Generic Locations, Many Left Out

Missed Opportunity: Disappointing Wayfinding Signs Arrive on Roosevelt Island

Updated 4 weeks ago David Stone
Wayfinding sign outside the Subway Station points to the subway, 65 feet away, but does not support a single business or historic site. Work on future kiosk visible in the background.
Wayfinding sign outside the Subway Station points to the subway, 65 feet away, but does not support a single business or historic site. Work on future kiosk visible in the background.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Some were relieved as wayfinding signs, after years of promises, finally appeared on Roosevelt Island, aids to visitors and, in theory, a boost to local businesses. But just as many are likely to scratch their heads over the generic nature of the signs and their many omissions. With interactive kiosks coming next, missed opportunities loom large.

The wayfinding signs, a project overseen by Southtown developer and Main Street Retail manager Hudson, authorized by RIOC, are well designed for placement and clarity. They're easy to read and will send the stream of curious visitors in the right, but highly limited directions.

Missed Opportunity: Disappointing Wayfinding Signs Arrive on Roosevelt Island
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Their limitations are startling.

A sign positioned at the crosswalk just north of the subway station, in almost comical fashion, tells us that underground transportation, plainly in view, is "65 ft" thataway. Not a single business or historic site, apart from FDR Four Freedoms Park, gets a mention.

Curiously nearby, longstanding wayfinding signs, also by Hudson, point visitors to Riverwalk Commons businesses by name. Not a promising development for, say, Nisi, which will have to hope visitors intuit what "Shops on Main" means and that they're worth a detour away from nearby, clearly defined competitors.

Maybe more glaring is the complete absence of any reference to historic sites that many come here to see. Left out are:

  • Blackwell House
  • The Smallpox Hospital
  • Lighthouse Park
  • Chapel of the Good Shepherd

Also missing: Southpoint, Meditation Steps, public restrooms and all sports fields and parks.

Fear not, however, if you arrive by Tram and need to know where and how far away the Motorgate parking garage is. Directions are on the post. And so too for Cornell Tech's campus.

Sign at the Tram Plaza will soon be joined by a kiosk and the RI Welcome Monument. Construction work is visible in the background.
Sign at the Tram Plaza will soon be joined by a kiosk and the RI Welcome Monument. Construction work is visible in the background.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

But if you're a visitor who wants to find a place for lunch or to grab a refreshing beverage, you're flat out of luck. You're going to be guessing - and, of course, counting on the Historical Society's ever helpful Visitor Center - as others before you always have been.

And in case you're wondering, at the now over-designed and soon to be congested Tram Plaza, the situation is similar.

And sadly, yes, even here, there's a pointer for... wait for it: the Tram Plaza.

Interactive kiosks are coming next, and there's a chance they'll improve on this missed opportunity.

But it's not likely that many will stand in line to use a single kiosk when the wayfinding signs are right there in front of them, ready to help, not filling much of the information gap Islanders have long hoped for, but there, finally, at least.

Many new arrivals will do as they've always done, pony over to the Historical Society's Visitor Center and ask the well-trained staff to fill in blanks that show little promise of being otherwise filled, anytime soon.

 

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