Friday, October 9, 2009

RIRA President On Town Hall Meetings, RIOC Budget, Red Bus Schedule, Public Purpose Grants, Parking and Other Roosevelt Island Issues Of Concern

October 2009 RIRA Common Council Meeting

RIRA President Frank Farance sends the following report to Roosevelt Island residents.
1. RIOC Board Members aren't making time to interact with the residents. RIRA has sponsored a town hall meeting just prior to every RIOC Board meeting so that residents can ask questions and get feedback from the community. At the last meeting, only one of the RIOC board members attended. Several RIOC board members have never attended. Considering that the public session portion of the RIOC Board meetings is after the RIOC Board conducts its business (thus, no opportunity for resident input prior to decision-making), the RIRA town hall meetings are the only forum for community interaction — and RIOC Board Chair (and DHCR Commission) Deborah VanAmerongen recommends that RIOC Board members interact with the community. All resident RIOC Board members that ran for election said they would interact with the community, yet some have not lived up to that commitment.

2. RIOC Budget Discussions at RIRA Common Council meeting. RIOC CFO Steve Chironis has taken the initiative to open a dialogue with the residents by getting advance input and feedback on the 2010/2011 RIOC. Great idea, Steve.

3. Red Bus Experiments. We had a meeting to work on improving the morning schedule. Right now, we're still planning the experiments because there are several traffic congestion scenarios to address in the mornings around 6:50, 7:25, and 7:50. I'll have more information in the next WIRE issue. Overall, there's a good sense of collaboration with RIOC and, in particular, Fernando Martinez, RIOC VP of Operations.

4. RIRA's Recommendations for Public Purpose Grant Process for 2010. Steve Marcus and his committee have incorporated input from the community, applicants, RIOC Board members, and RIRA Common Council members. The recommendations address three main areas: (1) Guidelines and Criteria for Evaluating Public Purpose Funds: these are general requirements (some apply to RIOC, some apply to RIRA, some apply to the applicant) and there are additional factors, too; (2) Recommendations to RIOC: these are specific recommendations that RIRA believes will help improve the process for all of us (applicants, too); (3) Criteria and Procedures for Voting Membership in RIRA's Public Purpose Subcommittee: this portion of the document addresses specific concerns about perceived conflicts of interest. I think Steve's committee has done excellent work in addressing concerns (from RIOC, RIRA, the applicants, and the public) on the review process.

5. East River Ferry Service. I'm not opposed to ferry service, I just don't believe it will catch on for Roosevelt Island in a way that makes it a significant mode of transportation. Ferries have limited capacity that won't make a dent in our transportation problems. Even if the ferry were free, it still isn't competitive because of all the transfers and extra time. Unless you work at one of the East River heliports, you still have another 20-30 minutes to get a subway and continue your commute. Really, it would be shorter to take the F train to Queens and head back into the city than it would to take a ferry. Here another reason you know they don't work. According to the WIRE, a spud barge (don't visualize a boat full of potatoes or a Budweiser dog with black spots) will cost about $5000/month. That's chump change, especially if it has been reported that Octagon is having problems with vacancies. So why doesn't the Octagon developer order the barge if it is so cheap? Probably because: (1) the water ferry would get little use, or (2) maybe Octagon really doesn't have a vacancy problem. I'm betting on #1.

6. Blackwell Park Master Plan. Rosina Abramson, RIOC Vice President of Planning and Inter-Governmental Affairs says we don't need to know the budget to determine the kind of master plan for the park (this only makes sense to Abramson and no one else on the committee). The Blackwell Park master plan committee will meet for approximately three times (two meetings to go) before announcing the plan to the community in the first week of December. RIRA has two liaisons on the committee. We have requested drawings and sketches to share with the community. RIOC has chosen to impede RIRA and community review by distributing only paper copies of document. So far, it's poorly managed, little information is shared, significant community concerns have been rejected, and, apparently, the process is designed to have little input from the community. Disaster predicted for December.

7. Public Safety Office Renovations. Preface: The following criticisms in NO WAY reflect anything negative about Public Safety operations this is merely and engineering and approval issue about their space. The newly renovated offices have the wrong kind of door access which causes huge problems for the disabled, they relegate the Jewish congregation to back-door status (how offensive!), and the access doors are at opposite ends — 560 Main for elevator access and 540 Main for stair access. This is what happens when you avoid review of your architecture and engineering plans. Note to Tom Turcic, RIOC Director of Engineering: ADA compliance is merely a minimum and doesn't equate to usability. As they say: There is never enough money to do it right, but always enough money to do it over.

8. Making More Parking Available for All Four Residential Complexes. Again, working with Martinez, he is investigating returning the parking on Main Street between 40 River Road and Octagon soccer field that benefits Manhattan Park and Octagon. Martinez is working with the Coler-Goldwater hospital to make some of the south campus employee parking available, which mostly benefits Southtown, Sportspark, and the tennis bubble. My children Emilia and David (see photos) have measured 34 Avenue near Vernon Blvd in Long Island City to demonstrate that additional parking could be available on both sides of Main Street in Southtown. Martinez investigating this additional parking, which would benefit Southtown, Rivercross, and portions of Eastwood and Island House.

The RIRA President's message was also published as the RIRA column in the 10/10/09 Main Street WIRE.

Having some problems uploading the photos from Mr. Farance. Will try to add later.
UPDATE 10/19 -

Image From Frank Farance