Going With The Flow?

About RIOC's Plan To Abandon Main Street

Peter McCarthy
RIOC's spacious new offices recently built out on the East Promenade under Motorgate.
RIOC's spacious new offices recently built out on the East Promenade under Motorgate.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation has been blamed for dispiriting holes along the Main Street retail corridor left behind after businesses were forced out by high rents and low traffic. The characterization isn't entirely fair, but now it's likely to gather extra baggage as RIOC takes steps to create one more big hole - their own - on Main Street.

Nearly unnoticed in the flareup when RIOC administration rammed approval through for an amendment that cleared the way for Hudson to construct Southtown Buildings 8 and 9 was a part of the agreement that should send fresh shivers down Main Street's retail spine: The State agency is pulling up stakes and migrating to Southtown.

A new and substantial hole will alter the landscape. That's no problem for Hudson because the space is now leased from Westview's owner, who will lose the income while Hudson gains it.

That can't happen, of course, until the new buildings go up and the lights are turned on in Southtown.

But other factors make it likely that RIOC plans to abandon Main Street sooner.

RIOC's lease for its current space in Westview expires in April. Nothing ties the State agency to the space beyond that.

Coincidentally, RIOC has been building out what's estimated to be around 15,000 square feet (roughly 150 feet north to south and 40 feet deep) of spanking new office space in an area between the bus garage and Gristedes along the East Promenade.

When asked, RIOC has responded that the space, which includes open and closed offices as well as a large conference room, is intended solely for the Operations Department.

Wink! Wink!

Vice President of Operations Shelton Haynes is a big man, but 15,000 square feet?

RIOC seems not to have given consideration to putting any of Main Street's vacant storefronts to good use for the Operations Department while spending at lease six figures converting the area beneath Motorgate, invisible from Main Street, that will take employees as far as it can from the community without floating houseboats.

And where will President and CEO Susan Rosenthal transplant the office she's called home for the past year, if the lease in Westview expires and an extension cannot be negotiated - keeping in mind that, after more than a year, a deal with the same landlord to convert Westview apartments to affordability is still far from certain to close?

Whatever is worked out to house RIOC until Southtown 8 is built, it's hard not to see the latest decisions as signaling a complete lack of investment in the future of Main Street.

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