Appeals for Locations Signage Fall on Deaf Ears

Why Have Hudson and RIOC Teamed Up To Snub Main Street Retail?

Updated 2 years ago Peter McCarthy

The worst kept secret on Roosevelt Island is that we have lots of location signage, good stuff too, easy to follow and right where visitors need it to be. The best kept is why it never benefits the struggling Main Street retail corridor.

Archival image of directional signage in Australia around the time Governor Cuomo, RIOC's boss, was born and women were expected to cover up their knees.
Archival image of directional signage in Australia around the time Governor Cuomo, RIOC's boss, was born and women were expected to cover up their knees.
Source: CNN

No joke.

With too many empty storefronts to let anyone be comfortable with it and a long history of appeals to RIOC for help with location signs, it's a puzzle, to this day, that Hudson, which contracts to promote Main Street Retail, is no better than the State at figuring out how to put up a single sign directing anyone to businesses and historical attractions - except with ease in Southtown.

Now, let's make a not especially radical assumption that the money Roosevelt Island Urgent Care and RIVAA pay Hudson to rent space is just as good as what they get from Fuji East and Duane Reade. You agree?

Directional signage on East Main alongside Riverwalk Commons
Directional signage on East Main alongside Riverwalk Commons
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

So, why can neither Hudson nor RIOC do what Cornell Tech, NYC Ferry and, for heaven's sake, even the MTA can do? That is, create quality location signage that serves every interest equally.

Recently, Hudson and RIOC combined energies to crank out, from somewhere not in this universe, the Big Ugly Red Icon, an achievement made only funnier by the fact that it took "years," according to RIOC CEO Susan Rosenthal as Hudson's David Kramer grinned in agreement, to birth the thing.

But the humor was irretrievably dark.

Hudson has resources to favor Riverwalk Commons in Southtown with multiple, simple signs placed strategically to help visitors know what to expect. But why not a single one for Main Street Retail?

It's not as if nobody's been asking.

In fact, RIOC's Erica Spencer-El was reported by State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright's office as saying that "RIOC’s primary objective is the 'way finder' sign," although the absence of a plural makes us nervous.

Okay, after decades of pleas, most of us would feel some relief from a single sign. Three would be better, but one would be a landmark.

(In an enlightening, off the record conversation, one business owner told me that a Roosevelt Island business group once secured money for signs. The funds disappeared.)

We've already offered RIOC helpful examples of wayfinding and location signage here, here and here

Sadly, RIOC has not found any way to thank us.

But we're in good company. They also failed to thank Judy Berdy for her creative idea about using idle lampposts to help visitors.

Near the subway station, directional signs for Southtown businesses.
Near the subway station, directional signs for Southtown businesses.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Are you getting the feeling that RIOC and Hudson just don't want to hear it?

Berdy and I were discussing the eternal mystery of signs when she remembered one taken with her brother in Haiti in 1955, two years before Governor Andrew Cuomo, RIOC's boss, was born.

What struck Berdy is that, in the Haiti picture, she and her brother were in the company of directional signage. So, you've gotta think Cuomo and the RIOC braintrust must've, at some point, been familiar with the concept.

Kidding aside, why is this so hard for Hudson and RIOC to get done? Are there motives of which we are not aware?

Is the favoritism given Southtown deliberate or accidental?

The more you consider how common, easy and inexpensive directional and wayfinding signage can be, the more the absence of signage for Main Street Retail is likely to seem a puzzle.

And totally unacceptable.

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