David Stone
559 Main Street, last occupied by Bubble Cool in 2018, remains on the market, contrary to public claims last year by Hudson-Related.
559 Main Street, last occupied by Bubble Cool in 2018, remains on the market, contrary to public claims last year by Hudson-Related.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

As Roosevelt Island Main Street retail crumbles, now with likely more empty stores than ever, Hudson-Related promotions on loop.net, reminding us of rosy projects David Kramer fed RIOC's drowsy and drifty board, last October, as fangirl Susan Rosenthal, then president/CEO looked on, we're wondering how long this can go on.

The promos are the work of Lisa Management, Hudson-Related's oddly named surrogate leasing agent. They offer 1) 520 Main, former home of Roosevelt Island Urgent Care; 2) 559 Main where Main Street Sweets once tried everything imaginable to survive; and 3) 526 Main, about to be emptied as the library migrates a few doors south.

559 stands out because Kramer, in his October, 2019, dance with alternative reality before RIOC's board, said it was already taken. He just wasn't free to disclose the tenant.

It had been empty for over six months, by then, after Bubble Cool failed. It's still empty, and the tenant Kramer must keep secret never materialized.

Get more local: Roosevelt Island News

This matters because Main Streets failures are rarely balanced by successes. 

A partial explanation might've been disclosed during Kramer's October, 2019, presentation. Discussing finding a tenant for 520 Main, he argued that it should be an urgent care style business because a community of 14,000 needs such a service.

But this particular community also needs honesty and integrity. As Kramer well knows - because we told him face to face - that Roosevelt Island has never had 14,000 residents. Today, it's around 11,000, but it's fair to assume Hudson-Related continues using the bogus number, luring in trusting clients who later fail to open or fail anyway after.

Main Street Retail, AKA Shops On Main, Will Hit Rockbottom by Year's End

At best, we can hope that the vacancies coming by the end of 2020 are the worst it gets. But don't count on it.

As Hudson-Related's suspiciously finagled contract with RIOC to manage retail nears the ten year mark, vacancies increase with little hope for change.

Nostalgia reminds us of better days, a decade ago, when Kramer told the Wall Street Journal that he was going to "shock and awe" Roosevelt Island. No doubt, he shocked, but awe...?" 

More like, "aw..." while watching thrift shop, stationery and hardware stores evicted with no viable businesses in their places.

If we look coolly at Kramer's presentation on behalf of Hudson-Related in October, 2019, we find scant reason for RIOC's drifty and drowsy board continuing to buy in.

But don't interpret that to mean they won't.

Real estate giants have controlled significant parts of RIOC for years, and that's unlikely to change soon.

Among promised openings Kramer detailed for the board was Island Ohm (opening expected in January, 2020) and an oft modified panini shop (expected "by the end of the year,"- last year, that is), the latest in three years of promised dates. And then, there's Granny Annies filling in where Riverwalk Bar & Grill vacated after nine years.

(The alleged panini shop was idled by a DOB stop work order caused by electrical work violations at the time Kramer offered his estimate and had been since August.) 

Granny Annies, pledged to open in the spring and waylaid by the coronavirus, hopes to open in August, but that's only possible if DOB approves it much more quickly than usual. 

The others...? Well, they join a list of broken promises, like the new hardware store, Eleanor's Wine Bar, Onda Mexican Restaurant and whatever it was Hudson-Related claimed they signed to fill the old stationery store, and some or all may never appear.

Sad reminder, the banking services counter at Amalgamated froze on the date of the coronavirus shutdown.
Sad reminder, the banking services counter at Amalgamated froze on the date of the coronavirus shutdown.
Photo: July 28th, 2020, courtesy of Janet Falk

And that leaves the biggest setback: Amalgamated Bank* closes September 25th and is now open only by appointment.

* Amalgamated is no longer part of Shops on Main.

Main Street 2021

With nothing new to show since Kramer's October, 2019, performance and every one of his promises failing to launch, our bleak January 2020 assessment starts to look optimistic.

Granny Annies is the single likely opening this year. It's matched by the bitter pill of Amalgamated's closing and snowed under by the old library's vacancy along with the certain to be adverse effects of coronavirus losses as they are realized.

Another year of empty storefronts seems inevitable, and after ten years on the job, Hudson-Related shows no gift for reversing the decline, a decline it might be argue seeded by its own mismanagement.