What the hell’s going on with Blackwell House?

What the hell’s going on with Blackwell House? The question popped into my head last week when I saw the historic landmark under a protective wrap again.

What the hell's going on with Blackwell House
In August, a RIOC spokesperson said to expect a ribbon-cutting for reopening Blackwell House soon. Instead, two months later, yet another repair phase is underway.

In a Roosevelt Islander blog post, they asked, “… at what point will the condition of Blackwell House be such that it can be used for some purpose other than just staring at it?”

To get your mind around the mess RIOC’s made of this potentially gorgeous historic landmark, you need to know that that quote is from April, 2011.

RIOC had just agreed on a usage plan with the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

No kidding.

What the hell’s going on with Blackwell House? Intolerable dithering.

RIOC president Susan Rosenthal stakes her claim to success on infrastructure, and in June, 2017, her board approved $1,465 million for restoration of Blackwell House. The award went to AFL Construction.

A year later it was a mess and 50% more expensive.

Years of incompetent management haunt at September, 2018, Board Meeting

At that meeting, Stephen Noone, Assistant Vice President for Capital Planning, requested an increase $750,000. Above and beyond $1.465 million already awarded, ongoing repair work at Blackwell House demanded it.

Noone, since dismissed by RIOC, cited damages undiscovered until repair work started. This left the board little choice, and they approved the expense.

Noone said that, after opening up the building’s foundation, voids were found as well as no waterproofing.

Waterproofing, board members Kraut and Shinozaki noted, was contracted and paid for under an agreement approved for a prior administration.

Not just that, Shinozaki said, RIOC also paid a consultant to oversee the work and verify that it was done properly.

It was, as Noone discovered, never done at all.

What the hell’s going on at Blackwell House, today?

Two years and $2.4 million later, who the hell knows?

At September’s RIOC board meeting, Rosenthal said that “Blackwell House is not ready,” adding that Fire Department and Department of Building inspections were needed.

She did not offer details, and that made the wraparound of Blackwell House, weeks later, a surprise.

What the hell’s going on with Blackwell House? is no more important a question than Will we ever get the full story?

Millions of dollars invested with nothing to show for it, not even a competent explanation.


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