David Stone
Crown Castle presentation about approving our cell service infrastucture
Crown Castle presentation about approving our cell service infrastucture
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Roosevelt Island residents and Board Members crowded RIOC's small conference room, most geared up to protest the RI Monument/Icon, but RIOC's Real Estate Development Advisory Committee kicked off positively instead with unrelated, but welcome news.

Real Estate Advisory Delays the RI Monument, Approves Signage, Good News for Cellular Service

When Committee Chair Howard Polivy called a meeting of the RIOC Real Estate Development Advisory Committee, the agenda in front of him was light, but it was charged with a hot button issue - the so-called "RI Monument."

The Monument is part of a package that includes kiosks and directional signs for which Islanders have pleaded for years. It was headed for a rocky reception

But because Hudson Partner David Kramer, who's spearheaded the initiative since spring was late in arriving, the meeting started instead with Crown Castle, a service company promising to greatly improve cellular services on Roosevelt Island.

Crown Castle plans to build a fibre ring, using 23 locations, around the Island with the Loop Road passing between Southpoint Park and Cornell Tech being its southernmost reach. Poles, which include lighting and are designed to be compatible with existing installations, will be installed in Lighthouse Park at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island.

General Counsel Jaci Flug joked that she'd finally be able to use her cellphone in her office. Others anticipated the happy demise of the Rivercross Lawn Cut Off, a familiar Island location where calls are frequently dropped.

When the ring sparks to life in three to six months, it will carry traffic for Verizon and T-Mobile.

But the news was not welcomed without skepticism.

Board Member Margie Smith argued that such a major project should have included competitive proposals, noting a RIOC history of long, bad service contracts.

Unable to explain why only Crown Castle was considered, Flug defended the deal, which earns RIOC $3,990 per year per pole along with four free bands of dark fibre, as licensing not subject to bidding. It’s also nonexclusive, which means other providers are free to negotiate their own deals.

Smith remained unsatisfied, speculating that competition might spur greater income, and puzzled that RIOC seemed not to have even considered alternatives.

...And Then the Eagle Landed, the RI Monument Icon Plus

Hudson makes its pitch for the RI Monument, Kiosks, Finger Signs
Hudson makes its pitch for the RI Monument, Kiosks, Finger Signs
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Hudson's designers showed off six finger-pointing signs and four “You Are Here” kiosks, fulfilling a wish ridiculously delayed for Roosevelt Islanders and visitors for at least a decade.

The finger-pointing signs will be strategically placed around the Island, the kiosks installed near transit locations, including one at the 2nd Avenue Tram station.

The slick, streamlined look of the kiosks and intuitive design of the directional signs richly answer the needs for which they were created.

Hudson's involvement seems to have finally drawn a responsiveness on the issue that previously eluded RIOC.

Then, alas, the RI/IЯ Monument or Icon...

The big red Icon "was not something we asked for," Smith jumped in, objecting to its being packaged with the other, already approved and eagerly awaited signs. "It was an afterthought."

"We wanted residents to have a look. We need to talk to people on the island..." before approving it.

To the surprise of listeners, including me, Polivy corrected an impression left by President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, who did not attend, at the last full Board meeting, that it was a fait accompli.

While the kiosks and directional signs were approved by the Board in April and remain eagerly anticipated, final details of the Monument/Icon's placement and design were not.

"And we are rushing into it. Why not just do the location signage and wait?" asked Smith.

Smith later said she personally liked the Icon but had a responsibility to represent residents who hadn't gotten an adequate opportunity see it and be heard about it.

Island historian Judy Berdy, who'd been leaning impatiently forward in her chair as if ready to pounce, pounced.

"It's a complete waste to time, money and effort. It’s just going to be an obstacle," she said, referencing its highly contrasting placement blocking the view of the historic Visitor Kiosk. "It’s an intrusion."

”I think it can be a very big opportunity," Smith added. "That’s why I don’t want to just plunk it.”

David Kramer, who's invested time, energy and money into developing the project, expressed some dismay.

"There was a lot of board enthusiasm in April," which led Hudson to move forward aggressively with the Monument.

Kramer described the work his group devoted to agreeing on the design, a prototype of which was displayed briefly in early October, including tapping residents, like Berdy, for their input.

The short timeframe, only about two hours, allowed for showing the prototype in three places was an issue for everyone in the discussion.

Hudson, Berdy insisted, depended too much on RIOC's nonresident staff for guidance.

"They all go home at five," essentially outsiders widely suspected of being poorly clued in to the community as a whole.

"It looked fine in the proposal," David Kraut tried to clarify, "but once it was put up... there were a lot of different reactions.

"The biggest constituency here is residents. Residents and visitors have a different point of view."

Chair Howard Polivy suggested giving residents a better opportunity to look at the Monument/Icon and comment. Images could be placed, he proposed, in local media or at Gallery RIVAA.

One problem with that became immediately apparent, and you can see it, if you look at the installation as presented at this meeting (above) and compare it with its real life example as published contemporaneously in the Roosevelt Islander blog.

If residents are expected to make realistic judgments, they are going have to see something more true to reality.

And doesn't it just beg the question - If the Icon/Monument is so terrific, why did it need to be dipped deep in Photoshop for presentation as something so unlike what we saw in October?

Hudson seems to have discovered a blue Tram cabin descending toward land and a surrounding surface that more resembles a recently tilled garden than the Z-bricks that would be the Monument's real life partners.

Struggling to move the meeting forward after Board Members registered concerns and residents in the room registered mainly distaste, Polivy put it "in abeyance for further discussion. The position of the Committee is that we put it on hold."

Residents breathed a general sigh of relief as the Committee moved on with "the stuff that’s important," that is,  the directional signs and kiosks.

Another look, the view likely to be seen most frequently, if placed as planned.
Another look, the view likely to be seen most frequently, if placed as planned.
Photo courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society

Hudson's Alexandra Kaplan reported that they are nearing completion at a shop in New Jersey.

Although Hudson expects to miss an original target of getting the work done before the ground freezes, "We hope to have the kiosks in this winter," she said.