RIOC Spends Big for Holiday Dazzle

October 29, 2017

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) is partnering with Hudson Related to bring some fresh holiday cheer to Main Street this year. In a meeting last week, the Board voted 4-2 to approve a three-year $225,000 deal with Neave Décor to decorate Main Street with lights, snowflakes, stars, and reindeer. The display will stretch from as far south as the Tram, and then northward through Westview at 625 Main Street.


RIOC President Susan Rosenthal described the effort as a small first step toward bringing some new energy – as well as some much needed foot traffic – to Main Street. She also said she hoped the beautiful holiday lights would bring smiles to Islanders’ faces. However, some Board members questioned whether the contract was a judicious use of RIOC’s budget and complained that they’d been given insufficient notice about the deal. 


Lit Up and Brilliant


According to Neave Decor’s operations manager for holiday decor, Mark Carson, the idea is to “decorate near the ways you get here, up through the places we want people to go: the shopping areas and restaurants.” 


To that end, illuminated reindeer outside the Visitor’s Center will welcome people getting off the Tram, and a tree recently planted by the new ferry terminal will be decorated with white lights and tear-drop snowflakes.


Renderings from Neave Decor’s presentation to RIOC, in which they propose placing illuminated reindeer by the Tram (left) and hanging LED-lit stars in the Roosevelt Landings atriums (right).



Just north, four 9-foot-tall trees on the Southtown lawn will be lit up to bring some holiday cheer to the bar and restaurants there. On the eastern side of the lawn, at the highest point of the hill, there will be multicolored three-dimensional LED snowflakes, grouped together for photo ops. 


Along the length of Roosevelt Landings, on the east side of Main Street, lit garlands will drape each archway, and the columns will be wrapped like candy canes. The glass atriums will feature two-dimensional snowflakes with LED lighting that will be visible at night and from above. Carson says there will be 10 snowflakes in each atrium, 20 in total. 


On the west side, at Good Shepherd plaza, Carson described a series of three-dimensional, illuminated star sculptures. The largest ones will be over 6 feet tall, while the smaller ones are around 4 feet in height. The stars will be anchored to the ground for stability. 


The idea is for Good Shepherd to be “lit up and brilliant,” said Carson. “Everyone is on social media, and people want to be outside taking beautiful pictures on Roosevelt Island.” 


Further north, the arcades outside Westview will be decorated with blue, silver, and gold. 

In another change, the Island’s Christmas tree will now be located on the Rivercross lawn, not by Blackwell House as it has in past years. (Blackwell house is currently under renovation.) The proposal calls for a 24-foot-tall artificial tree with a 36-inch star at the top. Carson explained the purpose for the placement was visibility. “A clear shot from across the river, up and down Main Street.”


The Fine Print


According to Rosenthal, RIOC will pay $150,000 of the three-year plan, $50,000 per year; Hudson Related will pay $75,000 over three years, $25,000 per year. To lessen RIOC’s burden, Rosenthal said they would ask Island businesses, including Hornblower and Amalgamated Bank – as well as Cornell Tech – to pitch in to help cover the costs. 


Rosenthal also made clear that RIOC will be putting up their own decorations as well. “We have a fair amount of Christmas decorations that we used last year or the year before,” Rosenthal said. “I think the team has decided that we will use everything this year. We will make it as crazy as we can in terms of brightening it up.”


RIOC Directors Faye Christian and Margie Smith both voiced objections to the plan. 


Smith questioned whether it made sense to spend money to essentially rent the decorations with nothing permanent to show for it at the end of the three years. “We have people who would want to help, would love to see Main Street get lit up,” she said. “We’re spending $225,000 over three years, but we don’t own anything.” 


She also pointed out that RIOC would be spending $50,000 each year for just a few weeks’ of decorations while the Corporation budgets only $100,000 in public purpose funds for all of the Island’s nonprofits for an entire year.


Christian objected to being asked to vote on the proposal on the spot. She asked for more time and more information before voting. “You’re asking us to vote tonight? How much have we spent in the past? Oftentimes I ask my questions and I walk away and have more questions,” she told the group.


Despite the objections, the vote was approved 4-2. Christian and Smith both voted no; director Michael Shinozaki did not attend the meeting.

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