Steps Forward Countered With Setbacks

Today: Is Main Street moving in the right - or any - direction?

David Stone
Idled for many years, Blackwell House may finally welcome visitors again this summer.
Idled for many years, Blackwell House may finally welcome visitors again this summer.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

The rumor mill kicked into gear for the topsy-turvy universe of Main Street retail and accompanying attractions when hot pot soup vendor Liukoushui pealed paper away from its front window, signaling an opening. But was it real? Time to take a look.

When Hudson announced Liukoushui's lease signing in October, the managers of Shops On Main wildly projected an impossible opening by the end of the year. Wisely, though, they didn't specify which year.

Notwithstanding the rigorous demands of building out a retail establishment in space that sat idle for years, required approvals from the City Departments of Buildings and Health can easily eat up that much time after construction's complete.

It shouldn't be lost on most of us that laggardly DOB inspections were a primary cause of Nisi - formerly Trellis - taking nearly three years to get back in business.

Liukoushui's windows have been cleared and cleaned but don't expect to step inside soon.
Liukoushui's windows have been cleared and cleaned but don't expect to step inside soon.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

And you should expect similar delays before anyone gets to settle into hot pot delights at 568 Main.

According to Ryan, the onsite manager, Liukoushui remains "under construction," which means it's too soon to even consider inviting City inspectors in for a look around.

Manager Ryan describes the hot pot restaurant still "under construction," but hopeful. Much depends, unfortunately, on slow moving City departments.
Manager Ryan describes the hot pot restaurant still "under construction," but hopeful. Much depends, unfortunately, on slow moving City departments.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Best, responsible projection: we'll be lucky to see a grand opening before the end of summer.

Once rehabbing is completed, what good use can be made of the performance space in the courtyard behind Roosevelt Landings?
Once rehabbing is completed, what good use can be made of the performance space in the courtyard behind Roosevelt Landings?
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

On the bright side, PupCulture has quickly gained traction as it answers Islanders' needs at its just opened Main Street location. Passersby can be seen looking in street windows to enjoy frolicking dogs left in the business's care. 

After watching the canines for a moment, following a hunch, I took a left turn off Main into an alley where Wholesome Factory was transferring fresh stock into their store and found a surprise.

After years of neglect, wood rotting and nothing going on, the performance space almost no one knows about behind Roosevelt Landings is being rehabbed. Fresh lumber is in place in half the seating area.

Plans for its use are unknown, but the space is excellent for outdoor music, theatre and other attractions. 

Construction workers scurry as concrete lifts Southtown Building 8 above its protective fencing.
Construction workers scurry as concrete lifts Southtown Building 8 above its protective fencing.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Emerging behind construction upgrading the deteriorated Youth Center and the new Roosevelt Island Library, both long promised, another unfinished project, Blackwell House (see top photo), remained idle, more than a decade since it was last used for its intended purpose.

RIOC President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, who's championed infrastructure developments, told The Daily she hopes to see an opening, delayed by some minor, but necessary repairs, by the end of June.

A number of opening dates have come and gone, but this one may be realistic.

A "Grand Opening" awaits, but no date's been set - in spite of the "Since 2009" sign at the rear.
A "Grand Opening" awaits, but no date's been set - in spite of the "Since 2009" sign at the rear.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Swinging around to check out Jupioca, also rumored to be close to opening in Riverwalk Commons, I  watched a swarm of workers atop what will be become Southtown Building 8 in 2020. Concrete pours have already raised it above the construction fencing.

Rumors aside and grand opening signage idled in the doorway, Jupioca, a "fresh and healthy drinks" takeout vendor announced in January, doesn't appear to be tilting toward an opening soon.

The absence of any Department of Heath grading sign and an unfinished looking interior suggesting that DOB hasn't set foot inside are indicative of a work still in progress.

It's not that they're not close, but city inspectors have been known, here and elsewhere, to throttle the best of intentions.

At Nisi, bring on the chairs for outdoor dining. Add some jazz too.
At Nisi, bring on the chairs for outdoor dining. Add some jazz too.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Last week, Nisi owner Kaie Razaghi told The Daily that he planned to add covered outdoor seating now that warm weather's increased Main Street traffic. Sure enough, the tables were out under a protective canopy. Chairs will follow.

Can mellow jazz sessions that lifted the canyon with music in the past follow? Razaghi's considering it.

But before I circled back to Nisi, Main Street Retail businesses, Subway and Music Play Station, reminded me that possibilities for success exist here, if not nearly as many as Hudson and, before them, RIOC hope for.

Main Street's under-appreciated stalwart, Gallery RIVAA, still standing after years of struggle with inadequate building conditions and overpriced rent, continues while similar galleries across the East River are shuttering. New exhibits are already in the works for the summer season.

But while Nisi's clawed its way back from three years under construction, some delays caused by Department of Buildings indifference, Bubble Cool, in spite of promises from its owner, not only joins the parade of papered over storefronts, but appears idled with none of the suggested remodeling in progress.

Conclusion: 

Until shown otherwise, Roosevelt Islanders correctly take for granted a seesaw between successes and failures, mounted on a fulcrum of vacant space, to continue. Over time, hot pot enthusiasts and doggy daycare will welcome customers while Riverwalk Bar & Grill and Bubble Cool will permanently shut out theirs. 

Change is in the wind, but improvement?

Not yet.

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