Forget Signs; We Need Shops

March 10, 2018

 The huge, red RI sign, in my opinion, would be tacky, copied from others, pretentious and getting the cart before the horse in Roosevelt Island’s attempt to draw visitors.

 

First, we need to fill 90% of those interminably empty, papered-over, ugly, depressing Main Street storefronts! In total contrast with the interesting venues on the southern end, the middle and northern sections of the Island are basically a ghost town, as far as there being anything there to entice tourists – or residents – to explore. 

 

Driving from one end of Main Street to the other at night is enchanting, and it appears very promising as a place to visit and to shop. But, by light of day, where are “The Shops on Main Street?!” It is extremely spooky and strange. These are not my words, although I totally share the thought. People I know from mainland Manhattan have commented: “It’s a beautiful island – but so strange!” “The shop windows are almost all papered-over!” Yep.

 

Yet, Ms. Rosenthal continues to regularly and enthusiastically announce the imminent opening of a restaurant or other place of business – as well as current businesses playing musical chairs. But very little of a positive nature actually happens. “Lease signed – opening Mexican restaurant in summer!” It never happened. And another restaurant near Subway was also announced, “Lease signed!” But that, too, never happened.

 

A nice-looking toddlers’ activity room did open in that vicinity – much needed and appreciated, yet hardly a tourist draw, and it is not even a venue for local adult residents to visit and enjoy. An art gallery closed there, as did the Swan Salon near Starbucks. And the ice cream shop closed, replaced by an imaginative, sincere bubble tea shop, BubbleCool. I have passed that location 15 times weekly since it opened, and have seen only one customer inside. Maybe during the summer months it will do better? I would love to see that happen, but with a former ice cream shop at the same site not pulling in patrons, I wonder if bubble tea will. However, both types of shops were interesting and likely would have been quite successful if surrounded by other retail stores! Perhaps one would feed off the other in drawing in foot traffic and shoppers. 

 

I think that what we need on Main Street are maybe a small shoe store and a miscellaneous knick-knack/gift/useful-item store, one like the Rainbow store on the upper east side, with interesting, popular items of good quality for all genders and ages. A Papyrus-type store that carries small hardware/stationery items would be welcome here. We also need a mixed men-women-children clothing/accessory store. Something – anything – to give visitors a reason to venture north of the train station! And also, to allow local residents a richer life here – including our very welcome Cornell neighbors, so that we can all stay on the Island more, for stroll-shopping, instead of having to go to Lexington and 63rd Street on the mainland.

 

And we do, seriously, need that promised Mexican restaurant. What we do not need is a boring, totally unoriginal, expensive (or even free) 70s-style, red letter sign that pigeons (and other graffiti-artists) will promptly decorate.

 

Ramona McDaris

 

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