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Friday, February 13, 2009

NY Public Service Commission Grants Emergency Stay of Urban America's Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings Electricity Submetering Charge Increases


The immediate worries of the Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents that their monthly electricity bills could shoot up to as much as $1, 000 was temporarily alleviated yesterday by the granting of an emergency stay by the NY State Public Service Commission prohibiting Urban America from charging for electricity based upon submetering of electricity usage.

Assembly Member Micah Kellner speaking before Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents

According to the decision, which was in response to a petition brought by Roosevelt Island elected representatives (Assembly Member Kellner, State Senator Serrano, Congresswomen Maloney, City Councilmember Lappin and Borough President Stringer) the Public Service Commission ruled:
... To ensure that vulnerable tenants are not harmed by submetering and to ensure that the Owner does not undermine the tenants’ HEFPA protections, the Submetering Order granting authority to submeter must be and is stayed pursuant to PSL §22 and this Order. Specifically, pursuant to this stay, the Owner shall not utilize the submetering system to measure electric service and
shall not charge tenants for submetered electricity unless and until authorized to do
so by a further Commission order....
As reported by the Public Utility Law Project (PULP):
... the Commission may have been unaware, when it issued an order waiving its regulations against submetering in November 2008 that
  • heating bills are being shifted to tenants
  • the tenants have low incomes
  • the charges for electricity are not offset by commensurate reductions in rent
  • the premises and fixtures are not energy efficient
  • charges for electricity are deemed to be "additional rent," subjecting tenants to eviction for nonpayment of electricity charges
  • the landlord's grievance procedure may subtly evade the requirements of the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA) by channeling disputes over electricity charges to eviction proceedings instead of to the PSC for decision.
Assembly Member Kellner adds:
The Stay is good until the rehearing of the application is complete. The notice of the rehearing must be posted for 10 days & then there is 45 day comment period. Hopefully by the end of that process the PSC will be convinced that submetering is inappropriate for Eastwood and deny the application.
Below is the decision by the Public Service Commission temporarily stopping the electricity submetering of Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents and billing them for charges based upon the submetered readings.
Roosevelt Landings Psc Decision

UPDATE
- 2/15 - The 2/14 NY Times, following up on this article, reports:
...“Until management takes responsibility for the building repairs, it’s unconscionable for them to dump their responsibility onto the backs of their tenants,” said Joyce S. Mincheff, president of the residents’ association at the complex.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Urban American, said the company intended to work with tenants, government agencies and elected officials to make the plan a success. “The submetering program is intended to help conserve energy, which is something that we remain committed to,” he said....
The 2/7 Main Street WIRE provides some additional background on Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings electricity submetering controversy as well.
Urban American had originally hoped to be at this sample billing stage much earlier, according to sources familiar with the progress toward submetering. Because it has begun in cold months, tenants have seen what could be the worst possible cost figures. In theory, lower summertime costs might go some way toward balancing out high winter-season heating costs, making annual cost somewhat closer to the rent-reduction number for the year.

But tenant leaders in the building are taking no chances. They're looking for every possible way to reduce the electricity charges they'll soon see on rent bills.
UPDATE - 2/17 - The Public Utility Law Project has more information on what tenants need to know about residential electricity submetering.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

RIOC Will Issue Request For Proposal Seeking Master Leaseholder For Roosevelt Island Main Street Stores

Image of Roosevelt Island's Main Street from Bridge and Tunnel Club

Are the days of a cruddy and disgusting Roosevelt Island Main Street stores almost over? Will an experienced and successful private retail real estate developer eventually be taking them over from RIOC? Well, maybe.

In a post last week, I commented upon this letter published in the 1/17 Main Street WIRE written by Charlee Miller, RIOC Board Member and Chairperson of RIOC's Real Estate committee, that announced a plan to select yet another consultant to study what ails Roosevelt Island Main Street Retail Stores. According to Ms Miller:
... Once the consultant is on board, the next steps will be rolled out in phases. Residents, workers, visitors, vendors, and various other groups will be asked to participate in public workshops and focus groups. These groups will contribute to the fact-finding mission about the attitudes, needs, and interests of the community.

Some of the surveys will include the following:

* Resident shopping/dining patterns and preferences
* Worker shopping/dining patterns and preferences
* Tourist/visitor spending patterns and preferences...
I suggested that such a study was a waste of time and that RIOC should issue a Main Street Retail Master Leaseholder Request For Proposals so that a private real estate company with retail experience take over the stores as suggested by then RIRA Common Council Delegate and now RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin in this 6/16/07 Main Street WIRE article:
Our solution is simple: We lease the commercial space to a master leaseholder who then sublets the individual storefronts.
I also asked:
Why not issue an RFP for a Master Retail leaseholder now instead of waiting months if not years for yet another study or if the governmental bureaucratic process requires a new study, do it simultaneously with the RFP.
I just received some good news from RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin. It looks like RIOC will move forward with both a study and a Main Street Retail Master Lease RFP simultaneously. Formal approval by the Real Estate Committee and RIOC Board still needs to be accomplished but that should be done in the next several weeks.

Here is a link to the 2005 Master Lease Request For Proposals of Roosevelt Island's approximately 90,000 square feet of Main Street retail stores. (This was called an RFIP not RFP). Nothing ever came of it so it would be helpful to learn what type of responses were received, if any.

Also, the RIOC 2009-10 Proposed Budget details the Main Street retail stores annual rents and number of years remaining on lease at pages 8-9.

UPDATE - 2/13- RIOC President Steve Shane responds:
Where do you get your source to authoritatively state "RIOC will issue RFP seeking master leaseholder for RI Main Street Stores"?
While after study and analysis, the master leaseholder route may be the option chosen, there is no such determination now.
There is no conclusion reached by the Real Estate Committee. There is no conclusion recommended by the consultant. There is no authorization from the Board.
I reply:
"Rioc will issue RFP seeking master leaseholder for RI Main Street Stores" was the headline of the post. If you read the body of the post, I clearly say that such a decision still needs to be approved by the Real Estate Committee and RIOC Board.

"It looks like RIOC will move forward with both a study and a Main Street Retail Master Lease RFP simultaneously. Formal approval by the Real Estate Committee and RIOC Board still needs to be accomplished but that should be done in the next several weeks."
Mr: Shane:
While it is true that I am neither a blogger nor a journalist, if the headline reads one way and only in the fine print below do you raise the other alternatives, it might mislead some portion of your readership.
And yes, I read the entire article which leads one to wonder why the disconnect.
I think the headline is consistent with the story and I do not think the body of the story can correctly be characterized as being "in the fine print below".

NY State Legislative Grants Available For Roosevelt Island Community Organization - Deadline March 6, 2009


I received the following message from State Senator Jose Serrano's office regarding the availability of NY State legislative grants. If you are a member of a Roosevelt Island organization that is looking for some additional funding assistance, apply soon because the deadline is Friday, March 6. Last year's recipients included the Roosevelt Island Residents Association and the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association, each receiving $5,000.
Serrano Legislative Grants

Legislative grant applications to the Office of Senator Serrano are due Friday, March 6, 2009. You must be a 501(c)(3) or have fiscal sponsorship through such an organization.

CLICK HERE for the official Serrano 2009-2010 Legislative Grant Application and Guidelines. The Application form and Checklist must be printed, filled out, and included in your funding request.

If you have already sent a funding request for the current fiscal year, you must resubmit the request, using these instructions, and in hard copy form via mail. (Email submissions will not be considered.)

Senator Serrano is strongly committed to a transparent and efficient state government, especially as it concerns allocations. CLICK HERE for a list of last year's grant recipients.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Orphans International Love Is a Verb Fundraising Event At Gallery RIVAA, Friday February 13

Love Is A Verb logo from Orphans International

I received the following invitation for all Roosevelt Islanders from Jim Luce of Roosevelt Island based Orphans International.
"Love is a Verb"

Friday Feb. 13

RIVAA Gallery

529 Main Street

7 to 9 PM
Come to RIVAA gallery Friday Feb. 13 for an exciting evening hosted by Orphans International.

The party will feature Valentine trivia games featuring Roosevelt Island 'Lovers", lots of creative Valentine hearts, great food and wine....all for a $10. donation to OI Haiti. The theme is " Love is a Verb" and OI will be honoring child sponsors, many who live on Roosevelt Island.
OIWW interns are gathering exciting raffle and auction prizes, so guests can sign up to win a 5 day vacation at a 5 star resort, tickets to Manhattan events, certificates for dinner for 2. Contact linda@oiww.org or call 212-755-7285 if you have questions.
Everyone is welcome.
More on Orphans International here.

Spring Is Coming - What Will Happen To RIOC's Artifical Turf Plan For Roosevelt Island Playing Fields?

Image of Roosevelt Island's Firefighters Field Winter 2009

An earlier post described plans by RIOC to solve the problem of poor playing field conditions at Roosevelt Island ball fields by replacing whatever remains of the natural grass with artificial turf.

The 2/9 NY Times reported on the controversy involving the use of rubber pellets or tire crumbs as synthetic/artificial turf for New York City sports fields.
Synthetic sports fields have become battlegrounds, with New York City’s parks and health departments on one side and some elected officials and activists on the other. One side says the turf is safe; the other says it harbors dangerous levels of lead and possibly other toxins...
According to the 2/10 Daily News:
The controversial material made from recycled tires will no longer be used in synthetic-turf fields for parks and schools, officials said yesterday. While insisting crumb rubber isn't toxic, the officials said they stopped using it because it overheats on hot days and could pose a health risk.

First Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh told a City Council panel that there's "no plan to replace crumb rubber" in all 95 existing fields. It will, however, be replaced as part of the normal 10-year renovation cycle....

After reading these articles and with the warmer weather reminding me of spring, I inquired of RIOC President Steve Shane:
Does RIOC plan on using the same system as the NYC Parks Department for Roosevelt Island ball fields, or something else, and what is the status of the playing fields for the upcoming spring and summer season?
Mr. Shane replied:
No, RIOC will not be using the crumb rubber that was found to be objectionable. We are very aware of all the controversy and if you look at the item (#8) on the Board agenda for the 19th, you will see a full discussion of the subject. I am sure the question will be asked and all we can do is provide the best information available.
And followed up later in the day with:
We are also following with Engineering at Dept of Parks and the City Council for the latest info. We will postpone any decision until clear what to do, although may ask for authorization from Board for extra c.$175,000 to spend on the eco friendly product, to be used only as public health issues are determined.
Agenda #8 on for the 2/19 RIOC Board of Directors meeting is:
Authorization to Enter Into Contract for the Octagon Soccer Field Renovation (Board Action Required)

Image of muddy field from fjny is not of Roosevelt Island playing fields but could be.

The Zog soccer players have been unhappy with the Roosevelt Island playing field conditions since at least the Fall of 2007.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings Enormous Submetered Electricity Bills Fault of Careless Tenants Or Inefficient Urban America Heating Equipment?

Emergency Meeting of Roosevelt Landings Tenant Association on electricity submetering from NY Times

As reported in earlier posts concerning Urban America's electricity submetering of Roosevelt Island's Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings complex:
... the first sample submetered electric bill have been received by the Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents and their worst fears have been realized - monthly electric bills of up to $1000 for a 3 bedroom apartment and $500-$600 for a two bedroom apartment.

Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings resident protests Urban America Electricity Charge Increase

An emergency meeting of the Roosevelt Landings Residents Association was held on Sunday afternoon in which the tenants were urged by their representatives, including Assembly Member Micah Kellner, to stick together and collect information about their electricity bills.

Image of him speaking on Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings submetering from Micah Kellner

The 2/9 NY Times reported:
... Douglas F. Eisenberg, the chief operating officer for Urban American, which owns Roosevelt Landings, said the sample bills allowed residents to see how much electricity they were using and to make adjustments.

“I think that changing one’s habits is a difficult thing to do, and this really takes people being proactive about saving energy,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “A lot of these residents have lived in this building a long time. They haven’t been responsible for their electric bills. Now they are. I think at the end of the day, I feel pretty good that we’re doing the right thing here.”

Tenants’ bills varied widely. For three-bedroom apartments, they ranged from $79.26 to $1,050.43, and for four-bedrooms from $147.97 to $974.11. Mr. Eisenberg said the readings were accurate, and added that if tenants had concerns about faulty heaters, the management was eager to correct the problem. “I assure you that this office is pretty responsive,” he said....
And a reader of this post added:
... I am sorry, but this really looks like this is a matter of attitude and habit adjustment. Time to wear those sweaters and sweat pants at home now. Like pretty much everybody else in this country.
The National Review's Planet Gore also comments on Eastwood's submetering situation:
...Here’s an idea. Since these Roosevelt Island renters with the high bills seem to enjoy a terrarium like existence, like President Obama, maybe we should submeter the White House so the Orchid-in-Chief knows how much his tropical office temperature actually costs the U.S. taxpayer?
Asked to comment on the statement by Urban America blaming the tenants for the enormous electric bills Assmebly Member Kellner states:
... I am fairly offended by these remarks, as I am sure Eastwood tenants are. If I ran every appliance in my apartment 24-hours a day for a month, I doubt I could match most of the electric bills that Eastwood residents are facing. Electric baseboard heating is simply the most inefficient system you can have in a building like this. And what’s worse is that Douglas Eisenberg knows this. His company has been paying this electric bill since they bought the building, and now they don’t want to do that anymore. Blaming the tenants and accusing them of being wasteful is a low-ball move and it’s not fooling anyone.

I have only seen two bills so far, out of hundreds, where the rent reduction covers what was approved by the PSC, and most tenants are many hundreds of dollars away from that mark. If you are an Eastwood tenant and you have not yet faxed me a copy of your sample bill, please do so. My fax number is 917-432-2983... (read full text here)

State Senator Jose Serrano's Chief of Staff was present at Sunday's meeting and forwards the following message on behalf of Senator Serrano:

I will not stand for massive rent increases in the guise of environmental conservation. Assemblyman Kellner and the resident association have done a wonderful job as it concerns research and data collection, and this is a strategy I will follow at impacted buildings in other parts of my Senate District. Moreover, I spoke today with the Public Service Commission, and expressed by phone my concern with Eastwood and the other building applications in the Urban American portfolio.

The Roosevelt Landings Residents Association adds the following:
To the untrained eye, it is difficult to see or understand how a building, particularly one that came under the watchful eye of DHCR for so many years, could fall into such a state of disrepair that hot air escapes like water through a sieve. I believe Mr. Fernandez (the NY Times reporter) was not adamant enough about the building's problems which are being foisted onto the backs of the tenants. Without a comprehensive engineering report, which has not been conducted, he had little documentation with which to arrive at a clearer understanding of the construction flaws and disrepair that creates our heating problems.

The tenants of Eastwood are all for "greening" the building and hope that conservation experts will weigh in on the wasteful practices of the landlord. In the meantime, expecting the tenants to shoulder Mr. Eisenberg's failure is unjust and will drive families from their homes!

In practicality, an overage of $40 is spending that could be improved upon by a tenant. An overage of $700 signals wasteful, disrepair on the part of the landlord.
And a reader comments on how to discover if the enormous electricity charges are due to tenant overuse or faulty equipment:
This is something that can easily be disclosed by Q-Logic, as all of the info is in their server. Why doesn't Q-Logic or UA reveal the amts, tabulated per apt type (1 BR, 2 BR & so forth)? Will the amts, if they are unaffordable for the average renter, indisputably support Kellner's contention that the bldg is impossible to efficiently heat or cool unless the landlord invests additional millions of dollars in upgrades? Is that why UA is not revealing this info?
Below is a letter sent by Assembly Member Kellner, Congresswoman Maloney, Senator Serrano, Council Member Lappin and Manhattan Borough President Stringer to the NY State Public Service Commission petitioning for a re-hearing of Urban America's:
application #08-E-0838 by North Town Roosevelt, LLC to submeter electricity for 510-580 Main Street (‘Roosevelt Landings,’ formerly known as ‘Eastwood’) on Roosevelt Island.
The letter to the Public Service Commission describes Urban America's failure to make basic energy efficient improvements as follows.
The following conditions exist at Eastwood:

• Electric, baseboard heating is used and units are approximately 33 years-old and not Energy Star rated;
• Building walls are poorly insulated;
• Many heaters can not be regulated, but rather can only be turned to the on or off position;
• Very few thermostats work and do not include temperature readings, but rather indicate ambiguous settings (ex. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5);
• Tenant-conducted survey indicates that over half of tenants have at least one broken or ineffective heating unit;
• No thermometers exist in any of the units;
• Large senior and disabled population cannot reach thermo-controls due to placement at ground-level, with no accommodation provided;
• Home appliances are typically very old and are not Energy Star rated;
• North Town Roosevelt, LLC did replace windows in most units for better insulation, but failed to order covers for air conditioning unit sleeves to keep out the winter draft, instead cardboard was installed, leaving tenants exposed to the elements;
• Limiters have been installed in windows, instead of the more appropriate child guards, which will prevent tenants from opening their windows during the warmer months as an alternative to air conditioning; and
• Hallways and other common areas are unheated resulting in heat leakage from residential units into hallways.

Petition for Rehearing of Eastwood Sub Metering


Gothamist has more on Roosevelt Island Eastwood tenants getting zapped with higher electricity bills including comments like this from #14:
... I live on Roosevelt Island but in a different complex. I have a friend, however, who lives in one of these buildings.

1) The management of her building refuses to heat the hallways. My friend spends most of the time freezing even with the heat turned up full blast because all of her heat leaks into the hallway. (Note the hallway circles the outside of the building and is the layer adjacent to the outdoors.) This is also due to the horrible insulation of all the apartments that the management won't fix.

2) The management has told her that she will be paying the standard Con Ed rate moving forward for her electricity. However, we also pay electricity at our complex and, on our bill, the Con Ed rate is much less than the rate her management company has quoted. They aren't giving out the contact information for Con Ed or the meter readings so there is no way for the tenants to confirm that they are being given a fair rate.

3) Half of this building is rent controlled and half is listed at market rate. The management company has been accused multiple times of pulling stunts like overcharging for electricity and refusing to make repairs in order to drive out all the rent-controlled tenants so they can flip the remaining apartments to market rate. (I'm sure everyone is familiar with similar stories in this city.) In the past few months, I have heard stories about multiple fires in the buildings, appliances installed incorrectly and not fixed for months, maintenance requests being ignored and when questioned, the management company lying about repair work, shutting down all the laundry rooms that serve 3000 tenants for a week, etc.

Fortunately, a lot of the tenants are trying to organize and get their rights acknowledged in this situation. I wouldn't be surprised to see an update about the company being taken to court
As an aside, Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings was the Dark Water building.

UPDATE - 6:30 PM - City Council Member Jessica Lappin sends the following response:
The bills that Eastwood tenants received last week are outrageous, unreasonable, and unfair. There is simply no way that a single apartment should be generating an electricity bill over $1000. The owner stopped heating the hallways a while ago and I guess they want tenants to stop heating their apartments as well. I will be working with Assemblyman Kellner and all of the other elected officials for the Island to try to reverse this policy and protect the Eastwood tenants.

Reader Comments On RIOC Budget, Submetering, RIOC President/Blogger Antagonism, Tram Modernization & FDR Memorial - Keep It Coming!

At the Bar image from First Second Books

I receive all kinds of messages from readers commenting on particular posts, providing tips or ideas on future stories and events, as well as personal opinions of concern to Roosevelt Islanders. Sometimes I feel as though I am sitting on a bar stool (at night) or coffee shop (during the day) and having a great conversation with new and old friends. Please continue to share your ideas. The more Roosevelt Island voices being heard, the better.

A reader sent in the following comment:
Thanks for covering the Eastwood stuff -- even though we live in Manhattan Park I'm stunned at what's going on just up the street. The quote you put in from Douglas Eisenberg is unreal -- it's the tenants who now need to take responsibility? How tone-deaf is that guy? Good to see that the Eastwood tenants seem united and prepared to fight. Do you know if Kellner or others have suggested counsel for them?

Another thing that caught my eye from the Wire -- am I the only one (besides Steve Shane of course) who thinks it's ridiculous to ask RIOC for projected budgets beyond 5 years? Shane is right -- those numbers would be absolutely worthless, and it would simply amount to make-work to compile them. Frank Farance and others should really back off that demand because it makes them look pretty ignorant regarding setting and adhering to budgets.

Shane's an interesting cat -- it appears you and he have a bit of an antagonistic relationship, but I appreciate the fact that he takes time to respond to your queries, usually in detail. On the other hand, the thing you've frequently pointed out, that he can be dismissive of Islanders concerns, is something I've experienced myself. In the only time I met him (introduced myself to him on the red bus, last November), when in the short ride from the tram to his stop, he basically swept aside concerns about both the Roosevelt memorial (park needs to serve more than narrow interests of the Islanders -- the obvious retort to which is how does this park serve the broader interest of NYC residents? Didn't have time to ask that), and the empty retail storefronts in town (he basically said yes the permitting and RFP process is onerous, but hey, if anyone cared they would have supported the businesses that had been there).

I agree with Shane about the tram refurbishment (and began our conversation that way so I could ask him about the Roosevelt memorial and retail) for 2 reasons: 1) the availability of the state money, which given the environment may not be available again for some time, and I'm a big believer in making boring, preventive up-front investments; and 2) the need to have independent movement of the tram cars. The jigback system is arcane and debilitating in an emergency, imho. Whether the current system could last another 30 years or not is neither here nor there to me.

Still, he seems like a diligent and conscientious bureaucrat, and he really does make an effort to communicate despite the endless grief and frankly over the top criticism that gets pitched at him in the Wire and elsewhere. Pretty thankless job, if you ask me, though probably pretty good dough. And no, I don't work for RIOC...
I replied:
Thanks for the very thoughtful comments.

I agree with just about all of your comments although I do not think that Shane and I have an antagonistic personal relationship - just disagreements over certain issues which on occasion leads to a snide or sarcastic response from one of us.
To which the reader responded:
Ha, I guess I haven't learned to parse your sarcasm with one another. I hope Steve is like me and views your blog as a great, valuable resource for Island residents, despite however you may disagree on the issues. Although for the life of me I can't understand the support for the Roosevelt memorial.
UPDATE - 2/15 - The reader wished to clarify comments made above about RIRA President Frank Farance's request for capital budget information more than 5 years in the future:
One thing I sort of regret is obliquely calling Frank Farance "ignorant". He seems like a well-meaning, diligent guy, and God knows he's in a thankless role. And if his request had been to receive, say, a report of capital improvements that are planned over the next 10 years or so, that would be different. But budgeting is a different beast and much more formal, and to ask for prospective budgets beyond 5 years is an exercise in futility, obviously so. Even more than 2-3 years out is really shaky, as the numbers and discretionary priorities will surely change, often dramatically.
One negative aspect of blogging is there are occasions upon seeing something you have written appear on the web when you realize that the comment does not represent the full measure of what you wished to convey. Fortunately, it is very easy to correct with a subsequent addition or clarification.

Message From RIRA President On Roosevelt Island Budget, Red Bus, Submetering and Clarifications/Corrections

Image of RIRA Common Council Meeting

Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) President Frank Farance sends the following message to the Roosevelt Island community. This message was also published as the RIRA column in the 2/7/09 Main Street WIRE. Mr. Farance addresses issues on the RIOC Budget, Red Bus schedule, Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings submetering and various clarifications/corrections from prior columns. Mr. Farance also blogs here. I have offered RIOC President Steve Shane the same opportunity to share his views with the Roosevelt Island commuityl

1. RIRA forms RIOC Budget Analysis Committee. On Monday, February 2, I announced the formation of the committee "RIOC unwilling to provide long-term budget estimates, RIRA subcommittee to fill the gap" -- see my blog at "http://blog.rira-council.org" for the correspondence with RIOC. Unfortunately, Steve Shane characterized our request for long-term budgetary information as No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Gee, that's a really unhelpful response, especially considering how it will negatively affect all Island residents, and its negative affect on: the Island's rental market, the value of Island condos/co-ops, and the desirability for merchants to locate here.

2. Red Bus gets a GPS system and makes your commute longer. Whoda thunk that technology could make things worse? Octagon management has installed a GPS system on the buses that is viewable on the web, see "http://nextbus.com", select New York, RIOC, and Red Bus. Does it help you get to work faster? No, the fundamental problem with the Red Bus it is scheduling, which RIOC refuses to do. Every other transportation system has a schedule, which reduces the bunching that cause the wide schedule variances. It's the variances that cause residents to add 15-20 minutes each way for their commute. This problem has only existed since circa 2005 when RIOC decoupled the bus schedule from the tram schedule. The solution is simply to have a schedule (whether every 15 or 20 minutes) and to synchronize the bus runs, which means that buses might wait a couple minutes at the end of their run (see my blog for more info).

Now with the GPS system, if you plan on leaving as the website might direct, you will be adding 10 minutes to your schedule because the GPS system has its own significant inaccuracies on what is reporting on the web. Followup: RIOC Board Member and RIRA Common Council Member Jonathan Kalkin said Nextbus will be tweaking the system to improve predictions. We'll see.

With the present non-schedule, what is the fastest way to get to the tram? For Southtown, just walk. For the WIRE and Manhattan Park buildings: (1) go to your bus stop, (2) look if a bus is coming, (3) if you see a bus, get on, otherwise (4) start walking to the next bus stop, (5) go back to step #2. For Octagon, the GPS system offers no help on decision-making — your best bet is always to wait for the bus, regardless.

The only advantage to the GPS system is that we can now document in minute detail how RIOC poorly manages its bus system. RIOC, why are you so stubborn?

3. Roosevelt Landings (Eastwood) tenants throng to RIRA meeting. The WIRE is covering this story. FOR ISLAND NEWCOMERS: This is a quintessential Roosevelt Island community moment: you need to support your neighbors just as they have/will support your building.

4. February 18, 8PM RIRA Town Hall meeting. Again, RIRA will hold a residents' forum for discussing the RIOC Board Agenda for its board meeting on February 19. Residents and RIOC Board members are welcome.

5. Clarifications/corrections. In my last column, I reported four items, three needing correction and one in dispute. I reported that Public Safety incidents were going down, when in fact they are going up. I reported that Public Safety was planning on putting "holding cells" in the basement where the Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance and from the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation are located. RIOC is still planning on taking their space, but the holding rooms will be upstairs at street level, not downstairs. Still, the space should be preserved for the MSTDA and RIJC without encroachment by RIOC. PSD Director Keith Guerra complained that I used the term "holding cell" when the proper term is "holding room" because they have no bars and do not resemble a jail cell. Guerra was also disappointed that I reported, contrary to Guerra's statement, that Island youth organizations were not invited to participate in the PSD Gang Summit. Again, I checked with PS/IS 217, its PTA, Roosevelt Island Youth Program, and the Beacon Program — they all confirmed they were not invited to participate. Regardless, Guerra and I spoke about ways to do this better in the future and I wish him well.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's the Chinese New Year, Buy a Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Condo - But No Rent To Own or Price Protection Gimmicks Yet !

Celebrating Chinese New Year outside of Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Sales office

While walking around Roosevelt Island's Southtown Saturday afternoon, I wondered why I heard the sound of a pounding beat and saw costumed drummers, dancing dragons and people wandering around looking bewildered as they clutched their Chinese language newspapers.

Dragon and Costumed Drummers Taking a break outside of Riverwalk Sales Office

It turns out that the Hudson/Related developers of the Riverwalk Court Condo building were conducting a Chinese New Year - Buy a Roosevelt Island Condo event.

Sign announcing Chinese New Year Celebration at Riverwalk Court Condo

Riverwalk Court had been scheduled to open in January of 2009 but that has been pushed back to sometime in the spring. According to Streeteasy, 18 of the 123 units are in contract. During a recent RIRA Town Hall meeting, the RIOC CFO said that 40 of the 123 units are in contract.

An article in the 2/6/09 Epoch Times describes Roosevelt Island:
... It’s quiet, it’s safe, very close to nature, there’s birds and butterflies, big open space, you can sit under a tree and it’s like living right next to the city but not in the city,” said Heather Mosher, a Roosevelt Island renter and a mother for two years. “I love that, especially if you have a child.”

The problem for developers of Manhattan’s little secret, is just that—no one knows about it.

“Our biggest challenge is to get people to come to Roosevelt Island and once they’re there, they love it,” said David Kramer, principal at Hudson Companies, in an interview at his office near Union Square.

Hudson along with Related Companies are developing 19 acres of Roosevelt Island into prime Manhattan residential property for below-Manhattan prices...
What is pricing like at Roosevelt Island's Riverwalk Court? For instance, the Riverwalk Court web site lists a 14th floor 1 bedroom, 716 sq. ft apartment priced at $662,500 with monthly common charges of $831 and monthly taxes of $73. An eleventh floor 1123 square foot 2 bedroom apartment is priced at $880,000 with monthly common charges of $1256 and monthly taxes of $110. A seventh floor 3 bedroom 1433 square foot apartment is priced at $1,305,000 with monthly common charges of $1542 and monthly taxes of $135.

I had asked Mr. Kramer if the developers were considering a rent-to-own or price protection program that some other condo projects are employing to help improve sales. Mr. Kramer indicated that they were not going to use such gimmicks and thought that the Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Court condos were appropriately priced.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Roosevelt Island Subway Escalator Now Going Down To Manhattan Bound Platform

Roosevelt Island Escalator takes passenger down to platform

Coming home this afternoon, I noticed that one of the Roosevelt Island escalators leading from the lower level to the Manhattan bound subway platform was operating in the down position. I can't recall ever seeing that. However, both Queens bound platform subway escalators were working in the up direction.

Roosevelt Island 360 previously inquired why all the platform subway escalators had been operating in the up direction and learned the MTA plans:
... with the exception of rush hours, to now split the four escalators up with each platform having one escalator running up and the other down...
It looks like the MTA has started to split the Roosevelt Island subway platform escalators.

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