Follow Roosevelt Islander On:




Friday, March 18, 2011

Stanford University Will Be Right At Home On Roosevelt Island - We're Already A Hotbed Of Technological Innovation Says RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin

I've said this before about Roosevelt Island but it is worth repeating today with the announcement by Stanford University of it's proposed plan to build a state of the art engineering and applied research school at the Coler Goldwater Hospital site:
 Roosevelt Island receives much grief from many of our fellow New York City residents for being strange, insular, creepy, spooky, stuck in the past etc - and some of that is true. But there is another side to Roosevelt Island which is at the forefront of urban planning and the use of new and exciting technology for the betterment of those who live, work and visit here...
Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Director Jonathan Kalkin shares a dizzying amount of information on exciting, new and innovative Roosevelt Island technology projects in various stages of development as well as some plain, old fashioned managerial changes that will help to improve life here on Roosevelt Island. From Mr. Kalkin:
I am very excited at the prospect of a world class university like Stanford on Roosevelt Island. RIOC staff and I have been working closely with the City Hall and NYCEDC sharing information about the Island and sending out materials about the many high tech projects we are moving forward. We have had discussions or  meetings companies like GE, Streetline Inc, SeeClickFix, Zipcar, Google, IBM, Verizon, Solar Sailor, Verdant Power and more. IBM Brazil liked some of our ideas so much you may see them adopted for the next Olympics.  I have been attending several events throughout the city meeting with leaders of government and NYC startups to brainstorm about how we can make Roosevelt Island an even better place to live.

Roosevelt Island has been working on several innovative initiatives from Free Fiber WiFi internet in our parks, bike sharing, 311 SeeClick Fix Issue Crowdsourcing, Fuel Cell, Solar and Tidal Energy, LED lighting for Motorgate/Streetlights/Tram Stations, Electric Car Charging Stations, Streetline Smart Parking meters and sensors,  Nextbus Real Time Bus Arrival Information, and in development are projects like QR Code initiatives, location based advertising, mobile payments, High Tech Security Cameras, Cloud Computing, Green Hybrid/Solar Ferries,  Google GIS Maps and Transit, Bus Station and Tram Station Information Screen Kiosks and more.

The feedback so far has been amazing. Universities love Roosevelt Island and once they know all the initiatives here or in development, they are very excited. In the coming weeks I will be putting up questions to survey ideas about how we can fix many issues on the island because some of the best ideas come from our brilliant residents. We still have a long way to go and I have been reading your comments closely on the blog, posted on SeeClickFix, and emailed to

One exciting development is we will be designing a new Department of Transportation on the island. We have finalized a search for the new position of Director of Transportation as well. This restructuring will make sure that we find a schedule that works for the residents of this island and that we make sure that the buses stick to it. This department will coordinate all forms of transportation on this Island including a possible ferry system - the Operations Committee recently approved to study the Oil Dock for ferry service. Motorgate is on its way to being renovated and managed in the way residents deserve. We have had strategic meetings and planning to renovate Motorgate and make it state of the art. This includes finally doing something about escalators, elevators, lighting, security, and management. This Director of Transportation will also oversee Motorgate and parking policy and strategy on the Island. We will be introducing the community to this department and new management very soon. The people interested in these positions have had impressive backgrounds and experience and I think everyone will be very pleased.

In the spirit of efficiency we have combined or not renewed certain positions at RIOC, so we did not hire more employees than we had before to create this department because bigger government is not always smarter government. We want your voices to be heard, because you are customers of the island services. We have been working with RIRA on a bus schedule, but we want to cast a wide net to get the best ideas. RIRA has done a great job of getting feedback on the transportation issues and I will be posting several questions in an online forum soon so we can get everyones feedback. We will be reviewing all of this information at our next few Operations meetings. We are open to all suggestions. Please email me at or follow me on
to suggest ideas or discuss issues. I am aware we have a long way to go to achieve our goals and we need your insight.  I look forward to hearing from all of you.
One thing that we have to be careful about in our excitement over this proposal is that if such a project gets built, it does not become a separate, gated enclave apart from the rest of Roosevelt Island.

More information on Roosevelt Island technology projects available from previous posts.


SML said...

This would be wonderful for Roosevelt Island, but I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

What was Kalkin smoking when he wrote this nonsense? I want some of that, too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Stanford would waste all that time on this if they were not serious. Even the Newspapers say the Stanford proposal is in the lead. This would be really good.

Anonymous said...

To poster 3:37... I think Kalkin is smoking Salvia.

He's hallucinating that he is the President of RIOC instead of a Board Member that's just supposed to vote on how the RIOC spends its capital. After reading his monologue, one would think he was in charge of everything on R.I.

Well, since you're in charge... Where are the STORES Mr. Kalkin?

Anonymous said...

This is great. I'm glad that we have some board members that don't think their job is to be a rubber stamp for RIOC.

Anonymous said...

"Roosevelt Island has been working on several innovative initiatives from Free Fiber WiFi internet in our parks, bike sharing, 311 SeeClick Fix Issue Crowdsourcing, Fuel Cell, Solar and Tidal Energy, LED lighting for Motorgate/Streetlights/Tram Stations, Electric Car Charging Stations, Streetline Smart Parking meters and sensors, Nextbus Real Time Bus Arrival Information, and in development are projects like QR Code initiatives, location based advertising, mobile payments, High Tech Security Cameras, Cloud Computing, Green Hybrid/Solar Ferries, Google GIS Maps and Transit, Bus Station and Tram Station Information Screen Kiosks and more."

How many of these are really innovative? Free WiFi? Already done in many places in NYC. Bike sharing? Done. SeeClick? Has been around for a while and RI is definitely not the first one in NYC using this service. I am not sure what of these existing and future (i.e. most likely never materialize) technological "innovations" are so attractive that a technical college would open on RI.

hj said...

It is really obvious that a university like Stanford is looking for a place that is open to ideas. The Stanford campus is a incubator for startups and they outline in their press release that will be part of their program. Compared to the other possible other locations we definitely have a head start anyway and this may put us over the top. Kudos to our little island and RIOC for trying these cool ideas.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if RIOC could stop the environmental harm done by "progress" like the new parking spots on the West Drive which seem to be underused but eliminate the thoughts of a continuous promenade and bicycle path around the island.

Prj said...

It is good to see changes are coming to the long ignored motorgate and that we are finally getting some supervision in tranportation. Maybe finally they can fix a lot of these issues.

Frank Farance said...

I share RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin's enthusiasm for technology. However, I think he has the wrong angle on selling Roosevelt Island. Here's some DOs and DON'Ts

- DON'T advertise that you are high-tech and cite trivial technologies, such as WiFi in the parks, security cameras, Google Maps, Information Screen Kiosks, ZipCars, Verizon FIOS/fiber, SeeClickFix, and such. These are all trivial technology or items a new institution can trivially provide for themselves without contacting RIOC.

- DON'T advertise technology projects that haven't been fully implemented. SeeClickFix - has about 9 issues over the past year, the most recent ones have over a week delay in responding to the submitter (we want to advertise that RIOC is unresponsive?). NextBus: doesn't work right, not always on, doesn't predict properly, signs not implemented AND it has taken us over 6 years to figure out how to get the bus running reliably on a one-street, one-mile run. Location-based advertising -- where? Merchants are paying outrageous monthly rates for bus advertising (when we should be helping our merchants get business). Streetline parking: This is just an expensive, bad engineering solution, that force-fits technology -- doesn't demonstrate good RIOC engineering/management, and will definitely unimpress engineering institutions.

It's as if we were writing a resume and we felt compelled to include every trivial detail of our job history, including the projects we dreamed about but never completed. Just like employers check resumes, new neighbors will check Mr. Kalkin's list and think negatively about RIOC (although not necessarily about Roosevelt Island).

These new neighbors are likely to think: "Yeah, this RIOC organization is a one-horse town that can't seem to figure out where to put its one drinking trough down. We need to contact the Mayor to make sure these RIOC people stay out of our way because they think electricity is a recent innovation.". OK, that's a bit harsh, but not far from the truth.

Roosevelt Island has lots to offer, and the views are a really big sell (we have no control over that).

In my opinion, here's the major benefits for these kind of new neighbors:

- DO advertise infrastructure connectivity: gas, telecom (at base of 59th bridge), and garbage (carting/AVAC), steam tunnels.

- DO advertise energy connections: Verdant (that's real high-tech), steam tunnels (Island-wide distribution), a steam plant just waiting for a retrofit.

- DO advertise parking: Motorgate has three structures built, there is room for three more (the last two would be over the AVAC).

- DO advertise 53rd street and 60th street subway tunnels: with a new big neighbor, we might get a subway station built (which would greatly help with Island transportation).

- DO advertise housing: Manhattan Park and Octagon could use the help, and Eastwood / Roosevelt Landings has many market rate apartments (sadly, affordable housing was lost).

- DO advertise partnerships with housing companies: the retrofit of the steam plant would easily mesh with the privatization of the Northtown buildings ... they might partner on capital costs to reduce their energy costs.

- DO advertise RIOC's expertise in maintenance of physical infrastructure (roads, seawall, AVAC, tram). The dock on the East Channel is an asset.

The above list are unique features of Roosevelt Island that create more interest for a large institutional neighbor.

Given RIOC's finances, I believe RIOC would like be included (read: infrastructure development and partnerships) rather than pushed aside by the Mayor.

Frank Farance
RIRA Planning Committee Chair

Anonymous said...

Farance never liked an idea that he didn't think of himself. I think a person who was rejected by RIRA by vote, by the population of this island by election, and by a mayor and governor when he was trying to get appointed is the Last person on earth who should say what should be done to gain the mayor's favor. All I see here is someone and RIOC trying to listen. Mr Kalkin is one of the few board members who actually answer RIOC emails. I know because he always answers mine promptly. We need more like him.

JH said...

I have had numerous conversations with Mr. Kalkin about Roosevelt Island and the direction it may or may not head in the future. No one can predict exactly what can happen and anyone that is in the public eye will be will always be under scrutiny.
What I have gotten from every conversation with Mr. Kalkin is: information, honesty and genuine enthusiasm.
It is very easy to sit around and nitpick people. It is much more difficult to do something about it. Actually doing something would require opening yourself up for criticism and most people do not want to hear criticism nor can handle it as "constructive."
I have found that Mr. Kalkin is not someone who can not be convinced. He is opinionated and resolute in his convictions but is also open minded to any/all solutions to problems. He answers emails, attends meetings and is available to Roosevelt Island residents.
I have never found that Mr. Kalkin does not know his place pertaining to RIOC. To make the statement that Mr. Kalkin thinks he runs Roosevelt Island is absurd. I feel that his comments are always well within the scope of his position.
We are lucky enough that we live in a country, state and city where we have the freedom to change things if we don't like them. There are channels that one can go through if they are not comfortable with elected officials or laws to have them challenged or repealed. Changing things would take effort though and some people would just rather complain and nitpick. Mr. Kalkin is someone who is pro-active and that is to be admired.
Mr. Kalkin has never shown me that he has anything but the best interest of Roosevelt Island through both his actions and words.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Frank is a blowhard, and this idea would be a brilliant addition to Roosevelt Island.

JPH said...

This appears to be an incredible opportunity. I hope RI can put its best foot forward. Incidentally, it's odd the speed with which people chime in to tear down individuals.

I guess I see Frank's broader point, but I don't see it as pointless to mention smaller tech adaptations, however minor. If nothing else Kalkin is emphasizing a willingness to try innovative solutions. Hard to see how that gets marked in the negative column.

Gregor said...

We can only hope a stellar institution like Stanford will wind up building a campus on RI; I'm not so sure anything RIOC does or doesn't do re techno-"sizzle" will make much of a difference. The Goldwater hosp site is probably one of the last remaining large parcels of land left in such close proximity to Manhattan plus it boasts the sort of tranquility/views peace & quiet that might be conducive to serious study. I for one am glad the site is being seriously considered for development as a university/research institution rather than for yet another hotel or luxury high-rise, this is a refreshing change coming from the Bloomberg administration which has saturated the city with luxury apartments. Finally, I would say that we need to listen to Frank, a sober voice to counter Mr. Kalkin's sometimes irritating over-the-top boosterism. I'm sure Mr. Kalkin means well, but even if every available "up-to-date" gadget in the world were deployed on RI, and it appears many techno-"solutions" are already in place, somehow, Mr. Kalkin can't explain why Motorgate escalator isn't running -- for years -- and the buses do not run on time.

CB said...

I think there is room for all these ideas. Also it looks like Mr. Kalkin is pushing for a change in Motorgate, and not saying that everything is working great. Also he is adding supervision to the red bus. I don't know why being excited about the island and trying to fix issues with management and new solutions is bad. Why don't you email the guy like he suggested. He is trying to help. He doesn't follow the idea that you should just complain without trying to fix something. I think it is great he is trying new things.

Anonymous said...

All I know is Kalkin is the one spear-heading getting those store-fronts occupied ... and NOTHING!

He didn't mention the vacant stores on Main Street, and nobody but Frank Farance has taken him to task on it. Say what you want about Frank, but if he said he was going to get something done - he did. Mr. Kalkin, we're still waiting for you to make good on your promise to get the stores filled.

I won't hold my breath though.

Mike said...

If you contacted him and asked or went to anything you would know the master lease is about to be completed. Even President Torres wrote that in her last column. Or would you rather we just keep doing the same dumb process forever? What has Farance done besides knock other peoples ideas and alienate anyone he talks to again?

Anonymous said...

Frank is a good guy, but the ideology is far fetched.

Frank Farance said...

A couple points.

First of all, I am very supportive of Mr. Kalkin's initiatives (and others) to make good use of the Goldwater Hospital footprint. I think these engineering campuses are a really great idea in many ways. I very much appreciate Mr. Kalkin's efforts. I'm sorry if someone misread my comments otherwise.

In my list of DOs and DON'Ts, I'm not suggesting which ideas are good or bad for Roosevelt Island. Although this has nothing to do with the discussion at hand, **for Roosevelt Island** (and not for Stanford/etc.) I think there are good things (WiFi, Verizon FIOS/fiber), there are poor things (StreetLine parking), and some things we don't know yet (SeeClickFix).

However, all of them are (WiFi, Verizon FIOS/fiber, StreetLine parking, SeeClickFix) are *poor* selling points on why Stanford (or any other entity) should invest in Roosevelt Island. I've helped institutions find new locations, so my list of DOs are things that real executives and facilities managers think about. Arranging for adequate utilities that an engineering school might need is really important ("DO advertise infrastructure connectivity"). Having staff live nearby is important ("DO advertise housing"). And these people like to dream big too ("DO advertise 53rd street and 60th street subway tunnels").

Anyway, my suggestions address important selling points, and I hope Mr. Kalkin and others include them in their pitch for Roosevelt Island.

Frank Farance
RIRA Planning Committee Chair

Anonymous said...

I know that this island seems to have a borderline, if you are from South Town as they call it, you seem to be a " bad guy " and selfish, lazy and not thoughtful of the rest of the island....I wish the people north of south town would realize you do not own this island, and I wish you would stop bad mouthing Related properties and all the people that live in the buildings.. you and only you decide what and where you want to live...fill out a lease and move in to one of the newer buildings! A lot of old timers here seem to love drama and to assasinate the characters of others...why? I hear it all over and think it is childish and absurd. Not everyone that lives in Southtown is rich, rude and above the rest of the island. I have bit my tongue since moving here and am speaking up now. We all live here together, and believe it or not, there will be more new buildings built here and more people moving here....I guess they will be big bad monsters as well to the old timers here...I notice that instead of trying to work together, the first thought is to throw daggers and gossip about the people that have moved here in the past 5 or more should be proud to live somewhere that others have fallen in love with...but you choose to attack with anger and spite...almost like class envy, but not very bright.

take a chill pill and rejoice we live over the river from all the noise, garbage and crime! Try to be happy about something..most from what I have read do not have a Con Ed bill! Hey, be happy about that! I can give you mine if you want to complain.

now, go take on the day with a smile, if you have one !

Anonymous said...

and what is to become of the 1000 long term residents of Goldwater?

Frank Farance said...

In answer to Anonymous 6:05 on "and what is to become of the 1000 long term residents of Goldwater?": They are planning (roughly) a 20-story building to be built on top of the parking lot in the back of Coler Hospital. I don't know if all the patients from Goldwater will move to the new building, maybe some will move to other City hospitals.

We have not seen any definitive plans yet for the structure, but Coler has said they intend to build on the space, and (I believe) they reaffirmed this when they announced the closure of the Goldwater Hospital. Years ago, there was a structure on the east side, so that area still belongs to the City and is not part of the Roosevelt Island lease that RIOC administers and, thus, is not controlled by the General Development Plan (GDP).

Frank Farance
RIRA Planning Committee Chair

Gregor said...

To 5:02: Psst - this thread is a discussion of a college campus or research institute possibly *returning* (as I believe there once was a prestigious smallpox or TB research institute located here) to RI. How does your complaining about the cheapness or costliness of living on RI or elsewhere have any relevance at all to the topic under discussion? Try to stick to the topic at hand please. If you feel you are paying too much for your rent/electric and wish to remain on RI, you are free to apply at the Octagon, MP, or any of the other buildings on RI - your cost may or *may not* be that much less. So much for the purported differences on RI.

Anonymous said...

As a techie, just like Frank is, I agree with his dos and don'ts about how to pitch a location to another technical entity. Kalkin's list may sound awesome to the layman who doesn't know much about the details but those are not real selling points one would use to convince a technical-oriented entity to come to Roosevelt Island. It is rather embarrassing. In reality there is nothing really advanced going on on RI that makes us stand out. We are rather at the end of the middle pack.

Matt said...

As a techie why can't you post your actual name? I don't see any point where kalkin doesn't say they aren't sharing that kind of info frank is tallking about . It is pretty clear that he has actually spoken with these people personally and knows what they are asking for now. But should we give you the title psychic too? I've also noticed a lot of the anonymous commenters write like Frank or resemble other commenters and agree with the last commenters. Time to get a life guys. The only thing embarassing on this island is you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what's with the personal attack? I happen to agree that Kalkin's way of talking is pure bullshit. If you like that kind of nonsense, please, that's your choice. I do not and say so.

JB said...

I think it is great we are trying new things. How people can find negative in that escapes me. Also being excited about this place and asking for input from everyone is good. I don't see any other board member besides Kalkin asking for feedback. All these complaints about the red bus and if you actually read the post he is trying to make big changes their in they are managed. Imagine that, not only is he is not complaining, he is making changes and asking for ideas. Good job.

GJV said...

I doubt Stanford or any other university would care about innovative technologies already in place on Roosevelt Island. They are only going to consider the real estate, the proximity to Manhattan, the transportation to/from Manhattan, and any concessions NYC would make in order to convince the university to establish a campus on the island. Since the Goldwater buildings and land are completely under the control of NYC, I doubt that RIOC will have any say in the negotiations.

AD said...

I would be worried that if they built a Stanford Campus here that the last 3 Related buildings (if they ever get built) would become housing for that campus, rather than provide current island residents with an opportunity to purchase an apartment here.

Note: this is not a comment for or against affordable housing - simply a note saying that there are currently only 3 apartments for sale on the island.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kalkin is one of the few breaths of fresh air on this island...he listens, he answers back to emails, and he does not attack with spit and vinegar with ideas or questions. He loves animals and does seem to, believe it or not care about what people here on the island would like to happen to that land.

If any of you had went to the meetings at the church or at your buildings a few months ago you would know that most of the patients at Goldwater have been moved to other hospitals and are being taking care of, more will be moved to a new hospital on the UES in the coming year or knowledge is that over half the employees have been relocated as well, so everyone will be take care, what I want to know is do the people that live here have a vote on what happens to that property....a techie school? a hotel? new affordable housing buildings? an animal sanctuary ? a movie studio? I have heard all of these ideas up in the air and whispered around, so, do we get to vote on this?

that would seem to be an important issue at hand yes?

I vote that there should be several new buildings built all for affordable housing for the people that already live here to be able to move into and tear down the older buildings that need to be repaired or fix them up! Do that first and formost, then let a new school be built, take care of the people that live here now and that have lived here for many years and that would like a newer some, sell some, do both, but just allowing the city or state to come in and do what they want seems rash, but after all, government seems to not really every want to help the common people first anyways.

Please let all of us that live here have a vote on the use of the land.

Gregor said...

To 6:57 Anonymous commenter: First, I agree with you that Ms. Torres must explain to the people of Roosevelt Island who gets to make these decisions regarding land use/development on Roosevelt Island specifically with re to the Goldwater site. Is Mr. Bloomberg alone going to decide? Is there a committee or body of elected officials that deliberates on the available options and then decides? Once we know who is holding the cards, who is a player in the deal, then we know who to lobby. I also think your suggestion about either rehabbing or leveling the older buildings on RI after the residents have been moved to comparable apartments on RI is brilliant. It may not happen on RI, however; but if not, why can't Bloomberg (or whoever is in charge of these decisions) build a new mixed-income including affordable including condo etc development similar to RI on Governor's Island? Anyone for a "new frontier" in New York which is also located quite close to some of the most interesting areas of Brooklyn such as Red Hook?

Anonymous said...

all of Roosevelt Island should have affordable housing, but I think all of NYC shoul for that matter. Times have changed in this city, and there needs to be something done about the rent situation...then and only then maybe we should let other entities come and build here. Maybe they will donate some money to island improvements even???

Anonymous said...

What? Are you guys saying that current residents are all entitled to affordable housing on Roosevelt Island?

In a perfect world a community board has some say in certain matters what can and cannot be done in its neighborhood. I very much doubt that includes who can build what on certain lots in such a detail that we have a vite to say that we want a hotel or we want a college or whatever. This is never going to happen. The RIRA may suggest and protest but the RIOC and/or the City of New York will have the last word in this.

That said, I personally think that having more people moving here will need a complete overdo of the transportation infrastructure. More people will mean more cars. It will mean more people on the already well utilized F train and tram. Think carefully what you wish for.

No thank you! said...

To 10:17,

Nooo thank you. Affordable housing equals more trouble. Look around. Look at the Roosevelt Landings. They are nothing but trouble. Yeah I get the point that not everyone who partakes in affordable housing is a criminal, but the housing projects is a perfect example and so is the Landings, right here on this rock! In essence the vast majority are trouble makers who just cant let go of the ghetto mindset.

Gregor said...

So - what would "No thank you" suggest as an alternative? Poor houses - there used to be plenty of those on Roosevelt Island once. How about the pre-housing code tenements into which many of our ancestors once were packed to sweat out their lives doing piecework and the like. It's no secret that elitist and backward attitudes such as yours resulted in these criminally hellish conditions in NY and many other cities around the world. In the US, we were lucky to have had crusading journalists such as Jacob Riis who wrote about the exploitation and squalor of the LES; the impact of his stories eventually brought about needed social change including the implementation of the housing code and the construction of affordable, safe housing, as well as laws establishing permanent government departments overseeing the ongoing construction of safe and affordable apartments. Or would you prefer that those on fixed income, such as retirees or the disabled, or low income such as the hundreds of thousands of under-employed in NY that nevertheless make the City spin such as the off the books employees in almost every business or the underpaid undocumented construction workers and the like, would you prefer these people simply disappear because they can't afford luxury apartments. The latter is obviously the thinking of many in City government today. Let us hope that their high-flying fantasies of turning NYC into a luxury haven built upon a foundation of exploited and often undocumented labor are burst by our tough-minded, crusading yet realistic Gov. Cuomo.

No thank you! said...

Keep the losers who are able bodied to work, but yet receive section 8 and public benefit, and yet continue to leach within our society and make our taxes more expensive while they "work" off the books , collect benefits ,and just keep sucking my paycheck dry. Affordable housing with severe stipulations, MAYBE.

Anonymous said...

can you guys read? I said " affordable housing" rent based on your income.

Those that abuse the system should be prosecuted. Rent based on one's income should be the mainstay.

Too many abuse the system in this city, yet nobody does anything about it.

Mr. Bloomburg? What say you?!