do with this article? You must be a barrel of laughs at parties.

    1. Author

      You apparently ignored the flurry of articles about Fall For Arts and Roy Eaton, this week. You see what you want to see and reach a biased conclusion. It’s not a picture of the filming of Prodigal. It’s RIOC’s president and acting PSD chief onsite at the “Sanctuary.” They just happened to be wrapping up after filming at the time, but that was unrelated. Sorry you didn’t bother reading the article. You might’ve learned something and not made these errors.

  2. No, I haven’t overlooked those articles and I appreciate you drawing attention to those events. However, a large portion of the articles posted on the Daily center around dealing with RIOC and the issues associated bureaucratic red tape, and also Hudson Related and their issues of filling the empty store fronts on Roosevelt Island.

    A group is willing to take a risk and start a business on Roosevelt Island, a place where you adeptly have reported many business have failed. Further, they have cleaned up and re-purposed an unsightly abandoned building. God forbid they circumnavigated the red tape that prevents anything from getting done here.

    I can see your concerns regarding the traffic around the Octagon, but an easy no-brainier solution is have a crossing/traffic guard posted at pedestrian crossing locations. Further, most travelers to (from the city at least), and most residents on Roosevelt Island are not going to be driving. The red bus stops in front of the Octogan, and the closest public street parking is on Main Street next to the future Jack McManus field. Minus the lucky few who are able to park in the handful of spots across from the Sanctuary – it seems like most people will be walking.

    Further, Roosevelt Island is an island – the concerns of an over-inebriated guest going over the seawall the same at the Sanctuary as it is at the old Riverwalk location. Further, public urination is a issue associated with any bar not just isolated issue that can occur here. I’m assuming the building has working plumbing.

    Public relations matter – and instead of bashing the group, why not try promoting the new location or celebrate the fact that they’re willing to take a risk here. Hopefully the Sanctuary is successful and can draw new people to Roosevelt Island.

    1. Author

      This location is and always will be inappropriate for this or a similar purpose. It’s only 25 feet across a fire lane from a kids playground and picnic area. I doubt, by the way, that visitors are likely to be Roosevelt Islanders. The first two events are pitched to off-Islanders, and if Hudson was so interested in locals, how come they never did a local press release as they usually do? They’ve been trying to sneak it in without giving residents a voice.

      So, your idea of a solution is to have a crossing guard posted 24 hours a day? At whose expense? RIOC’s out of money we pay for PSD out of rents.

      In this remote space, who’s going to control noise from the outdoor beer garden? Cooking smells? Octagon residents already get a summer long drift of barbecue smells and sounds from the park without complaint, but those are only in the summer and quiet after sunset. Why should residents, dog walkers, kids and families be forced to tolerate Manhattan level noises and other disruptions? Have you noticed the Manhattan stink all weekend as garbage awaits pick up on Monday morning? Get ready for it here because the church is not on the AVAC system. Where will they park their dumpster, if they even bother? Over the weekend, I saw Sanctuary personnel dumping their trash in the public waste cans next to the playground. They haven’t even bothered to arrange trash pick up. That should make for a real treat tonight.

      And just for the record, the only reason The Sanctuary moved so fast is because they ignored all the rules, maybe hoping Hudson will help them skate by laws established to protect the rest of us. 1) They have no liquor license, although alcohol is on the menu attendees paid for, never even applied yet; 2) they’ve never posted a building permit; 3) they have no occupancy permit and 4) there has been no FDNY inspection. If these guys are so great, why don’t they play by the rules the rest of us honor?

      I’ll repeat. This is a completely inappropriate use of the space. Hudson knows it, and that’s why they were so sneaky. The area was never intended or designed for this kind of use, and both Hudson and the owners – plus RIOC if they don’t act to stop it – are abusing the privilege of being a part of this community.

      1. Why would you need a crossing guard posted for 24 hours a day? Just during operating hours when the business is open. Further, the business should be providing this similar to a bouncer or security. The fire lane is used all day by deliveries to the Octagon building without any crossing guards – there doesn’t seem to be any issues.

        NYC Local Law 113 requires quiet hours from 10 PM to 7 am – so if the noise emitting from the outdoor beer garden is above the allowable limits during that time frame residents should call 311, Public Safety or the 114th Pct. The Bohemian Beer Garden, in not too far away Astoria, would be a good example of how the outdoor area can function. It is in a residential neighborhood and is able to maintain a good relationship with its neighbors and be a center of the community.

        Who would complain about the smells of a BBQ or people outside enjoying the park in the summer, really? This a moot point. Most bar restaurants close the kitchen around 10 PM anyways. Residents are significantly more likely to be agitated by the smells and noises coming from the apartment next to them.

        I never said they were great, nor do I necessarily agree with them proceeding without permits if they were required. However, I think it is a lot more common than you would like to believe that a business opened with permits pending or incomplete.

        While it is your opinion it’s a complete inappropriate use of the space. It appears that Hudson’s opinion, who develops real estate for a living, it isn’t. Again, a business is opening on Roosevelt Island in an abandoned building. How are the rest of the empty store fronts doing? It’s not a coincidence that they store fronts close and stay closed. Roosevelt Island is not the most viable location to operate any business. Hudson doesn’t have an easy job promoting Roosevelt Island as a viable business location. Like you have mentioned many times, there’s many grand openings, grand closings here.

        Again, you have raised some concerns, albeit in this reader’s opinion minor concerns, but nevertheless they all seem very solvable. Some of the concerns are just the nature of living in the metropolitan area and are frankly unavoidable.

  3. Author

    As you are clearly a Hudson-Related plant doing the bidding for the owners who’ve been hiding, I’m not going to bother replying to you anymore. My arguments are clear in the articles written, and now, you’ve had your piece. Enough of these weak rationalizations for inappropriate behavior, an ongoing feature of Hudson-Related’s tenure here.

  4. On the contrary, I have absolutely nothing to do with Hudson-Related. I merely playing devil’s advocate as a neutral third party member to point out some of the flaws in your agenda ridden logic. Rather than engage in logic based discussion, provide your own input or solution you elect to take the easy route: sit there, point fingers and stomp your feet.

  5. Author

    Sorry. No sale. You never commented on anything else and only sprang to life as a follower when you rushed to defend Hudson-Related. It’s the single interest you’ve shown, and you bend over backwards to rationalize to their defense. Sorry, nobody does that as a neutral third party. It doesn’t work like that.

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