On Roosevelt Design

Trellis, Nisi or 1960s Jetsons Waiting Room?

Peter McCarthy
Trellis as of May 24, 2016
Trellis as of May 24, 2016
© David Stone for the Roosevelt Island Daily

A recent post on the Roosevelt Islander blog contained undigested notes by a Residents' Association member claiming that the familiar name Trellis, upon reopening, might be replaced by one honoring Nisi, a Greek village. But as a community, we should be less concerned about the name, menu or opening date than about its strange contrast with its neighbors.

Who, I wonder, decided that an historic plaza dating back to the Nineteenth Century would be complimented by a structure that, at least as it sits today, looks more like a place where the Jetsons, a 1960s cartoon family, might wait for their spacecraft to begin boarding?

Glass outcroppings jump up in triangular configurations, floor to ceiling. Not only is it a misfit for Good Shepherd Plaza, it's hard to think of anything much like it between Roosevelt Island and the Museum of Modern Art.

My guess is that the idea was to give diners an unobstructed view of the plaza and Main Street. But what would people strolling or relaxing in the plaza see? 

Answer: A jutting, geometric intrusion, patrons partitioned off behind glass, that adds to the insult by making the tired facade of Island House look even more tired.

Until now, although slower than many hoped in developing, Hudson-Related's leasing has succeeded in freshening the look of Main Street. The Sweet Shoppe, which will soon lose business to the reopened diner, is attractive as you pass by, at least when not obstructed by scaffolding. And Wholesome Foods, among others, has opened with a clean, welcoming look. Nothing verged on inappropriate until now.

Calling the design for Trellis or Nisi a bad idea understates the case, and it seems like locals who should know better have been so eager to see it open, they failed to notice that it fits in adjacent to Good Shepherd Plaza like sausage fits in a veggie salad.

Who approved this design? Hudson-Related, the leasing agents? RIOC?

Someone once explained the ugly appearance of downtown Stamford, Connecticut, by saying that there had to be jobs for those who failed architecture school. We are looking at a new, smaller example, something clever in the blueprints but absurdly out of context next to a well-preserved, historic plaza.

So, where is the outrage? Roosevelt Islanders have been known to fume over less. A recent piece in the Main Street WIRE blasted RIOC for having the nerve to post signs on lampposts in the plaza, but the diner's violation of the esthetics of the historic space makes those signs trivial in perspective.

The signs have a purpose. They remind visitors that skateboarding, bicycling, etc. are unacceptable in this special place. The intrusiveness of the diner being completed is inexplicable.

The rebuilding of Trellis, having already been delayed for two years by, among other things, major design flaws, will undoubtedly be completed soon, and future Island residents will be left to wonder why no one raised a voice while there was still time to send it back to the drawing board.

Was everyone, from Hudson-Related to the Main Street WIRE, so blinded by their desire to have this popular venue back in business that they ignored the impact of a design so inappropriate? Whatever the answer, we're stuck with it.

Good Shepherd Plaza will soon have a neighbor with a cartoonish appearance George and Jane Jetson might appreciate.

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