3rd & Final Advisory Committee Meeting

Southpoint Park - Not Too Late to Speak Up

Updated 3 years ago Peter McCarthy
James Renwick Smallpox Hospital in Southpoint Park
James Renwick Smallpox Hospital in Southpoint Park
Photo Courtesy of Fitzgerald and Halliday

Next week, the future to Southpoint Park will harden with a specific direction embedded that is unlikely to change. If your future includes Roosevelt Island, you might want to weigh in with your thoughts while you still have time.

In May, Fitzgerald and Halliday, consultants hired by RIOC, took the first public step in gathering opinions and ideas from Roosevelt Island residents about what, if anything, should be done with Southpoint Park. A handpicked advisory committee as well as an interested audience were invited for a an initial introduction and brainstorming session

The question seemed peculiar at first. What, after all, about Southpoint Park needed to be reconsidered so soon after its public opening, just five years ago?

Driving the conversation are concerns about the park's popular historic relic, the Smallpox Hospital partially designed by James Renwick. Millions have already been invested in stabilizing it, and more will be needed if it's to have a viable future.

Adding importance is the park's position between two international titans, FDR Four Freedoms Park and Cornell Tech, which opens next year. Both have interests in Southpoint's future.

Next week, Fitzgerald and Halliday will convene a third and final meeting of the advisory committee, marking the last time that residents will have an opportunity to weigh in. The second meeting was a bit of a dud. Few people showed up, so few that one point of discussion was why attendance was sparse.

Are Roosevelt Islanders indifferent to the future of the brightest spot in our decreasing green space?

No easy answers are available, but as the consultants noted at the last get together, hundreds of people had visited their public listening and discussing sessions during events over the summer. And considerable input had been collected from a lengthy online survey.

Whatever the truth is, the issues are not trivial.

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.

And then, there's the issue of the Smallpox Hospital, a beloved local icon that has no current functional role and demands serious monetary investment to keep it standing and safe. 

While FDR Four Freedoms Park officials have expressed a strong preference for maintaining the ruins, no plan or financing has been identified. 

(Note: At the Daily we have expressed our opinion that, all things considered, especially the costs, the wise choice would be to bite the bullet and tear the ruins down.)

Wherever the process leads from here, decisions will soon be made that affect this valuable property for decades to come. We strongly recommend that you attend to at least listen and, perhaps, add the light of your own experience and values.

The public is welcome to attend this final meeting of the Southpoint Open Space Advisory Committee, and if Fitzgerald and Kennedy carry on as usual, comments will also be welcomed. Date and Time: Thursday, October 13th, 7:00 p.m. Place: Good Shepherd Community Center, Lower Level, 545 Main Street.

We hope to see you there.

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