Upon Further Review, RIOC and the Red RI Icon

Updated 2 weeks ago Peter McCarthy

At RIOC's last Board Meeting, a kerfuffle over the big red RI Icon, the first of two, erupted when President/CEO Susan Rosenthal lobbed, "It's a done deal," back at historian Judy Berdy in answer to her protest. Who was right?

Upon Further Review, RIOC and the Red RI Icon
Photo courtesy of Frank Farance

If Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder, then Red RI Icon Is...

"Sorry to hear you are going ahead no matter what we say," Berdy fumed. "It’s being rammed down our throats."

Tensions rose as Board Members complained that it was their understanding that the RI icon, a pair of 9-foot tall Helvetica fonts, was still going to be reviewed after seeing a prototype.

Rosenthal stood her ground until Alex Valella, who chairs RIOC Board Meetings, intervened.

Let's go back to the recording of the meeting where it was discussed and see what actually happened, he suggested.

It wasn't necessary for us here at The Daily to wait. We just pulled up our notes from the April, 2017, meeting and found that Rosenthal was right.

After a presentation that identified the RI icon as part of a larger signage program being developed by Hudson, the Board, including those now protesting, approved the proposal for a lease amendment to fund the work.

They approved it unanimously.

Memories are short.

You Don't Need Houston to Know There's a Problem

It's a fair bet that, when someone suggests the term "lovely," no one in this universe (or probably any other) has an imagination that leaps to "Helvetica fonts" of any color.

That said, there is a real and genuine debate about the icon. (It really isn't a sign, although directional signs are far more of a crying need here.)

First, and Hudson Partner David Kramer will readily admit, the icon bares a striking resemblance to Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture that pulls tourists for photo ops on Sixth Avenue, year round.

All you have to do is use different letters and abolish any trace of creativity.

Worse yet, it does its job while jettisoning the inventive touches that make Indiana's work popular.

Gone is the inner-facing blue accenting the brilliant red. Gone, also, is the quirkily aslant O that gives the original a sense of play.

Kramer has said that the idea is to inject some fun while creating a photo op ready icon.

But how do tall red Helvetica fonts, side by side, with dull gray feet, promote fun?

There is the red, of course.

Is it enough to line people up for photo ops?

Well, maybe.

To be fair, the big red RI was an instant scene stealer in the Tram Plaza, and when the first tram landed after the demo was set up, one traveler got so excited she lined up a shot instantly.

So, maybe, it will work, and folks like us, although permanently unable to agree with Rosenthal or Kramer about the esthetics, are just being fussy. It wouldn't be my first artistic miscue, I admit.

But then, you've got the perspective thing...

Upon Further Review, RIOC and the Red RI Icon
Photo courtesy of Roosevelt Island Historical Society

No matter how you slice it, the possible eye-catching, big red RI seen when you're leaving the Tram on arrival is a less than fetching IЯ, a sort of mock Cyrillic salute to Russia, when seen from the other direction.

The LOVE sculpture dodges that bullet by not having any symbols that look Russian or Inuit or Chinese from the back, but you don't see any tourists lining up for photo ops on that side either. You can ignore it.

In the RI/IЯ rendition, you can't, making it alarmingly inappropriate for an open lawn or roadway. It just looks stupid from the back, whether you like the front view or not.

To save my life, I can't think of a good and useful other place for it.

Berdy suggested putting it against the Manhattan-facing wall on the landing across the Starbucks, but that just loses it. Our suggestion of putting it in the river probably won't play either.

I confess to suggesting it be parked against the north wall outside the subway station, where it would gain the virtue of obscuring an ugly, faded pink doorway, but upon further review, I wouldn't wish such a destination on any icon.

Where the icon goes is the only question remaining, and the Board gets to finally decide. You probably know at least one of them. Let them know what you think.

Let's hope RIOC and Hudson understand that consulting with the community is a pretty good idea. That's how smart enterprises get buy in.

Respect others' opinions. Share the decision-making.

This is a good place to start.

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