Friday, February 12, 2010

RIRA President On Being Annoying, Roosevelt Island Budget, Directors, Transportation, MTA Lawsuit(?), Lego Robots & Future Meetings

Image Of 1/10 RIRA Meeting Discussing Budget With RIOC Management

Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) Frank Farance sends the following report to Roosevelt Island residents.
1. That "incredibly smart but annoying Frank Farance". This is in the category of If You Can't Laugh At Yourself .... In the last WIRE issue, long-time resident Nina Lublin was wondering out aloud why we (RIRA, me, both?) don't have the gumption to do Article 78 proceedings to halt further development in Southtown. I ran into Nina last week and thanked her for compliment. Regarding Nina's points ...

We have enough residents as board members on RIOC and, if there is a will, then things can change. But even our own resident board members don't seem to make the connections at the right moments: spend $25 million on a tram (when we only need to spend $15 million), now 14 months later it's clear we could have saved $10 million and put the savings to good use to shore up RIOC's finances; RIOC board members had the opportunity to decline Hudson-Related request for an extension for Southtown 7-9, but now they say "Gee, I didn't understand what that vote was about"; yet another year of RIOC board meetings with directors complaining about not having details until last minute or not all, and your fellow resident board members haven't figured out how to vote as a bloc to get the message heard or the procedures changed.

2. I Told You So. Last year, I complained loudly about RIOCs finances and I worried about their finances. In 2009, I estimated that RIOC would go bankrupt in about 10 years if Southtown were not completed. So I was cranky and annoying about RIOC not revealing long-term budgets and about RIOC board members who didn't seem to care as they approved spending over $40 million on this year's budget. In RIOC's 2011 budget proposal, page 9 (PDF page 11) concerns What If Southtown 7-9 Aren't Built? On the bottom row of that page you'll see that RIOC cash balance goes from $60 million (2010) to $2 million (2019) to negative $2 million the year after. RIOC President Steve Shane and RIOC CFO Steve Chironis say that on December 31, 2012 RIOC will assess which way to go on their spending (read: possibly severely curtailing spending). That $10 million extra we paid for a dual-haul rope tram (rather than a design like the present tram) is really looking like money we should not have spent — you can thank resident board members for not having a backbone on this one. By the way, although I am critical of the financial status of RIOC (a long-term issue), I really must compliment Steve Chironis on making the extra effort to work with the residents to better understand the RIOC budget and for providing much of the information requested by RIRA.

3. Transportation Problems with Tram Shutdown. In short, I might be heading to an Article 78 against the MTA. While the MTA is a huge opponent, I want to be able to say: I have done everything possible on behalf of the residents to improve transportation. I'm consulting with attorneys and our elected representatives on the best course of action. In short, what you read from the MTA in the last WIRE issue is either wrong or poorly researched. For example, the MTA rejects our suggestion on reserving the first car for Roosevelt Island because there are stairs at Roosevelt Avenue and a high number of passengers at the front of the platform. The MTA seems purposely un-creative here: if there are problems with the first car, then why not look into reserving the last car? The MTA didn't look into any alternatives and, yes, the last car would work better because people on the rear of the Roosevelt Avenue platform are largely waiting for E trains, not F trains (see photo 1).

Image From Frank Farance

As another example, the MTA says that occasionally putting an R train on our tracks (so we don't have to wait several F trains to board) is operationally infeasible, yet the MTA can do this in the morning rush, as shown in the attached photo 2.

Image From Frank Farance

The R train, with its relatively empty cars, was able to take all the passengers that were not able to board the prior overcrowded F train. After spending time on the platforms, I realized that the there is significant available capacity on the local tracks in Queens for additional R trains — adding more R trains over our tracks on 63 street would help Queens and Roosevelt Island. More to come on this topic.

4. Robots for Kids 6-13 Years Old. This is a repeat of my last column on robots: Last year, we had a great team of children who learned about and built robots (based upon Lego Mindstorms NXT), and they competed well in a City-wide competition. With the help of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program and the PS/IS 217 Beacon Program, we are continuing again this year with a longer/larger program. Brian Dorfmann and I are the mentors/coaches. The cost is free. We meet once a week 6:30 - 8PM at RIYP's second floor at 506 Main Street. We might expand to two days a week. Both boys and girls enjoy this, they enjoy socializing with children different than their own age, and it is a rewarding experience in many ways and at many levels. Pizza is served for kids.

5. Upcoming RIRA meetings. The next RIRA Town Hall meeting is on February 17 at 8PM in the church. This meeting is a prep for the RIOC Board meeting the next day. Come talk to RIOC board members and staff on agenda topics. The next Common Council meeting is March 3 at 8PM in the church lower floor. Former RIRA President Steve Marcus is chairing the Public Purpose Grant committee as will present his committee's recommendations to RIRA for discussion and approval, and for forwarding to RIOC.
The RIRA President's message is also published as the RIRA column in the 2/13/10 Main Street WIRE.


Anonymous said...

Oh, this is so much fun.

* The tram - I am very sure that you cannot just re-purpose a portion of the tram budget for something else. They got x amount of money and put as much features into that money as possible. The advantages of a dual-haul system are incredible! Once the new tram is running everybody will agree that it will be 1000x better than the current tram.

* Reserving a car of the F train for RI residents would be arrogant and, to be honest, a stupid idea. Should every station on the F line get its own car now? What are the Roosevelt Avenue passengers supposed to think? They have to cram into 9 cars while RI gets its own car? We are not better than others.

* The occasional R train on the F line actually runs all the way from Roosevelt Ave and only if there is a problem. It's not something the MTA can do all the time as they explained perfectly well.

* I am not so sure that Frank has all the data to know better how the MTA should provide service to Roosevelt Island.

* There is one thing that WE as residents can do: during the tram shutdown leave half an hour earlier and you'll be fine.

I am looking forward to the new tram and will work with the expected "madness" down on the F platform in the mornings.

Frank Farance said...

Hi Mr./Ms. Anonymous:

My point about the tram was: at the time where decisions were being made at RIOC on the kind of system (single vs. dual), they already new that the dual system would cost about $10 million more and RIOC executives (in particular Steve Shane) were saying that money was No Problem and they discouraged any kind of long-term budgeting.

The reason why is obvious: had the RIOC board had the financial reports they have now, they would have seen that (1) RIOC's finances are very very dependent upon Southtown 7-9 (much better understood now by the board, some of us understood this 14 months ago), (2) while there might be some advantages to a dual tram system, at least the RIOC board could make a more informed decision about whether or not to spend the extra $10 million (remember the State gave us $15 million and we could have replaced the tram for $15 million without depleting our reserves) -- knowing that RIOC's long-term finances are very shaky and dependent upon building a large real estate project when the financial and real estate markets have crashed might give someone pause about spending $10 million that they don't actually need to spend.

By the way, reserving cars for particular stops is pretty common among railroads (the LIRR and Metro North come to mind) and the MTA has already done this on high-volume special events, such as Aqueduct and Flushing Meadows.

So it's not arrogant, just a normal way one runs a railroad and handles passenger loads.

Regarding the data, having worked on the computerization of the train control system for Penn Station for many years, I have a reasonable working knowledge of what is possible and how these things are scheduled.

Anonymous said...

Amen to RIRA President, Frank Farance for putting it all out there- the major truths going on here on this Island!!!

He is actually trying to DO something about our current problems, that will get worse if something is Not done, i.e.-the Tram shutdown, overspending, more Buildings and the Subway AM Rush hour major problems. That will be made much worse with the Tram outage.

To the first poster- leaving "1/2 hour earlier" will NOT solve the Problems of trying to get on the F train.

We have had this problem for over years now.

Mr. Farance is not being "arrogant"-he is trying to make sure that ALL residents of this Island actually can get off of it and to work on time or to interviews, Doctors, etc.

I am a long time Resident, Westview for a little over 27 years.

Mr. Farance is a long-time resident of Island House.

I also applaud him for pointing out that the newly elected Resident Board Members, which we fought by the way to get- seem to be asleep at the Table when they vote.

Have Fun on Mon., 3/1/10 when you try to get to the Subway Platform.

Some of us are scared and upset about the Tram outage and the ensuing worsening Transportation problems it will cause.

There are alot of Residents trying to interview and actually get to those interviews, as some of us are Unemployed right now. Also, if we "Temp".- you absolutely Cannot be late.

There are long-time elderly residents who are afraid of getting to their jobs, Doctors, etc.

This also includes the Weekends- think about it.

The last time the Tram was out was from 4/06- when there was the major accident and a Generator failed and people were stuck on the Manhattan side for about 11 hours and it was out until about 9/06- 10/06.

We had the Red Shuttle Buses to Manhattan then BUT we didn't have all the new Buildings yet.

The Octagon was not completed, neither was the rest of Riverwalk.

I believe we just had the MSKCC and Cornell Buildings up then.

I was working for MSKCC then and there were problems with me getting to work on time and I was commuting to E. 64th Street and Third Ave.- running from Lex. and E. 63rd Street and Yes, I left way in advance. I got written up for it.

Also, I would run out of my work Building to E. 60th Street to make sure I got the Red Shuttle Bus home- and sometimes, quite often, there were very long lines and people getting unruly and mad as they tried to board the Bus.

Let me guess- how long have you Resided on this Island?

We have been worried about this for quite some time and rightly so.


Anonymous said...

The RI station is definitely not the worst station when it comes to overcrowding. Take any of the uptown stops on the 4/5/6 or 1/2/3 lines. Sure, they have more trains going for them but they also have many many more people to serve. RI is not unique at all and insisting that we need a unique solution for us is arrogant. Plain and simple. Can we not work with it for half a year w/o complaining? The MTA, I must say, is doing the best it can.

PS: I have been living on this island for more than 10 years now (somehow it seems to matter how long somebody has been living here).

Anonymous said...

Don't expect me to cry about poor passengers of 4/5/6 or 1/2/3 lines in Manhattan. They can WALK, talke alternative trains (4/5/6 can take F/B/D) take BUSES or taxi. We, residents of this iseland, have to get OFF this Island, we CANT'T just walk to Manhattan. There are no buses going from RI to Manahattan, no alternative trains, and taxi will cost like $20 to go RI Bridge to Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan.
And Anononymous who wrote at 3:47 pm and 1:24 am, don't pretend you are RI residents, because you cleary are NOT!

Anonymous said...

I am the poster who wrote at 1:24am and I totally agree with you-lol.

I have only lived here on RI-Westview for over 27 years now.

Did you read the entire posting- I know how bad it will be when the Tram goes down on Mon. 3/1/10

I know how we have to get off this Island, it is an Island, it is not Manhattan where we can walk, no buses going directly, Express buses like other parts of the city have and no taxis that won't cost alot and I certainly know we cannot just walk to Manhattan in any swift route or manner.

I have been here long enough to remember when I first moved here, the Tram went down- back in the Summer of 1982 for quite a few weeks, we didn't have any Subway service then.

I believe if my Memory serves me, we went to the top of Motorgate, where we boarded shuttle buses to take into Manhattan.

I am most certainly a long- term Island Resident.

The lack in planning for this Tram outage is horrendous and so short-sighted with all the new residents we have now.

We should have Express Buses from here directly into the city and back during the entire Outage for Every Resident on this Island or come up with better plans.

We did have a Ferry service, a trial run back in 9/85 on the Eastern Channel of the East River-behind the Tramway going down to the South St. Seaport and it was great.

Back then, we had alot less buildings and people and the Ferry was pretty small, but it was great.

WV resident- more than 27 years.

Anonymous said...

March 1st will come around and nobody will really notice that the tram is out. You'll all see. All this whining and complaining for nothing. We all will adjust.