Monday, December 14, 2009

RIRA President On MTA F Train Meeting, Blackwell Park, RIOC 15 Year Budget Forcast, Youth Program Soccer Championship and Island House Fire

Image of December 2009 RIRA Meeting

Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) Frank Farance sends the following report to Roosevelt Island residents.
1. Meeting with MTA on December 9: progress, but no tangible results so far. Paul Curtis of Assembly Member Kellner's office arranged for a meeting at the MTA concerning improved transportation at during the tram outage (March-September 2010). The meeting was attended by our reps (Kellner in person; offices of Lappin, Serrano, and Stringer), RIOC (Shane, Abramson, Wilder, Kalkin), RIRA (myself and Matt Katz), Unfortunately, the press (Dick Lutz - WIRE, Rick O'Conor - RI Blog) were expelled from the meeting. We listened to an MTA presentation by Glenn Lunden and we proposed our own solutions (see below).
Briefly, according to the MTA, Roosevelt Island has plenty available F-train capacity in the morning rush hours — so much capacity that the F-train should be able to completely accommodate all the tram passengers. Now, certainly, Roosevelt Island residents have a completely different experience: waiting for trains, trying to wedge into a crowded train. Our progress? I think we (all of us representing the Island) did a pretty credible job explaining why our transportation situation is pretty unique and why we need help from the MTA.

In response to an MTA staffer's comment "you [RI] are no different than the Bedford Avenue station [in Williamsburg]", I explained that everywhere else, if the subway is transportation option A, then there are options B and C with only a 15-minute commute penalty with a 5-10 minute variability — on Roosevelt Island, options B and C are a 45-60 minute commute penalty with a 30-minute variability, i.e., your daily commuting time increases by 1.5-2.5 hours. It was that kind of quantitative analysis that quickly made it clear to the MTA that Roosevelt Island is unique.

Overall, the thinking of the MTA staff is largely based upon quantitative support. I have requested data (MTA says they will provide) and plan on auditing and challenging the MTA's numbers and methodology. For the MTA, their main concern about our plan is that when the train switches directions, shutting down and starting up, the train might not start up and then it would block outgoing traffic. Again, I've requested data to see if our scenario is within an acceptable level of risk for their operations. Once we have more data and analyses, maybe their perceptions and decision-making will change. I'll have more to report over the next month or so.

The MTA agreed to look into other items: at least one down escalator on the mezzanine level for Manhattan-bound trains; signage to spread people out on the platform (first train car is most crowded because of elevator placement on RI); reducing pigeon poop; faster direction change on upper escalators; better signage for arriving trains; more frequent Q102 service; single direction loop for Q102 route (i.e., no guessing whether the bus will leave the Island or not).

Our presentation to the MTA included:

Roosevelt Island's Modes of Transportation (passengers/hour)
— Bus: 120-300/hour
— Water Ferry (no present service): 120-350/hour
— Tram: 1000/hour
— Subway: ~20,000/hour — Improving subway service has biggest benefit

Our proposal:
— Increasing morning capacity by providing 4-5 "specials" that extend the Q service to Roosevelt Island
— 4-5 trains, one every half hour, in the morning rush between 6:30-9:00. For example, the schedule might be 6:50, 7:20, 7:50, 8:20, 8:50. The exact times are to be refined later.
— Special-Q service will take an uptown Q train from the 57St-7Ave terminus and send it outbound via 63St tracks to 21St-Queenbridge.
— Once there, the train will "turnaround" on the Queens-bound track (motorman switches to West end of train) and await a Manhattan-bound F train to pass on the Manhattan-bound tracks.
— After the F train passes, the Q train will switch tracks and follow to the F train. Once the Q train arrives at Roosevelt Island, the doors will open on the empty train and passengers will board quickly.
— The Q train will continue on 63St tracks (stopping at 63St-Lex) and continue down 7Av and Bway on the normal Q train service.
— Additional Q trains will *NOT* add load to the 63St connector interlock (in Long Island City) nor the Rockefeller Center interlock, i.e., we are avoiding two congestion points.
— For Roosevelt Island commuters, they can transfer at 63St-Lex, continue on 7Av-Bway (a block away from the F train route), or transfer at Herald Square to the F train.
— Extra service is only for the morning rush
— No additional evening trains are requested.

— Has this kind of cross-track routing been done before? Yes, the MTA did this in Herald Square on the 6Ave lines while providing several temporary train services over the years. The 21St-Queensbridge station was the old terminus of the Q train, so it has the signaling to support the turnaround and track changes.
— RIOC will collaborate and coordinate the Island's red bus schedule with the MTA's additional trains

2. RIRA Forms Blackwell Park Subcommittee. The Gang of 15 who have been investigating and advising on Blackwell Park have been organized under RIRA so that RIOC has official community input. Judy Berdy and Matt Katz are co-chairs.

I would like to respond to RIOC's Rosina Abramson's comments in the prior WIRE: "There seems to be great confusion in the community as to who speaks for the community, we had always assumed it was RIRA (the Roosevelt Island Residents Association), but there are other groups popping up." Her statements are false and misleading, I've bit my tongue on this topic for a while, but Abramson is continually factually challenged, which continues (for all of us) to diminish the level of trust in her. It is difficult for RIOC to lead an effort when the reporting of the facts are regularly inconsistent or incomplete. Good luck to Berdy and Katz — they are doing well listening to the community's needs.

3. RIOC will budgeting. According to RIOC CFO Steve Chironis, this years' RIOC budget will include forecasts for 15 years rather than the state-mandated 5 years. This is very helpful. Thanks Steve for addressing this concern from the residents.

4. Great athletes from RI Youth Program. The soccer championship (Red vs. Turquoise) of 7-8 year olds had 20 kids playing 2+ hours straight in Saturday's continuous cold pouring rain. They were tied at 0-0. Two overtimes later, still tied and no score. Two sets of penalty kicks and tied at 1-1. Coaches, parents, and players all agreed: it was a tie and both teams would be co-champions. I couldn't believe the stamina and energy of the kids. Great job kids, coaches, and the RIYP. (Below, "DJ" Smith, the MVP from the Red Team; and "Maddy" Chen, who won the Best Sportsmanship award for the Turquoise team.)

Red Team MVP Winner D.J. Smith

Turquoise Team Best Sportsmanship Award Winner Maddie Chen

5. Fire in Island House. As reported in the WIRE, there was a fire in 551 Main Street. We heard several complaints about the performance of FDNY afterwards. I spoke with Lt. Philips at Engine 260, which is our nearest firehouse. The discussion was in the spirit of comparing notes and lessons learned. Overall, there's a little bit of improvement everywhere: FDNY, RIOC, Public Safety, managing agents, and the residents themselves. RIRA will be compiling an informative list for an upcoming Town Hall meeting.

In church on Sunday, Fr. Miqueli asked residents to avoid idle gossip: there were no candles or electric blankets to cause a fire in the nuns' apartment. He suggested that we await the fire marshal's report to understand the cause of the fire. On Monday, a half dozen of us helped pack up the convent while the apartment is being repaired.

Here's a fire safety tip especially for Roosevelt Island residents: Many baseboard heaters have no guard, so power/electric cords can slip up into the heating elements and cause a fire. In my apartment, the heater configuration makes it impossible to have a bed in a bedroom that doesn't abut a heater (for me, those heaters are ALWAYS off). Please be careful and regularly check sofas, beds, cables, etc. to make sure they are well clear of baseboard heaters.
The RIRA President's message was also published as the RIRA column in the 12/13/09 Main Street WIRE.

It should be noted that the 15 year RIOC Budget forecast rather than the previous 5 year RIOC budget forecast was brought about at the suggestion of RIRA's Budget Committee and Mr. Farance notwithstanding the ridicule of some.