Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's Going On At Roosevelt Island's Blackwell House - Historical Society to Produce Public Programming for Site But No Word When that Might Start

Image of Blackwell House

What's going on at Roosevelt Island's Blackwell House? Way back in 2008, a previous post asked:
... at what point will the condition of Blackwell House be such that it can be used for some purpose other than just staring at it?
Image of Blackwell House Porch and Park

During the April 6 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors Meeting, a resolution was passed which will permit the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) to use and produce public programming at Blackwell House under the terms and for the period of time specified below.
RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York (“RIOC”), as follows:

Section 1. that RIOC is hereby authorized to negotiate and enter into a license agreement with the Roosevelt Island Historical Society for use and public programming of the Blackwell House upon such terms and conditions substantially similar to those outlined in the Memorandum from Steven Chironis to Board of Directors dated March 17, 2011, attached hereto;

Section 2. that the President/Chief Executive Officer or her designee shall take such actions and/or execute such instruments as necessary to effectuate the foregoing;

Section 3. that this resolution shall take effect immediately.
Below is a memorandum written by RIOC Chief Financial Officer Steve Chironis to the RIOC Board of Directors in support of the RIHS License Use Agreement for Blackwell House
As a requirement of the funding agreement, in the amount of $364,000, between RIOC and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) for the interior renovation of Blackwell House that for a period of twenty (20) years after completion of such construction, Blackwell House be kept open for public view and community and public programming to the extent practicable.

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) has proposed a (5) year license agreement for the partial use of Blackwell House for the purpose of hosting public exhibition events, archival storage and the use of a second floor office for event planning and research in Blackwell House. The terms and conditions of the agreement are as follows:

Term: 5 year term commencing upon the date of Certificate of Occupancy or a reasonable time thereafter.

Use of the Following Areas Within Blackwell House:
  • Attic: Storage Space (470 sq. ‘) – This space used to store archives (documents and photos for public (general public, historians and students) to review. 
  • Second Floor: Small Office- (232 sq.’) – planning events and historical research space to review archives. The public to make appointment through curator, RIHS. 
  • First Floor: Closet/Information Booth (15 sq.’)
Additional use of 1st Floor Public Meeting Room for the following dates, subject to availability deemed by RIOC;
  • RIHS Board Meetings: - Every 3rd Thursday (6:30 – 8:30) January through November - Every 2nd Thursday (6:00 – 9:00) December
  • Public Exhibitions: - (1st Floor Corridor) – Every January, May & September starting the 1st week and to remain on display for at least 3 weeks.
  •  Special Lecture Series: - Every April for 4 consecutive Tuesday evenings (6:00 – 9:00) 
  •  Fundraising: - Every May the 2nd Sunday of the month
RIHS will be given access to Blackwell House by RIOC representative.

RIHS will obtain standard liability insurance. The cost for insuring archive property is more than the value of archives and RIHS will give letter of indemnification for loss of property.

I believe that the proposed RIHS licensed agreement will provide valuable community and public programming at Blackwell House and I recommend its approval.
The full RIHS Blackwell House License Agreement Resolution and Supporting Memorandum is here and below.
RIHS License Agreement for Blackwell House

According to RIOC:
At the corner of East Road and Main Street is a charming wooden home called Blackwell House. Built in 1796 for the Blackwell family who owned the island for many generations, this cottage is the sixth oldest farmhouse in New York City.

The original resident of the home was James Blackwell, whose father had inherited the island from his wife's stepfather, Captain John Manning the Sheriff of New York. Since New York City purchased the island from the Blackwell family in 1823 to build institutions for the most populous city in the country, Blackwell House has been a living quarters for wardens of the almshouse, the hospitals, and the penitentiary.

The exterior of the modest colonial home has been refurbished and plans are in the works to renovate the interior. Once complete, Blackwell House will be used as a community center, mainly for local committee meetings and periodic historical tours.
More info on Blackwell House from RIHS and from these previous posts.


Roosevelt Island 360 reported on what happened to the Blackwell family after they left what is now Roosevelt Island. Hint - they went to Brooklyn.

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