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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Interesting Links


You Tube video of Colonizing the Moon

Space entrepreneurs and nations ask "Who owns the Moon?" (Cnet News)

New Folks Moving to Roosevelt Island (NY Observer)

Eastwood windows being replaced without safety scaffolding or sheds underneath. (Roosevelt Island 360)

Urban Farming - Roosevelt Island Community Garden at Octagon Park (Veggie City)

Life on a Houseboat (NY Times)

Subway and other Transportation Problems for Roosevelt Island (NY Observer)

Good and Bad of Hi-Rise Apartments With Wall to Wall Windows. (Wall Street Journal)

New fruit stand opens on Roosevelt Island near subway (Roosevelt Island 360)

Wind Power Comes to New York State and Turbines Get Smaller for placement on building roofs. (NY Times)

Workshop on preparing for Flu calamity ( NY Times)

Friday, September 5, 2008

No Queens Bound F Trains To Roosevelt Island This Weekend - Mayor Bloomberg Says Not My Job


You Tube Video of F Train Ride from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island

According to the MTA, there will be no Queens bound F Train service to Roosevelt Island this weekend but there will be Manhattan bound service from Roosevelt Island. As calculated by Roosevelt Island 360, that makes 17 weekends out of 35 that subway service has been disrupted on Roosevelt Island in 2008. RIOC is reporting no weekend service advisories for the Tram but there is an advisory that Southpoint Park will be closed on Saturday. Plan accordingly.

The NY Observer reported on Roosevelt Island's transportation problems particularly with the subway. According to the NY Observer:
... The train situation is pretty bad because it gets crowded," said Jose Cepeda, an accountant who has lived on Roosevelt Island for seven years. "There are times when we can't get in, and two or three trains will pass."
But a contrary viewpoint from a new resident:
... So far, newcomers have not been deterred. Heidi Blahnick, who moved to Roosevelt Island from Manhattan three months ago, loves the tram. And the subway? "It's no more [crowded] than the 4/5/6, which is what I used to take," she said. "It's about the same."
At last Wednesday's meeting of RIRA, a council member recounted a story of her recent meeting with Mayor Bloomberg. Upon learning that she lived on Roosevelt Island, Mayor Bloomberg responded with an inquiry on how many people live on Roosevelt Island now. Seeking to utilize her 30 seconds with the Mayor for the benefit of Roosevelt Island she ignored the Mayor's population question and asked him to do something about the poor subway conditions on Roosevelt Island. The Mayor's response? It's not my job! That's the big problem for Roosevelt Island. When asked to address many of the problems facing Roosevelt Island, more often than not the response from public officials is:

IT'S NOT MY JOB!

Clowns Take Over Union Square and Other Things To Do This Weekend in New York and Roosevelt Island Including Outdoor Movie and Last Day For Astroland


You Tube video of Clown Parade taking over New York Subway at Union Square on way to Williamsburg

Looking for things to do on Roosevelt Island or in New York City this weekend? Here are some other suggestions.

Go check out the New York Clown Theater Festival presented by the Brick Theater thru September 28. Today will be the:
3rd annual opening day parade! Anyone and everyone is invited to join the city's finest clowns, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and more as they gather at Union Square Park and ride the "L" train to the Bedford stop, then march to The Brick Theater for a massive public pie fight. Red noses and pies will be handed out. The pie fight will be followed by a Clown Cabaret previewing festival highlights.

When: Fri, Sept 5 at 4:30 pm (Parade), and 10:00 pm (Cabaret)
Where: Subway Parade begins at Union Square Park, the L train, The Brick
How much: ALL FREE!
On Saturday, Rooftop Films is presenting an Outdoor Movie Event on Roosevelt Island with the showing of Arusi: Persian Wedding.

Sadly, Sunday will be the last day for Coney Island's Astroland Park. Go for the memories and a ride on the great wooden Cyclone Roller Coaster. Happily, the Cyclone is not closing.


You Tube Video of Coney Island Cyclone Roller Coaster

For other ideas on what to do in New York City this weekend check out the NY Times Urban Eye, NY Post Weekend Calendar and Newyorkology.

UPDATE - 6PM: Rooftop Films sends the following message advising that the Roosevelt Island outdoor film showing of Arusi: Persian Wedding is being postponed until Sunday September 7:
due to forecasts of heavy rain and high winds, we are rescheduling for Sunday—same time, same place, different day. Hopefully we will be able to get out the word properly.

Jon Stewart Skewers Fox News Analysts Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity - Hilliarious and Another View On the Presidential Election



A reader of this post sent in another perspective on Sarah Palin's Speech, John McCain and the Presidential election.

I saw the Palin speech and it was terrific - kudos to the writers - and she's quite a performer as well. Aside from the abortion and gay rights issues, which most Northeasterners, including Republicans, can't stomach, their policies are solid. Because people can't see past the social issues(and they concern me deeply as well), many tune out the rest of the message. How good is it that even McCain the following night scolded his own party for their actions over the past several years? Perhaps the party did not stay true to its principles, and must be punished. But politicians never learn, and the Dems' big gov't approach is bankrupt, IMHO, and much of the country continues to agree. That is why every election, regardless of the scoundrels running, is so close.
Here is the text and video of Senator John McCain's Acceptance Speech to be the Republican Party Nominee for President of the United States from Real Clear Politics.

Roosevelt Island Youth Forum Scheduled For Wednesday, September 10 - Learn How To Deal With Public Safety Department

Image from RIOC

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Keith Guerra sent the following message inviting the youth of Roosevelt Island together with their parents to a community forum on Wednesday September 10 at 6:30 PM. According to RIOC, the summit is intended to be:
A Forum for youths in the community & their parents, sponsored by Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department. Hear important information on how to deal with Law Enforcement Officers, how to act during a car stop, violations /misdemeanors /felonies and much more

YOUTH SUMMIT

A Forum for the Youth in the Community (and their parents) to hear important information about the law.

R.I. Public Safety Department

How to deal with a Law Enforcement Officer

How to act during a Car Stop

Escalation of Force Continuum

Violations / Misdemeanors / Felonies

Juveniles -vs- Adults

Escalation of Charges

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 6:30PM

P.S. / I.S. 217 Cafeteria

Refreshments will be served

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer Snowfall on Roosevelt Island


As I was walking down Main Street this evening past Blackwell House, I suddenly thought I was transported months forward to a winter wonderland when I spotted a field of snow with a snowman and children throwing snowballs at each other.

As I regained my sense of time I learned that the snow was a result of special effects for an eye glass cleaner commercial being shot on Roosevelt Island. I guess we have to wait a couple of more months for ski season.

Institutions Returning To Roosevelt Island For Housing - Hospital Personnel and NYU Faculty for Riverwalk, Student Dormitories For Manhattan Park

Riverwalk Southtown Image from Roosevelt Island 360

Before Roosevelt Island was named for the former President (FDR), it was known as Welfare Island and before that Blackwell's Island. It was then the home to institutions such as prisons, lunatic asylums and smallpox patients.

Institutions are now returning to Roosevelt Island not in the form of prisons and asylums but as housing for Universities and Hospitals. Following the announcement of Columbia University's $69 million purchase of a 127 unit condo in Riverdale, Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) has purchased 96 units at Roosevelt Island's Riverwalk Landing from the Hudson/Related Companies joint venture. According to the NY Post's Between The Bricks column, MSK exercised an option to purchase these units at a total price of $49,510,997. (I can't find the correct link to the article but it is in the September 3 issue page 59. Link now works here). As to what MSK will do with the units, David Kramer of the Hudson Companies writes:
My understanding is that they’ll be holding the units and leasing to their colleagues.
MSK joins NYU as another institutional condo owner at Riverwalk Landing which is also known as Southtown Building #4. Previously NYU purchased 58 condo units in the same building for a purchase price of $43 million that NYU is attempting to re-sell to their faculty members. NYU is hoping that some Greenwich Village living faculty members will leave their current homes for life on Roosevelt Island. The remaining units in the building will remain as rentals.

MSK has increased their holdings on Roosevelt Island since they together with Cornell Medical already own building 1 & 2 and units in Building 3 of the Southtown Riverwalk complex.
Building 1 was sold to Sloan-Kettering, building 2 to Cornell-Weill, and 88 units in building 3 also to Cornell-Weill.
The remaining 142 condos in Building 3 are market rate condos as are all of the units in Building 5 which is still under construction. According to the NY Observer, 35% of the units in building 5 are sold though I think they mean that sales contracts have been signed not that they have actually closed. Also under construction is Building 6 which is planned to be a rental building - no word yet if any more Institutional hospital or university interest in it. There are also plans for three more buildings in the Riverwalk complex but it is not know when or if, construction will begin on them.

Manhattan Park has also become a location for institutional university housing for Marymount College, Rockefeller University and others leading to some unhappiness from non-student tenants. For instance this reader has had enough and writes:
Manhattan Park renters paying full market price should form a tenant's association. The infusion of college kids will be a disaster. Management of course has the right to rent to whomever they wish, but they should have made known that they were turning the buldings into dorms at the time regular tenants were renewing leases.
Here's a Manhattan Park apartment tour including a Sex and the City Shrine.


You Tube video of Manhattan Park Apartment Tour

Rooftop Films Outdoor Movie of Arusi: Persian Wedding - Saturday, September 6 At Roosevelt Island's Firefighter's Field

Image from Still in Motion

Rooftop Films will be showing an outdoor movie at Roosevelt Island's Firefighter's Field on Saturday, September 6 titled Arusi: Persian Wedding .

According to Rooftop Films:
Iranian-American filmmaker Marjan Tehrani chronicles her brother's return to Iran as he travels with his American wife to have a Persian wedding ceremony and explore his lost heritage. Using dynamic historical footage and weaving it with the couple's personal story, Arusi Persian Wedding explores the history and impact of the broken relationship between Iran and America. Behind the curtain of political tension, the film offers rare glimpses of both modern and traditional Iran, displaying a vibrant and complex country that is sealed off to much of the West.
An excerpt from interview with the Persian Wedding director via Still In Motion:
Every Iranian carries animosity about what’s happened between Iran and the US. Even if they live here and love this country, there is a really bad taste in their mouths, and a lot of regret for what could have been. Iranians are a very poetic people, proud, dramatic. We look to these moments in the past and hold on tight to them. That’s all I’ve heard about my whole life, these moments, these missed opportunities between the two countries. I was trying to figure out how to tell those stories. When my brother and his wife announced that they were going to Iran to have a wedding, I knew it was exactly how I wanted to go, with this amazing access to a very personal story with a strong narrative arc to it. This was also a life-long dream of my dad’s, that we would go back as adults and really see his country. He’s one of the few Iranians that we know in our community that has this passion, this love affair with Iran. He can’t stay away. He spends half of his year there.
The movie was originally scheduled to be shown at Southpoint Park, where outdoor movies should be shown on Roosevelt Island, as was the earlier Rooftop presentation of Song Sung Blue, a Neil Diamond cover band documentary. The reason for the move to Firefighter's Field is unclear since I have been given two different versions of what happened. I will update as soon as I find out more.

The schedule for the night is as follows:
  • 8:00: Doors open
  • 8:30: Live music
  • 9:00: Film begin
  • Tickets: FREE
Directions to Roosevelt Island by Tram, F train, bus or car can be found here.

If the movie had been at Southpoint Park, I would have asked for those new to Southpoint Park to take a moment when you are there to consider that these panoramic 360 degree views will be ruined forever if the proposed Louis Kahn memorial (some refer to it incorrectly as the FDR memorial) is ever built at this site. Since the movie is not being shown there please take a virtual look with the above links at the open NYC skyline and waterfront views that are in danger of being lost forever

UPDATE - 9/5 - Rooftop Films sends the following message advising that the Roosevelt Island outdoor film showing of Arusi: Persian Wedding is being postponed until Sunday September 7:
due to forecasts of heavy rain and high winds, we are rescheduling for Sunday—same time, same place, different day. Hopefully we will be able to get out the word properly.

Story Behind John McCain Asking Sarah Palin To Be Republican Party Vice President Nominee

Image from Washington Post

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin gave a very good speech at last night's Republican Party Convention. Those in attendance certainly loved it as will the social conservative base of the Republican Party but the big question to be decided over the next several months is how will moderate Republican and Independent voters react to her. As reported in the NY Times, Ms. Palin:
... was seeking to wrest back the narrative of her life and redefine herself to the American public after a rocky start that has put Mr. McCain’s closest aides on edge. Ms. Palin’s appearance electrified a convention that has been consumed by questions of whether she was up to the job, as she launched slashing attacks on Mr. Obama’s claims of experience.

“Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown,” Ms. Palin told the delegates in a speech that sought to eviscerate Mr. Obama, as delegates waved signs that said “I love hockey moms.” “And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

As the crowd cheered its approval, Ms. Palin went on: “I might add that in small towns we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening.”
But, here's the real story behind Seantor McCain's selection of Sarah Palin to be the Republican Party Vice Presidential nominee.


You tube Video of John McCain Asking Sarah Palin to be VP


I think and hope that the McCain - Palin team will be rejected in favor of Obama - Biden. More on the Convention at Real Clear Politics.

Assembly Member Micah Kellner Joins The Blogosphere and Has Office Hours Every Thursday Afternoon on Roosvelt Island

Image from Assembly Member Kellner's NY State Assembly Page

Received the following message from Assembly Member Micah Kellner inviting all Roosevelt Islanders to visit his new blog.
I wanted to do something more than just a monthly E-Newsletter,” said Assembly Member Kellner. A blog allows me to instantly update people on events and issues without feeling like I’m constantly spamming them. More importantly, through the comments function my blog creates the opportunity for an ongoing digital discussion. I hope East Siders and Roosevelt Islanders will keep me up to date on their thoughts and opinions on all the things I post about.”

MicahKellner.net also features online surveys regarding important issues, downloadable publications (like testimony, press releases, and reports) from the Assembly Member’s office, information on the bills he has sponsored, and streaming video of his recent community events.

“MicahKellner.net is designed to spur a dialogue with my constituents so I can better represent them,” said Assembly Member Kellner. “Instead of a traditional website I decided to go with a blog format because it allows folks to answer Ed Koch’s age old political question, ‘How am I doing?’ in just a few clicks.

Assembly Member Kellner’s community office, which is fully-wheelchair accessible, is located at 315 East 65th Street, between First and Second Avenues, on the lower level; office hours are Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Assembly Member Kellner continues to hold Roosevelt Island office hours every Thursday from 3-7pm at the RIOC offices at 591 Main Street.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Roosevelt Island After School Beacon Program Starts September 8/ School Supply Donations Sought


I saw this flyer posted on the wall of PS/IS 217 notifying Roosevelt Island parents and students that the After School Program will begin on September 8. You can pick up registration forms at the Beacon reception desk. Here is some additional information and contact resources for the Beacon Program from the Roosevelt Island Youth Program.

On another school related matter, blogger Roosevelt Island Dogs is:

asking everyone who has school supply related items that they no longer want or use to donate them. You can also donate new items or gift cards for stores that sell school supplies (such as Staples). You are welcome to write a note or a card to go along with your donation and I am open to suggestions for what schools should be the first to receive donated supplies.

On Tuesday, I will check with management at my building (The Octagon) for permission to set up a secure donation box/area where people can drop off school supply related items and donations during the month of September. Every two weeks I will organize and deliver the items and donations to a school (or hopefully schools {depending on how much is collected}) in need of the supplies.

It would be great if other buildings on Roosevelt Island also set up school supply donation stations as it would only improve the amount of supplies we are able to donate and the amount of schools and students who will benefit from our efforts. If you are interested in joining this effort, please let me know by emailing me at the following address ...
Visit her site and help if you can.

School Supplies Needed poster from Roosevelt Island Dogs

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Officers Rescue Resident From Smoke Filled Apartment!

Image of Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department from RIOC

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Keith Guerra sends the following message regarding the excellent work done by his officers in assisting a Roosevelt Island resident caught in a smoky apartment and putting out the fire.
I just wanted to bring to your attention that on Saturday, August 29, 2008 at approximately 10:50PM, the Department of Public Safety received a call of a Smoke Alarm at 546 Main Street. Officers John Malone, Brian Rivera, Anthony Clemente and Nicholas Sach responded to apartment 1018, some with hand held Fire Extinguishers. Upon arrival on the 10th floor, they found an enormous amount of smoke filling the hallway. Upon further investigation, they noticed smoke emanating from apartment 1016. Officer Rivera knocked at the door and Mr. Woodrow Deas made was able to open it. Officer Rivera then removed him from harm's way and Officer Malone proceeded into the apartment toward the burning flames in the kitchen. He immediately sprayed the stove and successfully extinguished the fire. FDNY responded and deemed the apartment safe.

I felt that this act of bravery was worth mentioning and I hope these officers can be recognized.
Kudos and thanks to Officers Malone, Rivera, Clemente and Sach!

Here are some safety tips should a fire starts in your apartment from the New York Fire Department.
  • Get everyone out. Stay low as you go out. Close but don't lock all doors in the apartment as you leave.
  • Alert others on the floor by knocking on doors. Activate the fire alarm if there is one.
  • Go down the nearest STAIRWAY, holding the railing.
  • Call the Fire Department from a floor BELOW THE FIRE or from a street fire alarm box outside.
Below is You Tube video from TV show Rescue 911 demonstrating fire department rescuing a man trapped in smoky apartment.

Memories of Roosevelt Island's "Spooky House" - Lifelong Dream to Vist The Renwick Ruins Smallpox Hospital Fulfilled

Image of lit up Renwick Ruins from the Bowery Boys

Just A Mommy, a reader of this post, shares these childhood memories of driving on the FDR and seeing Roosevelt Island's Renwick Ruins across the East River from the car window and wondering what monsters dwelled inside.
Thanks for the inside view.
As a child who grew up in Manhattan my family and I used to drive alot on the FDR and I remember looking out the window to my right and seeing what was left of this building. My brothers would say it was a crazy house where monsters lived and my older brother would tell the younger one if he misbehaved he would be shipped there permanently. I always found it very pretty and I envisioned it a castle and I would one day grow up and restore it and live there.

That was many years ago and I no longer live in Manhattan but do pass it on occassion and I noticed lately at night its lit up making it even prettier. I told my husband and kids my ' spooky" house, as my brothers called it memories.

Today I had the pleasure of touring Roosevelt Island and in my life long search to see ' spooky' house up close my husband drove us as close as possible and a resident led the way in. After almost 30 years and even though there is a big fence around it I came as close to it as I could.

Its hollowness made me wonder what those remaining walls would say if they could only speak. I read the signs and realized ' spooky' house was just a remnant of an old hospital. I was still glad I went and I hope one day its somewhat restored so people can actually go inside and if that happens I will be first in line.............

Thank you for the video~
Below are the videos mentioned of a visit inside the Renwick Ruins Smallpox Hospital. Do not go inside yourself now because it is dangerous. Take this virtual trip inside.


You Tube video inside the Renwick Ruins Smallpox Hospital (Part I)



You Tube Video inside the Renwick Ruins Smallpox Hospital Part 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

$25 Million (Or More) Roosevelt Island Tram Modernization Project - An Unnecessary Bureaucratic Bungle or Prudent Long-Term Safety Measure?

Roosevelt Island Tram image from J Blough

The September 11 RIOC Board of Directors meeting will be addressing two of the most important issues facing the future of Roosevelt Island - the Roosevelt Island Tram Modernization Project and the acquisition of site control for the southern tip of Southpoint Park by supporters of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial boondoggle. According to RIOC, the first two Agenda items for the 9/11 Board of Directors Meeting are:
  1. Conditional Designation of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Development of the FDR Four Freedoms Park (Board Action Required)
  2. Authorization to Enter into Grant Disbursement Agreement for the Aerial Tramway Modernization Project (Board Action Required)
The August 30 issue of the Main Street WIRE published an excellent editorial detailing the background of why this Tram Modernization is being sought and reasons why it should be rejected by the RIOC Board of Directors. The editorial is being reprinted in full below as is RIOC President Steve Shane's reply. It is a long but worthwhile read to understand why the Roosevelt Island Tram may be shut down for six to nine months in 2009. Here is the editorial.

A Year Without the Tram

Spending $25M+ on a Failure of Responsibility

Roosevelt Island is about to spend $25 million or more on a Tramway upgrade largely because one official could not stand up and say, "My fault."

On April 18, 2006, equipment that was working as designed triggered a routine stop on the 5:15 p.m. trip, leaving two cabins and their evening-rush passengers hanging. Shortly thereafter, a rookie Tramway employee, inadequately trained for such an ordinary occurrence, was unable to execute a standard restart procedure. His incompetence (he was later fired) was exacerbated by the arrival of NYC emergency personnel - most notably NYPD but also including FDNY units - who were all too willing to undertake some heroic rescue activity in view of helicopter-borne television cameras. Their eagerness was compounded by the interdepartmental rivalry in which NYPD didn't want to be upstaged by FDNY. The rescue effort was summarily removed from the hands of experienced Tramway personnel who had arrived and who were ready to resolve the situation without outside help.

It was later revealed that equipment that should have reeled in the two cabins failed because it had not been maintained and fully tested on a regular basis. (Procedures have since been tightened.) At the time, the closest observers of the Tram - those who run it day by day - had often complained that Red Blomer, the Dopplmayr employee in overall charge here, was rarely present. A subcontractor had failed to supervise adequately, and RIOC had apparently accepted that without complaint.

This was, in short, a failure of the RIOC administration of Herbert E. Berman, a political appointee of Governor George Pataki. He had inherited a deficient system - human factors, not mechanical or electrical ones - from previous Pataki appointees.

The buck should have stopped then and there. Berman should have stood up and issued a statement something like this:

We failed to administer and supervise. We failed in maintenance responsibilities. We allowed eager city rescue workers to take over prematurely. We panicked under pressure and discarded tested procedures. The Tram is sound, and it will be back in service in a few days at most. We screwed up. Sorry. We will do better in the future.

But there was no such statement. There was no immediate follow-up to repair the chain of command. The Tram was taken out of service for over four months. Fingers were pointed in error. ConEd, for example, mounted a credible defense. Scrambling to find a scapegoat, the Berman administration turned to the one component that could not defend itself.

They blamed the Tram.

The equipment became the scapegoat. Like RIOC presidents before him, Berman had been more interested in building things than in taking care of the things that we already had. For a bureaucrat, it's nice to be able to say, "I built that." There is not as much glamour in being able to say, "I took care of what was already there."

Once the blame was fully misdirected to the equipment, that was rationalized: It's 30 years old was the blanket that obscured all else. But age had vitually nothing to do with the Tram's failure that day. The failure was in components whose maintenance and testing had been slipshod. Put that down to human factors and failed supervision. Hardware can fail, even backup hardware. But that night's hardware failures, as they mounted, clearly had their root in human failures, most notably laxness in maintenance and testing. A further failure, specific to 4/18/06, was in dropping the matter into the hands of city emergency personnel without sticking to tested rescue protocols. It has been said, and we believe it, that if Tramway workers had remained in charge, passengers would have been on the ground within an hour - or two at most.

Blaming the equipment meant that when it was time to ask How do we fix this?, the focus became the Tram - not training, maintenance, administration, and learning from a bungled experience.

Then, more heroics: The Governor stepped in with a promise of $15 million. An impressive sum, but a classic example of throwing millions at a mess that could be fixed for thousands.

That puts us where we are today - about to spend $15 million of New York State taxpayers' money, plus $10 million in Roosevelt Island money, on a complexifying "upgrade," and about to suffer a year without Tram service when we already have rush-hour delays and inconvenience because, as we add more residents in new buildings, there is no morning-rush room on one F train after another.

Under Steve Shane, procedures are better. Supervision has been tightened. Most of the potential for human-factor failure has been wrung out of the system.

Once we debunk the scapegoating of the equipment, the remaining reasons for why we're going to go through this boil down to these:

1. We've got the state's $15 million to spend. We'd hate to lose it, and we can afford to add $10 million.

2. We'll get a marginal increase in the availability of Tram service by converting to a separated system where work can be done on side A while side B carries passengers. (As Steve Shane notes in a rebuttal on page 12, this was a primary attraction for him.)

To reason #1, we say there are many ways we can use $10 million or $25 million-plus, and we doubt very much that would be the end of it. To reason #2, we note that a year out of service to buy something new for the next 30 years means that we're gaining a system with a promised downtime of 1% at the expense of 3% downtime - that is, a probable year or more out of the next 30 - of downtime. We think that's a bad trade.

Further excuses focus on parts that may become unavailable at some point in the future, and on fears that certain rare parts could fail unexpectedly, leaving us without the Tram for what is claimed to be weeks or months. But the really critical parts can be fabricated in advance. An example is the reduction gearbox that transmits power from the Tram's motor to its haul cables. Why not order a spare? Why not install that spare when it arrives, and have the old one remanufactured to be like new? And if that's not possible, why not order an additional standby?

The electrical system has already been upgraded, and future upgrades will be possible. New track cables are needed, but their periodic replacement is routine, though costly, and it doesn't take the year that we expect the upgrade will take. (Those in charge say it should be less than a year. That would be nice, but predicting such things isn't an exact science, and we think the hoped-for 8 months could stretch to 18.)

We also believe that track cables will have to be replaced more frequently in the new system because of a change in the tensioning system. That's a downtime in availability, even with a second side running, because one cabin can't keep the rush-hour pace of two. And track replacement is, as noted, a costly matter.

Much of this is what Mark Ponton, a RIOC Board member until recently, has been saying. He found a way, through expert scientific testing that was beyond the testing capability of RIOC's contracted consultant, to get the Tram to speak in its own defense. (See the August 3 WIRE.)

We disagree with Ponton in his supposition that, should we have a sudden need for a Tramway upgrade in a year or two or three, the Governor and legislature will hurry to provide the $15 million that we would give up if we don't take it now. Governors and legislatures have been known to disagree at length and get nothing done for a long time. Budget squeezes and freezes can stall important activity.

So we think that the RIOC Board and RIOC administration should prevail upon the state administration to allow the Island to put that $15 million - plus the $10 million of Island money - in the bank. Call it the Tramway Replacement Endowment, if it needs a name. Claims that this kind of thing is impossible with government are specious. If the political will is there, it can be done.

Experts have spoken. They've said that the Tram, as it stands and with vigilant maintenance, could easily have another 30 years of life in it, and it's safe. Other experts - experts with a vested interest in having the work of a Tramway rebuild - have offered no concrete end-of-life estimate, nor have they sounded safety alarms.

And RIOC Board member Michael Shinozaki has pointed out that the planned "upgrade" would actually downgrade the track-cable tensioning system, replacing the current dynamic system, which is flexible, with a hard-anchored static system that assigns all the responsibility for coping with stress (like summer expansion and winter contraction) to the cables themselves.

The Tramway that we have now can be improved with small upgrades and proper attention to testing and maintenance. It can last a long time. And the longer we can wait before replacing today's Tram, the longer its replacement will last once replacement is necessary.

Mark Ponton has suggested that the reason we're upgrading the Tram today is that nobody in charge - not the RIOC Board, not the RIOC administration - is willing to be the guy who says, Let's not, only to find months later that the Tram has failed, perhaps catastrophically. But there is no scenario for "catastrophic" failure that wouldn't apply equally to the upgraded Tram.

When we look at the risks and inconveniences of the upgrade, and what Ponton calls the "oops factor" - the unforeseen project-stopper or Achilles' heel discovered in an almost-finished job - we rate them as roughly equal to the inconveniences and risks of sticking with the Tram that has served us so well, and clearly has many years of life left in it.

Sticking with the existing Tram and doing minor upgrades, we can save nearly $20 million (including $10 million of Island money), at least temporarily, and perhaps for a long time.

It's not as glamorous to maintain today's Tram as it is to bring a shiny new set of cabins into the world. It's not as overtly heroic to keep this one as it is to manage a major upgrade project. But it makes more sense, and the RIOC Board should demand full and precise answers in the engineering study now in progress.

In doing so, the Board should recognize the history of this affair: We are about to spend $25 million-plus and lose a year of Tram service, because then-RIOC President Herb Berman couldn't say mea culpa and, instead, found a scapegoat for his administration's failures in the solid, reliable equipment.
And here is RIOC President Steve Shane's response reprinted from the Main Street WIRE.
"It’s really essential, especially given the frailty of the subway system, to have a separated Tram system so that, for both the planned and unplanned maintenance outages, we would always have the availability of one side. To me, that was the compelling, defining argument, and if we have the money to do it, it’s absolutely worthwhile to do it, without trying to justify it in terms of whether the existing system will survive another one or two or five years.

"Sooner or later, with a system that is 30-odd years old, no matter how you maintain it, it’s going to have a breakdown. It’s had a breakdown in the past, and it will have them in the future. The maintenance will become more and more difficult – and getting parts for an aging system becomes more and more of a problem.

"The flip answer to that, Just stockpile all of those parts, doesn’t work. Unless you stockpile an entire Tram, you don’t know what’s going to be needed. And to stockpile the major elements – gears and bullwheels and all of those things that might fail – is a huge economic matter. So it’s nuts, absolutely nuts, to do what Mark Ponton proposes to do, which is to keep it going with baling wire and chewing gum (emphasis added). If you talk to the people who are maintaining it and running it, particularly Armando [Cordova, Tramway supervisor], he will clearly express his increasing frustration with keeping it going. He loves it; that is his baby. But all these little failures are cumulative. It’s a mechanical system that needs upgrading."

Question: What if the 2006 incident hadn’t happened?

"We’d be going right along as we were at that time [and] we wouldn’t have the money in hand to do what we are now about to do. It’s only in the emergency and the obvious public discomfort that was created then that the state legislature stepped up and appropriated that $15 million. I have no idea whether they would do that in today’s budget crisis, Mr. Ponton’s confidence notwithstanding in his easy claim that no politician would turn us down. There are a lot of competing needs in this state, and you never know at what given moment it might be made available.

"[Before the 2006 incident], the Tram had been tested and it did perform in emergency drills but, when called on in the real emergency, it failed at the third level. We had backup after backup, and it failed. You can never test these systems fully except in crisis – you can do drills, do whatever you want, but until you load it up and, in the crisis, you try and get it to work, you just don’t know. What finally happened is that the seals on the hydraulic pump that was run by the diesel engine failed. Every pump, at some point, has the potential of the failure of a seal, and you can test it and test it and test it, and it doesn’t fail. At some point, it will fail. When called upon in this instance, it failed, and the prior two methodologies for dealing with the crisis didn’t work. That’s not an administrative failure. It’s life in a mechanical system. Things can and will go wrong in a mechanical system, so what you need is redundancy. You need failsafe systems, and you need to be super-careful, and if you have an aging mechanical system – and I don’t care whether it’s us or the MTA or Amtrak or the FAA – you’re going to have accidents."
Mr. Shane does not help his position by claiming that opponents of the plan propose to keep the Tram operating with "bailing wire and chewing gum". If that is the current state of the Tram, it should be put out of service immediately. If not, such an exaggeration makes one wonder what else may be similarly exaggerated? After all, the safety of the Roosevelt Island Tram is of paramount importance to all.

For more info on other Tramway systems, here is an interesting 2006 study done for the City of Ogden Utah comparing various urban aerial tramway systems including ours on Roosevelt Island and the 2007 Portland Oregon Aerial Tram annual report.

Also, from Re-Connecting America, Center for Transit Oriented Development, here is a comprehensive study on aerial tramways, gondolas and ropeways.

Another Bicycle Theft on Roosevelt Island and Public Safety Reports from January 19 - September 1, 2008

Image of Riverwalk bike rack is not necessarily where bike was stolen

There was another bicycle theft reported to the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department this past week. The latest occurrence makes at least 3 in recent weeks. This time the bike was taken from one of the street bike racks. According to Public Safety report for August 29:
Petit Larceny - Female walked into PSD reported bike taken from rack by unknown subjects. Search made with negative results.
There was also an August 31 report of:
Criminal Mischief-Bike Room door damaged. Search for the subject yielded negative results. UA Super notified.
Here are the other Roosevelt Island Public Safety reports for August 25 - September 1.

8/25 /08-7:00 AM to 8/26/08-7:00 AM

Found Property- A sebco Laundry card. It was secured in PSD.

Missing Person- From a group home. NYPD and PSD responded and conducted a search with negative results.

Escort- PSD provided an escort.

Graffiti- On 7th Floor. Search for the subject yielded negative results. UA notified.

Smoke Condition- Small fire of donated clothes. PSD extinguished it. No injuries or property damage.

Investigation- Senior Citizen escorted to apt by PSD.

8/26/08-7:00 AM to 8/27/08-7:00 AM

Criminal Mischief- Concert Flower Pot turned over. WV Door man notified. No Damage. Search for subject yielded negative results.

Graffiti- In building. and in stairwell. Search for the subject yielded negative results. UA notified.

Criminal Mischief- /Petit larceny- Window broken to vehicle and property removed. Search for the subject yielded negative results. NYPD responded and prepared a report.

Found Property- Cell phone. It was secured in PSD.

Criminal Mischief/Grand larceny- A window was broken and property taken. search for the subject yielded negative results. NYPD notified.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Film shoot/Investigation- Film Crew on Island to do a film shoot and referred to RIOC for a permit.

Lost Property- 2 gold rings lost. NYPD responded and prepare a report.

Escort- PSD provided an escort to a female.

Hazardous Condition- Loose Concert and Cobble stone caused a flat tire. Motorist referred to RIOC.

Trespass- 2 subjects arrested by PSD.

Found Property- Wallet and it was secured at PSD.

Alcohol Open Container- 2 Subject arrested by PSD.

Criminal Possession of Marijuana- Subject arrested by PSD.

8/27/087:00 AM to 8/28/08-7:00AM

Unsecured Vehicle- Unable to contact the owner. PSD checked the vehicle periodically.

Unsecured Premises- Door left open. Search conducted and it was in order. The door was locked and secured.

Alarm- Search conducted for subject with negative results. NYPD responded. The alarm was reset.

Vehicle on Fire- No inuries. FDNY responded. Owner had vehicle towed.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Found Property- A wallet. It was secured in PSD.

Criminal Mischief- Rear door damaged to building. RIOC notified. Search for the subject conducted with negative results.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Aided/EDP- Male threaten to jump off the R.I. Bridge. NYPD and EMS responded. He was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Criminal Mischief- Water base paint was thrown on the outside and inside of a building. Search conducted for the subject yielded negative results. UA Super notified and corrected the condition.

0700 hrs 08/28/08 - 0700 hrs 08/29/08

Suicide jumper - PSD responded to RI bridge for possible jumper. NYPD and EMS on scene and transported aided to hospital.

Unsecured premises/Criminal Mischief - Unknown subjects entered day care center and sprayed it all over with paint. Maintenance cleaned it up. Conducted search of area with negative results.

Vehicle accident - RIOC bus hit truck causing minor damages. No injuries involved. NYPD refused.

Water leak - PSD responded to apt for water leak. Super checked apt and found no leak. Super secured apt.

Hazardous condition - Super reported that 3 youths entered elevator and threw pills all over elevator and stairwell. Maintenance cleaned up pills.

Aided - RIOC personnel twisted ankle. EMS transported aided to hospital.

Aided - Aided tripped and fell. Aided refused transport. No injuries.

Found property - Anon person dropped off cell phone at PSD. Phone secured phone.

0700 Hrs 8/29/08 - 0700 Hrs 8/30/08

Graffiti - Female tenant walked in to report black marker was used on front door lock. Search made with negative results. Super notify.

Found Property - RIOC worker gave PSD black purse found at Post Office area. Secured in Sgt's Cabinet.

Criminal Mischief - PSD Responded to Eastwood building for broken light bulbs thrown into the stairwell. Search made with negative results.

Petit Larceny - Female walked into PSD reported bike taken from rack by unknown subjects. Search made with negative results.

Aided - PSD Officer responded with FDNY for a 72 yr. old male who fell hitting his head. Transported to Elmhurst Hospital.

Graffiti - PSD Officer responded to stairwell and observed writing on wall. search made with negative results.

Fire - PSD Officer responded to a smoke alarm. Tenant was taken out of apartment. Fire was extinguished. FDNY on scene.

8/30/08-7:00 AM to 8/31/08-7:00 AM

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Aided-/DOA- Elderly deceased in apt. EMS and NYPD responded.

Graffiti- Rear of River Cross. Search for the subject yielded negative results. RIOC notified.

Criminal Trespass- 2 juvenile escorted to PSD and parents picked up youth

Alcohol/ Open Container- 4 subjects arrested by PSD.

Family Dispute- PSD and NYPD responded. No injuries. NYPD report done.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Aggravated Harassment- Via telephone. NYPD report done.

8/31/08-7:00 AM to 9/1/08-7:00 AM

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Criminal Mischief-Bike Room door damaged. Search for the subject yielded negative results. UA Super notified.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the Hospital by EMS.

Assault 3- Husband assaulted wife. PSD responded and arrested the subject.

Here are The Roosevelt Island Public Safety daily reports for January 19- May 1 2008 and May 1 - September 1 2008 as well as Monthly reports for February, April and May 2008. I hope to have more recent monthly reports soon.

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