Monday, November 26, 2012

Community Board 8 Roosevelt Island Cornell/Technion Task Force Update Meeting Tonight, Will Cornell Address Residents Health And Safety Concerns Over Main Street Truck Traffic And Use Barges For Demolition And Construction - What's The Benefit To Roosevelt Island Asks Resident?

Cornell NYC Tech Proposed Campus (page 23 CB 8 Presentation)

The Community Board 8 (CB 8) Roosevelt Island Cornell/Technion Task Force will be meeting tonight to receive an update from Cornell NYC Tech representatives and feedback from Roosevelt Island residents. According to CB 8:
Meeting Date:
Monday, November 26, 2012 - 6:45pm
Meeting Location:
The Manhattan Park Theater Club
8 River Road
Roosevelt Island, NY

1. An update by Cornell University on the Technology Graduate School on Roosevelt Island

Public Comment

2. A short presentation on green buildings and a request to use locally manufactured construction materials on the Cornell/Technion. Project by the Technical Services for the International Masonry Institute and Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Union.

3. Feedback from Roosevelt Island residents on their issues/concerns
During October 22 Roosevelt Island Cornell/Technion Task Force Meeting, Skidmore Owings Associate Director Colin Koop discussed the Master Plan For The Cornell NYC Tech Campus as part of full presentation by Cornell NYC Tech representatives.

During the October 22 meeting, Roosevelt Island residents expressed strong disapproval of plans by Cornell NYC Tech to use trucks in the demolition and construction process on Roosevelt Island's only street - Main Street. Great concern was voiced over the detrimental health impact as well as traffic problems caused by the use of trucks but some say these concerns could be mitigated by the use of barges instead of trucks. Here's what one resident, Ali Schwaryi had to say about the use of trucks on Main Street.

Another resident, Theresa Munfakh asked what benefit will Roosevelt Island receive from being the home of Cornell NYC Tech other than its mere presence - how will Cornell NYC Tech improve Roosevelt Island outside the area of its immediate campus she asked.

During the November 8 meeting of the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition (RICC) Ms. Munfakh made the following points regarding Cornell NYC Tech's Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS):
1) The DEIS/EIS should state clearly that Barging is the method of transportation during the construction to bring material in and out. Trucking method should not be considered.

2) During the demolition of the hospital, all the hazardous material should be transported by barging. RI should not accept any other way.

3) There is no specific information concerning the type of foundations to be used. The concerns is if and what explosive materials are needed and the method of transportation. We all remember what happened recently on Second Avenue Subway Project.

4) The DEIS/EIS should include the right of Residents of RI to hire engineering firm /law firm to protect and assure that whatever is agreed upon will be executed and shall be paid by the city.

5) By closing the hospital and during construction, the residents of RI will be losing around 1,000 persons between staff and patients. That relates to loosing in revenue to the island for few years. Is it possible to figure the amount and do something about it?

6) RI has many old and beautiful trees that have to be protected and saved during construction. DEIS/ EIS should state clearly the method of protection.

7) RI as is has its own charm and surrounded by natural beauty. Cornell Science Center should not claim that the Center would beautify the Island. In reality it might create a negative impact.

8) Cornell Center project should include as a good gesture the replacement of the railing along the promenade. The Center will be using it as much as and could be more than RI Residents. The existing railing is deteriorated and does not meet NY City Building Code.

9) The restaurants/ retails that the Center intents to share with the residents of RI is because the 6oo students will not generate the required revenue and profits to attract and maintain businesses . The opposite could be true. After the Center maximizes its occupants, there will be a strong possibility to exclude RI Residents from its use. The Center can use safety and security as excuses to do that. We see this happening in Octegon. Outsiders cannot use its facility freely. The DEIS/EIS should state that this will never happen.

10) The mitigation Chapter requires more detail information in relation to cost, resource of the budget and who will implement these recommended mitigations.

11) What will be the solution for the unmitigated areas? Are we supposed to accept a problem without a solution?

12) While Cornell Center received the ground lease for no cost and the cost of construction, the case is not the same to RI. The staff and students will be using our facilities and benefiting from RI without adding their fare share to the cost of operation and maintenance. Rivercross pays RIOC annual fees. Does this apply to Cornell Center? It should, and it should be mentioned in the DEIS/EIS. The operation cost is to cover for:

a) Maintenance of the infrastructure/ roadways/ Utilities.
b) Repair and Maintenance of the Promenade
c) Repair/replace the railing along the promenade
d) Operating cost to maintain the safety, cleaning, etc... e) Maintaining the Helix ramp....
Also during the November 8 RICC meeting, CB 8 member and RICC Counsel Jeffrey Escobar explained the process required for the Cornell NYC Tech project to be approved. (Update 5:15 PM - added to last sentence - "approved, denied or changed")

Let's see if Cornell listened to Roosevelt Island residents during the October 22 meeting and have come up with some solutions to address the concerns expressed.

Here's the link to the Cornell DEIS and full video from the October 22 CB 8 Roosevelt Island Cornell/Technion meeting.

Stay tuned.


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mookie113 said...

Finally someone said it - what is the benefit to the community? What exactly is RI getting out of all of this? I've said that from the very beginning of this nonsense. For the obscene amount of $ provided by NYC, not to mention the ridiculous ground lease deals & the like, the benefit to the community is that we'll have access to some programs?? They'll provide open space for the community to use?? Great, considering that they'll be taking over a huge amount of space, they'll grant us access to a portion of it? Okaaay. So let's see, no affordable housing option (that's something we desperately need), a large influx of staff and students with absolutely no additional means of transportation adding stress to an already overloaded commuting scenario, several years of the mess/noise of construction and, very possibly, the destruction of our beautiful mature trees (one of the fleeting elements that make RI unique and beautiful). Bloomberg has made this a Big Deal for NYC and, while it may raise NYC's profile (bc, you know, NYC usually flys very much under the radar), if you really take a look, you'll find it doesn't really add anything to the community it's in, and will very possibly, cost the community dearly.

YetAnotherRIer said...

"What exactly is RI getting out of all of this?"

Not much. More traffic and more people and maybe some better infrastructure. That said, I don't think we have to get anything out of all this. This is a benefit for NYC in general and not really for our neighborhood in specific. Nothing too wrong about that. I assume we disagree on this last aspect.

Frank Farance said...

YetAnotherRIer, I agree with you, *especially* your last point. The problem is: everyone is trying to glom onto this transaction. Many people see some (direct/indirect monetary) connection and now is the time to get in on the ground floor.

If I were in Mr. Escobar's shoes, wouldn't I be thrilled to become part of Community Benefit Agreement process on the non-developer's (community's) side of the agreement so my firm can have the experience representing *both* sides of CBA's (with legal fees in the millions on other CBA transactions)? It would bring value to the firm, right? Now there's nothing wrong with kind of motivation, but it's an example of an indirect monetary benefit facilitated by the new Cornell "ecosystem". And I think "ecosystem" is the right word for the larger and longer-term phenomena.

Ditto for the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition: What Can We Get Out Of Cornell? Answer: Yes, there are things Cornell should do, but they are largely transactions with RIOC and the City. The idea that Cornell is "rich" and we should have a hand in their pocket is a strategy for a *poor* relationship with Cornell.

Sure, barging is better (as I've said in the past), and maybe some trees can be preserved. But the direct money grabs are embarrassing no matter how benignly they are presented (excerpt from above):

"Cornell Center project should include as a good gesture the replacement of the railing along the promenade. The Center will be using it as much as and could be more than RI Residents. The existing railing is deteriorated and does not meet NY City Building Code."

One could ask: "Ms. Munfakh, in guessing that you're from Rivercross (because your comment "Rivercross pays RIOC annual fees"), you recognize that RIOC is the one that maintains the promenade, which has fallen into disrepair. Would a better solution for RIOC's finances be to eliminate the Rivercross privatization conflicts of interests on the RIOC Board? Really, if Rivercross can simply contribute its fair share of the $200-400 million in privatization profits, something that DWARFS the City's $100 million contribution to Cornell, then maybe RIOC would have enough money for repairing its own facilities, right?"

But that seems difficult with Ms. Ellen Polivy as RIRA President and Roosevelt Island Community Coalition Co-Chair, and her husband Mr. Howard Polivy as RIOC Board Director and Chair of the RIOC Real Estate Committee (where the Cornell ground lease will be negotiated), and Chair of the RIOC Audit Committee (which has oversight on the rest of RIOC) and, of course, both are Rivercross residents.

Westviewer said...

Yes exactly. I'm hoping that Cornell will have the effect of making the island a little less provincial --less a fake "small town" and more like a normal NYC neighborhood.

Jesse Webster said...

Hear, hear.

CheshireKitty said...

Certainly there are questions post-Sandy. The over-riding concern or advantage for the City is having a potential new driver of the economy if you bring all these researchers - entrepreneurs to RI via C-T. Cornell could with a lot less trouble build the campus up at Ithaca, or at the Navy Yard, which was another location that was being considered. I think Bloomberg likes the idea of having it on RI because it's across the way from LIC which is a relatively sleepy less-developed section of the City where new businesses could take root. RI is in the middle of NYC, has the nice views and the tram, and even the train station. If there was an easy link from the Cornell campus to Queens/Brooklyn - say via a ferry - the campus would have the benefit of being minutes away from the incessant stimulation and liveliness of LIC/Williamsburg/Greenpoint. Unfortunately, many of these areas experienced flooding during Sandy. The Queens-Midtown tunnel received floodwater from Newtown Creek which breached its banks and which is filled with the toxic remains of about 200 years of industry along the creek and its associated canals. If I were Cornell and already had a beautiful campus at Ithaca away from the coast, I might reconsider building a new campus along any shore-front location - the Navy Yard, RI, even Governor's Island. Cornell of course will build up the Goldwater site so that it's buildings are above flood level - yet imagine the general chaos/problems if the next superstorm is even worse than Sandy. In that case, why is it a plus to be located in NYC in the first place?

mookie113 said...

I actually do think that it is essential that the community receives some benefit from a major project such as this as there's a significant amt of tax dollars involved. Vague ideas regarding possible new businesses that may be developed bc of this research center are, well, just that - vague ideas. These are the same ideas that are given for many projects in the NYC area in which residents are disrupted &/or suffer negative consequences as a result of the project - think The Barclays Center. In actuality the new companies never do spring up and job development equals a few minimum wage jobs. The community, and in fact NYC, has a right to tangible benefits from major projects that involve large amounts of tax dollars.

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