Bumbling Along with the Tourists

Continuing Saga of RIOC and Its (Absence of) Signs

Peter McCarthy
Lamppost banners like this one can be better used, according to Roosevelt Island historian Judy Berdy.
Lamppost banners like this one can be better used, according to Roosevelt Island historian Judy Berdy.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

"This is a community disgrace," wrote Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy. "Something is VERY, very wrong here. Why should any island organization be priced out of using our own lampposts to publicize their community-serving work?"

Berdy, who serves as our unofficial ambassador at the Visitor Center Kiosk with little help from RIOC, had reason to be incensed.

(By the way, many assume that RIOC runs the Visitor Center. They do not. It's the Historical Society that gets credit, including for the historical structure itself, which Berdy pried loose from the MTA.)

But back to the next RIOC sign boondoggle.

"We have been watching visitors coming off the ferry with no knowledge of where to visit on the Island," Berdy explained.

Tram riders often find their way across the plaza to the Visitor Center.

"The RIHS asked RIOC to post fabric banners on the lamp-posts near the ferry landing. These would welcome and direct visitors arriving by ferry to the island sites and to the Visitor Center.

"There are lots of lamp-posts that have the brackets attached but no banners fluttering from them."

What Berdy found out was startling.

"When asked about using the lamppost brackets for banners, RIOC President Susan Rosenthal referred me to a staff member who has no knowledge of the banners. I was referred to yet another staff member, who sent me a price chart that indicates that placing a banner on a lamppost costs $300 per month, or only $210 per month for a not-for-profit organization!  

"This is a shocking charge in addition to paying RIOC $100 for installing each banner."

This may explain the paucity of banners posted by anyone but RIOC, complete with the New York State Seal, generic and with a connection to the spirit of our community about as tenuous as RIOC's is.

Berdy has a solution.

"I am challenging RIOC to donate free-of-charge the lamppost brackets for at least 8 banners: the six landmarks: Blackwell House, Chapel of the Good Shepherd, The Octagon, the Lighthouse, Strecker Laboratory, Smallpox Hospital, The RIHS Visitor Center, The Ferry landing. You can name more sites, but these are our best choices to start by celebrating our landmark structures."

And she invites other Island organizations to join cause with her.

"Other Island groups should get on the band wagon to take back our lampposts and request that their groups get free usage of the brackets. The Island groups could pay a small, reasonable fee for installation and purchase the banners to size specifications themselves."

RIOC need do nothing more than hang the banners. It would be a valuable community service after failing for decades to do much of anything to help visitors find their way around Roosevelt Island.

"There are great and imaginative Roosevelt Islanders that can design wonderful panoramas of history and community to flutter in our breezes."

This strikes us as an easy way to quickly make up ground RIOC and, as a result, the community has lost in failing to post even minimal informational signage anywhere on the Island.

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