David Stone
On September 24th, site demolition was underway as Granny Annie's is planning a spring opening.
On September 24th, site demolition was underway as Granny Annie's is planning a spring opening.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

It looked like good news when the Roosevelt Islander posted on September 23rd that a new restaurant was already under construction to replace Riverwalk Bar & Grill, after more than a year's vacancy. But I got an unpleasant surprise when I stopped for a visit, and Hudson Related, no surprise, worsened concerns, acting as if there's something to hide from local residents and media.

A Promising New Restaurant and Bar for Roosevelt Island

The news came as a surprise because Hudson Related hadn't pushed out a press release about a lease signing, SOP since contracting with RIOC to develop Main Street Retail, and unlike with The Sanctuary, they should have nothing to hide.

But seeing that work was underway inside, a day later, I walked into the long-idled space where Jonathan Hoo kept Riverwalk Bar & Grill going for "...nine good years." His business collapsed when RIOC abruptly closed Octagon Field in August, 2018, amid safety concerns over its deteriorated carpet. The move deprived him of a vital revenue stream from sports teams coming via subway and tram for competitions.

To be honest, I had some questions, especially in light of Hudson Related's stealth opening of The Sanctuary, an event space, speakeasy and outdoor beer garden dumped in-between a string of public parks on a fire lane near The Octagon.

And like with The Sanctuary and two recent food venues, no building permits were posted, etc. (RIOC rejects enforcement responsibilities, negligently calling these "Hudson properties" and leaving government regulations to the commercial giant.)

But what the hell...?

A Granny Annie's Surprise...

As soon as I mentioned reading about the new Granny Annie's, one of two men working at demolishing the interior, erasing all reminders of Riverwalk Bar & Grill, grumped about the Roosevelt Islander's report.

He claimed that the Roosevelt Islander attributed to them comments they never made.

"We're open for everybody," he argued.

I assumed two things, right away.

  1. He was referring to the Roosevelt Islander's quote that Granny Annies would be a "...family friendly place. Not a sports bar..."
  2. And that he was wrong. I know Roosevelt Islander publisher Rick O'Conor. He's been at it for more than ten years, and his readership is still high because readers trust him. A conscientious journalist, he doesn't make things up.

Whatever...

After conferring briefly, I volunteered that I'd wait to publish anything in The Daily until Hudson Related put out its press release. According to the owners, that was expected the next day. They'd talked with Hudson president David Kramer, and he'd given them that date.

But it never came.

The Press Release That Went Off-Island

Called out over a steady stream of broken promises about Main Street retail openings, Hudson Related stopped answering emails from us and sending press releases too.*

*The press release ban has apparently been joined by RIOC from whom I've also stopped receiving them about anything since last week. The joint venture in press censorship seems inspired by balanced coverage requiring reporting on the bad as well as the good. Neither RIOC nor Hudson Related consider the free press to be a two-way street.

But evidenced by October 28th reporting on Granny Annie's in Eater, a fawning publication willing to follow Hudson Related's line on both the new restaurant and The Sanctuary, at least one press release had been spun, just not anywhere near the location of the new restaurant.

(The Daily thanks reader Suzy Leitner for the tip.)

Eater is run by Vox Media, a conglomerate of publications headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Will a Hudson Related vendor again escape scrutiny over DOB and other regulations? Probably, but if they do things the right way, it won't be because Hudson Related sets a high standard. There's a track record, after all, and with RIOC looking the other way...

After listening to the complaints, digging for sketchy, reluctant information and being promised a Hudson Related press release the next day, I asked about their building permit.

"We don't need one. We're not doing electrical work."

Hm.

Near the piles of debris were wires terminated from walls and ceiling.

And it was ridiculous anyway. "Electrical work" is not a criterion for requiring a building permit. Hudson Related knows that. So does RIOC.

But it makes no difference.