New York City

A Sunny Side of Main on Roosevelt Island

A sunny side of Main Street on Roosevelt Island rises into view soon after you leave the half-abandoned canyon and Shops On Main.

By David Stone

There is a sunny side of Main Street on Roosevelt Island, but it’s not as planned. Ten years ago, RIOC handed over retail to Hudson-Related, a pairing already building Southtown.

The intent was revitalizing the corridor, but for the most part, it’s been a bust. Still, waling south, escaping Shops On Main, Hudson Related’s failed initiative, you find fresh energy and promise.

Main Street Entrance, Roosevelt Island NYPL
Hours posted, coronavirus warnings in place, NYPL’s main entrance is ready for the inside’s completion and restrictions lifted.

The Sunny Side of Main

You’ve gotta head south.

Yesterday, July 29th, we updated concerns about the grim realities looming over the future of Main Street, but that’s not the full picture…

Because, as soon as you escape the failing canyon area, a sunny side of Main Street hosts a string of gems very close to welcoming all comers. And irony of ironies, much of the credit goes to Hudson-Related, suggesting that straying from their mission caused failures.

Start with the new New York Public library branch pictured above.

All local, 24/7/365: Roosevelt Island News

A little less than two years ago, officials gathered for a groundbreaking, taking claim for spending your tax money on a new library for Roosevelt Island. It would open in one year, they said, but this is city government. And nobody really expected that timing.

Inside the new library, under construction.
A look at the chaotic interior of the new branch tells us that it’ll take a while to catch up with its entrance.

According to ads online, the old branch at 524 Main is ready for leasing in September, which means the migration south is expected by then.

Historically, it’s significant.

This library’s roots date back forty years to the Roosevelt Island Community Library Association, volunteers who started collecting and lending in Westview in the 1970s. In 1998, RICLA sold its 30,000 volumes to NYPL, and two and a half years ago, they donated $3,700 left in their treasury.

A move is on for naming the new branch after Roosevelt Island pioneer Alice Childress. Childress, a literary giant, took part in the library’s earliest formation.

Blackwell House Is Ready

Even more historic — plus closer to opening — is Blackwell House, a preserved 18th Century treasure, once a founding family’s home.

This sunny side of this Main Street gem emerges after twenty years of struggle.

Blackwell House, Rear Entrance on  the sunny side of  Main Street
The familiar rear entrance of Blackwell House awaits only the lifting of coronavirus restrictions before swinging open.

Credit goes to Judith Berdy and the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s tireless push for returning Blackwell House to public access. And credit also goes to mysteriously ousted RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal whose muscular efforts were critical.

Long under construction, plagued by troubles, it gained city DOB approval in June.


Plans for use remain unclear, but both RIOC and RIHS eagerly await the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Sunny Side of Main Street Brightens with Diversity

An affordable housing lottery for rentals in 460 Main Street closed up on July 6th. Built by Hudson-Related, it’s modeled after other attractive Southtown structures.

And it fits in without a hiccup, the eighth of nine buildings planned for Southtown.

460 Main Street entrance.
A welcoming entrance waits to greet new arrivals as soon as the lottery process completes.

Related is sorting through lottery submissions aimed at economic diversity with new residents from the homeless to middle class. No timetable for opening is public, so far.

Granny Annies on the Sunny Side of Main Street

Two years after Riverwalk Bar & Grill shut down after RIOC abruptly closed soccer fields, depriving them of customers, Granny Annies readies for opening. And, in case you’re wondering, the grammatical error, the missing apostrophe, is theirs.

On the sunny side of Main Street, Granny Annies under construction.
Interior construction of Granny Annies, end of July, 2020.

According to local news, Grannie Annies hopes to open in August, the final feature in our story about the sunny side of Main Street.

But a quick look yesterday, July 29th, tells a different story. Interior construction remains largely unfinished, and a hefty wait for DOB approval, once that’s done, moves the date closer to Christmas.

It’s been a long wait, but a holiday feast at Granny Annies is worth looking forward to.

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