Groundbreaking for New Roosevelt Island Park (NYC)

NEW YORK CITY, N.Y 5/28/2009: Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and The Trust for Public Land today announced the achievement of two significant milestones for Roosevelt Island: The groundbreaking of the new South Point Park and the completion of the $4.5 million stabilization of James Renwick’s Smallpox Hospital, the city’s only landmarked ruin.

The preservation of Roosevelt Island’s southern most 14-acres as parkland was first proposed in the General Development Plan by Philip Johnston and John Burgee, which charted the development of the Island as a residential community. After three decades, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) invited The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to launch park creation efforts with extensive community outreach. In response, TPL produced a widely supported Master Plan for a 9 acre portion of the site, published in 2004. TPL brought in the firm of Wallace Roberts & Todd to prepare designs for the northern section of Southpoint.

New Park Breaks Ground: The long awaited creation of South Point Park has begun. Southpoint-the southern 14 acres of Roosevelt Island-enjoys spectacular waterfront views in three directions: toward the Manhattan skyline, toward Queens, and downriver toward the Brooklyn Bridge. The new park, covering 9 acres of the space, will provide a tranquil, picturesque setting for Roosevelt Island’s 14,000 residents and its visitors, featuring expansive lawns, gardens, and a scenic overlook. It also will incorporate two designated landmarks that reflect the Island’s history-James Renwick Smallpox Hospital and the Strecker Lab.

Stabilization of City’s Only Landmarked Ruins: RIOC and TPL have completed a $4.5 million stabilization of the City’s only landmarked ruins, James Renwick’s Smallpox Hospital. Renwick also designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Grace Church. During December of 2007, a major portion of the north wall of these ruins collapsed, which emphasized the vulnerability of the structure and the need to stabilize it to assure its preservation. The stabilized ruins will provide a beautiful centerpiece to the new park, as well as a strong reminder of the history of the island.

RIOC and TPL secured $13.4 million for the planning, design, and construction of South Point Park, and stabilization of the Small Pox Hospital ruins, from City and State sources, allocated as follows: $4.5 million from RIOC revenues, $4.4 million from New York State (including $400,000 from its Department of State Coastal Resources Division), and a $4.5 million allocation from the City of New York, as a result of Councilmember Jessica Lappin’s sponsorship.

“I am delighted that we are able to fulfill our mission to deliver open space and preserve the Small Pox Hospital ruins for both the Island’s residents and rest of the people of the City and State of New York,” said Stephen Shane, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation president and CEO.

“We are proud to have built broad community consensus behind a plan, allowing TPL and our public agency partners to finally create a park at this one-of-a-kind location,” said Andy Stone, The Trust for Public Land’s NYC director.

“This is a great day for the residents of Roosevelt Island and the entire City of New York. Soon New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a long-awaited one-of-a-kind park with two historic landmarks as its focal point,” said Deborah VanAmerongen, Commissioner of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and Chair of the RIOC board. “I want to commend my fellow board members at RIOC, along with The Trust for Public Land, for their hard work and perseverance in making these projects a reality. South Point Park and the stabilized Small Pox Hospital ruins will add to Roosevelt Island’s rich character and history, and make it an even better place to live.”

“The Conservancy is very happy that the former Smallpox Hospital-a very important yet neglected NYC landmark-has at last received the attention that it deserves,” said Peg Breen, president, The NY Landmarks Conservancy. “Now, as a stabilized romantic ruin, it can complement the landscaped spaces of the new park. Whether viewed from the adjacent park or from across the east river, it will continue to evoke the public’s imagination and fascination. Bravo to RIOC and to The Trust for Public Land for a job well done.”

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take nine acres of waterfront land in Manhattan-land that has been underused and essentially fenced off for years-and turn it into a gorgeous waterfront park,” said Jessica Lappin, Councilmember, 5th District, Manhattan. “I have been advocating for this park for a long time and am honored to have secured $4.5 million in City funding for this project. This is an exciting day, and it will be even more exciting when we cut the ribbon and this park is finished and open to all New Yorkers.”

The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has protected more than 2.5 million acres of land nationwide. TPL has created or enhanced more than 250 neighborhood parks in New York City, investing roughly $200 million in land purchases and in the design, construction and stewardship of parks.

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is a New York State Public Benefit Corporation created by the NY State Legislature in 1984. It succeeded the NY State Urban Development Corporation in developing, managing and operating Roosevelt Island pursuant to the 99 year Ground Lease and General Development Plan with the City of New York , executed in 1969. RIOC’s Board of Directors is chaired by Deborah VanAmerongen, Commissioner of Housing for NY State. For more information visit