Hudson/RIOC Project Fails To Meet Expectations Again

Too Bad for Words, Roosevelt Island Information Kiosks Fail

Updated 36 weeks ago David Stone
Static map, the only significant feature of the Hudson/RIOC kiosks. But don't ask a question. You'll be talking to yourself.
Static map, the only significant feature of the Hudson/RIOC kiosks. But don't ask a question. You'll be talking to yourself.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Scorn began piling up among the audience settling in to observe RIOC's September Board Meeting, last night. Smart phone pictures circulated. But it wasn't until something happened when I went to check for myself that it became clear how really inadequate the kiosks are.

Critics concentrated on the fact that the kiosks are out of date on arrival, including the now defunct Riverwalk Bar & Grill on maps, which are hamstrung by being neither digital nor interactive as we expected, but static, difficult to correct or update.

But that's minor compared to two other flaws that cripple them.

Click for Roosevelt Island theme gifts and apparel.
Click for Roosevelt Island theme gifts and apparel.

What happened?

Less than a minute after a gentleman exiting the subway joined me at the kiosk, he turned to me and asked, "So, where am I supposed to go?"

"I can help you," I said. "I live here. What are you looking for?"

This was so much like other conversations with visitors over the years, sparked by questions the Hudson/RIOC kiosks do little or nothing to answer.

"680 Main Street," he told me.

"You can catch a bus, right here, and get off at Gristedes..."

"No," he interrupted. He preferred to walk.

I gave him walking directions to 680 Main Street.

Could you do that? Do you know where 680 Main Street is?"

If not, the kiosks will not help you either. They're static, remember. You can't ask them anything, which comes as a big surprise after Hudson likened them to highly interactive kiosks the city posted around town in recent years.

PS: 680 Main Street is RIOC's Operations office along the East Promenade beneath Motorgate, but it isn't marked anywhere along Main or, of course, on the kiosks.

But it's worse.

While the maps have most, by no means all, of important Roosevelt Island points of interest, nowhere will you find a street address. There's simply no 425, 625 or 436 Main Street.

Instead, the maps indicate building titles, Rivercross, Manhattan Park, etc., but without distinction. As far as you can tell from looking at the map, massive Roosevelt Landings is a single building adjacent to Capobianco field.

River Road? Nope, doesn't exist either.

And Hudson's own complex, Southtown? Not a single building designated by address.

As a longtime resident, I can find buildings by name, but can visitors? Cabbies? Ride shares? 

"Not bloody likely," as they used to say on Monty Python.

This shortcoming is fatal, but there's more.


After our visitor walked off toward 680 Main Street, something else dawned on me. 

The kiosks are coded with types of points of interest. One is "Transportation."

Guess what's missing?

Bus stops, all of them, red or MTA.

Having been asked many times by visitors, "How far does the bus go?" or "Does it go to the Lighthouse?" or "Can I take a bus to Four Freedoms Park?" I expect to continue answering the same questions for the foreseeable future.

...And one more thing...

My dictionary defines "kiosk" as "a small structure in a public area used for providing information or displaying advertisements, often incorporating an interactive display screen or screens." (Italics ours)

Am I the only person who expected the kiosks to be interactive? That's certainly the impression I got after sitting through presentations before RIOC and its committees.

Instead, all we get are fixed maps of extremely limited help. And as I discovered this morning, many visitors are going to do what they've always done -- ask a passerby for help or wander over to old reliable, the Historical Society's Visitor Center  where they've handed out maps for years and doubtless will need to continue to do so.

Oh, I almost forgot, the RI icon at the base of the kiosk does not conform to the RI Welcome Monument. It uses the same dull Helvetica fonts, but it's ultra boring grey, not red.

If you see a number of your neighbors shaking their heads in disbelief over the next few days, the Hudson/RIOC kiosks may be the explanation. 

Not just an opportunity missed, but a clownish blunder we're likely to be stuck with based on Hudson's recent history of "We know best" intransigence.



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