Drafting a vision for a new Rocky Point


So as to provide a broad view of park development across the country, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) – with the assistance of the Rocky Point Foundation – will present the first in a series of three lectures on April 3 featuring Deborah Marton, executive director of the New York Restoration Project (NYRP).

George Shuster, who was instrumental in creating the foundation that worked to save the former amusement park for public use, has been working with RISD Professor Scheri Fultineer to explore potential development of the 80 acres of state land overlooking Narragansett Bay.

Shuster said the goal of the lecture series is not to come up with a specific vision for the park, but to offer examples of what is being done elsewhere.

He said the plan is for lectures to be held every other Thursday, with RISD graduate students collecting “an array of examples of waterfront park developments” to illustrate possible developments for Rocky Point.

Shutser said the students would present an overview in May that he expects to balance active and passive recreation at the park while taking into consideration cost, projected sea level rises and commercial activities that could generate funds for the site’s maintenance and development.

Fultineer said yesterday that Marton would focus on what is being done in New York, and that the series and those activities to follow are part of her department’s larger effort to define a park for the 21st century that takes into consideration constrained financial support, environmental aspirations and sustainability.

“It’s what you need to do before you even design it,” she said.

Fultineer doesn’t expect Marton to present suggestions specific to Rocky Point. Following the lecture series, she hopes to have a discussion with city officials and representatives from non-profits as well as students and faculty.

Then this fall she would look to have some recommendations for Rocky Point following a design studio dedicated to conceptual plans.

“We’ll be looking at case studies and how well those worked as a spring board to ideas for Rocky Point,” she said, adding that the process wouldn’t yield a master plan for the park but rather “a variety of responses.”

“Having the creative minds of RISD students envisioning possible uses at Rocky Point is very exciting. We have heard a lot of ideas from people. It will be great to have a creative exercise in the mix,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday.

DEM Director Janet Coit is also embracing RISD’s involvement.

“The state is incredibly fortunate to have the support of RISD Professor Scheri Fultineer in our efforts to make the future Rocky Point Park a landmark destination. We are looking forward to learning more from Deborah Marton about how we can turn the vision of an innovative and exciting public space into a reality,” she said in a statement.

Coit added, “Building a new park at this iconic property is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can only be improved with the great depth of knowledge that Ms. Marton and future speakers at this forum will bring to the discussion.”

Voters approved $10 million in an open space bond to buy the land in 2010 from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Since its acquisition, the land has remained fenced off from the 41 acres of shoreline the city acquired from the SBA. According to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), cleanup of the property that includes demolition of the seriously deteriorating Shore Diner Hall, Palladium and the cottages of Rocky Beach is scheduled to start this June.

Demolition of the buildings has met the approval of the state building commissioner’s office and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), Lisa Primiano of DEM, who has worked closely on the acquisition of Rocky Point, said yesterday.

“Ms. Marton is very well known and well respected in the field, and I think we’re very fortunate that RISD has been able to attract her to Rhode Island for this lecture,” Shuster said.

The lecture, which is open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 3 at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Bayard Ewing Building, 231 South Main St., room 106.

Marton has dedicated her career to the development of public space in New York City, with a specific focus on the integration of natural systems and the built environment. She joined NYRP in 2011, bringing her extensive experience moving complex municipal projects from conception to actionable conclusions. Prior to joining NYRP, Deborah served as executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space. Under her leadership the organization gained national visibility and quadrupled in size. High-profile projects completed during her tenure there have made New York City’s parks and public right-of-ways more sustainable, catalyzed the redesign of Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, strengthened Long Island City’s art community, and improved the New York City taxi vehicle and system, paving the way for the city’s new taxi, among many other projects and public programs.

Previously, Deborah was program manager of New York City Parks Natural Resources Group and later associated with the landscape architecture firm Field Operations, where she collaborated on creation of the winning submission for the Fresh Kills Master Plan, and later served as the first project manager for that project. She received a master’s in landscape architecture from the Harvard University Design School, and also holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

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