RIOC’s Plan for Southpoint Park Hits Opposition
Worries about habitat destruction, developer overreach and more…
RIOC’s plans for Southpoint Park take a major first step in 2020, according to a presentation made to its board in October. The activity involves, not just restoring, but expanding East River access, spurred by Superstorm Sandy’s damages. But opponents vent protests over what looks like another RIOC stealth operation.
By David Stone
Update: RIOC Southpoint Park After Rosenthal’s Dismissal
On Friday, June 19th, Governor Cuomo fired RIOC President Susan Rosenthal. It came without prior notice, and it threw into chaos a variety of initiatives pushed by her.
Among them and now most protested, radical changes to Southpoint Park, and kids have now joined the fight.
So, what about the shoreline, the trees and the cat sanctuary…?
Note: This article was posted before RIOC’s knowledge and neglect of probable toxic waste throughout the park was disclosed.
Lead by Wildlife Freedom Foundation executive director Rossana Ceruzzi, protests stirred over Rosenthal’s plan even before her dismissal. And now, residents upset with them are likely to feel empowered.
A petition, SOS: Save Our Shorelines, which claims “Our beautiful old trees will be chopped off for the sole purpose of paving paths to increase visitors-access!” has gathered more than 2,640 signatures. Click the link above to sign on.
A further complication brews in a battle over RIOC’s forcing a precipitous relocation of WFF’s popular cat sanctuary.
This is a developing story that will fall in line with that of Rosenthal’s dismissal and her replacement, and we will continue tracking it.
When the always shaky plan to “enhance” Southpoint took shape, three and a half years ago, RIOC looked for resident input.
But why do anything at all?
Southpoint was barely five years old. Locals loved it. Utilitarian restrooms and uncomfortable seating brought the only complaints, but those were few. And easy to fix.
RIOC’s then “acting” president Susan Rosenthal cited “the future development of the Park and Ruins” The Renwick designed Smallpox Hospital, the “Ruins,” are a money sinkhole for which no saving plan exists.
“We can’t wait,” she said, referring to the Ruins.
But wait we have. And will.
Three and a half years later, Rosenthal’s lost the “acting,” but the Ruins are still without a plan.
RIOC’s Plan for Southpoint Park Ends at the water’s edge.
Langan’s Shoreline Restoration Project is just that, a plan that begins and ends at the water’s edge.
It will greatly increase riverside access, and it replaces aging riprap with manageable seawall protections. Pathways made with durable materials curl along natural contours.
But this first step leaves the ugly restrooms as ugly as ever. The seating may not be ADA compliant.
More concerning is an apparent commitment to bringing Brooklyn Bridge Park to Roosevelt Island. That model came up several times in Langan’s presentation, but nothing makes clear that it’s a good fit here.
Roosevelt Island’s never been generic.
To be fair, making the shoreline accessible has no relationship with restrooms, but the plan radically changes the park’s character. And it does so without answering any of the wishes residents had for it.
In straight talk…
The illustration above is nothing like the much loved park we’ve enjoyed since 2011, and who needs a scenic view of the Ravenswood power plant, anyway?
Especially at the expense of the cat sanctuary residents petitioned to save, fighting off RIOC, just last year, and consequential damages to the natural environment…
What’s in a name change?
What started as Southpoint Park or just Southpoint, reclaimed from a ruined landscape, evolved suddenly. When RIOC recruited Fitzgerald and Halliday to shape the park’s future, it got a new name: Southpoint Open Space.
No reason given.
Today, RIOC’s given it an ungainly bastardization: Southpoint Open Space Park. Who says you can’t please everybody?
But what lags in all the plans so far, besides doing nothing to save and make usable the Smallpox Hospital, are things residents want.
RIOC Southpoint Park, Sans Residents
As we reported in October, 2016 as Fitzgerald and Halliday wrapped up…
One vocal group hopes to keep Southpoint Park pristine as it is now, without commercial intrusion. Another, equally vocal, believes we miss out on revenue from tourists on their way to FDR Four Freedoms Park by not putting so much as a small cafe in their way.Roosevelt Island Daily
Southpoint — Not Too Late To Speak Up
After spending a big chunk of cash on that survey, RIOC seems to have done nothing with the results in the intervening three years, although the shoreline restoration project slants toward tourists, not residents.
Being RIOC, they just might be pulling off their dream for Southpoint Park and saying nothing to limit local protests.
Local protests are rising anyway. As quoted above, Rossana Ceruzzi, leader of the Wildlife Freedom Foundation believes the plan will destroy natural habitats already in place.
An then, there’s this from Lewis Smithingham…
Developers attempt to get rid of green space and an animal sanctuary so they can increase property value.
We may not have heard the last of RIOC’s Southpoint Park Plan.