Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Scenes From The Roosevelt Island Tram 40th Anniversary Celebration - Stories Shared, Long Time Employees Appreciated, Original Engineers Thanked, PS/IS 217 Band & Anniversary Tram Cake Too

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) and Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) hosted a 40th Anniversary celebration of the first Roosevelt Island Tram ride

yesterday afternoon, May 17, at the Tram Plaza in front of the Visitors Center Kiosk.

The festivities began with a performance by the Roosevelt Island PS/IS 217 band

followed by introductory remarks by Acting RIOC President Susan Rosenathal. Ms Rosenthal noted that she:
... is a true Tram lover...
and the Roosevelt Island Tram is:
... the first commuter tramway in North America...
Currently, the Tram carries 5500 -6500 riders daily.

RIHS President Judy Berdy told the assembled crowd:

Welcome to the anniversary of the tram and 40 great years of serving the island.

Thank you to Susan Rosenthal, The RIOC, and Tram staff, the community groups who have cooperated with us, especially the members and teachers of the PS/IS 217 band, and Gallery RIVAA for our upcoming display window.

Thanks also to the great groups of Island kids who decorated these trams: CDM, RIPN and Eva Bosbach, Island Kids, PS 217, RI Explorers, and also Arlene Jacoby and the RISA senior artists. Thanks to Adib Mansur for helping design today’s logo and banner.

Thanks to Lynne Shinozaki, a human whirlwind of ideas and accomplishment. Thanks to the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s great kiosk staff who daily meet, greet and tell visitors everything about our island.

Thanks to Gristedes and Riverwalk for refreshments.

Way back in 1972, an architect of this soon to be community discovered that the MTA subway would not be completed in time to be ready for this new community. An alternate mode of transportation had to be developed.

The architect's name was Bill Chaffee, and apparently he was a ski enthusiast, who envisioned a gondola-style car connecting the two islands of Roosevelt and Manhattan.

Manhattan streets were surveyed to determine where to build a temporary tram station. East 72 St was a possibility, because it was wide and could accommodate a station in the middle of the road.

Luckily there was a vacant lot at East 59th Street, opposite the entrance to the Queensboro Bridge. This spot was the stage upon which the tram station would be built.

The tram, then called an aerial gondola, was ready in less than 3 years.

The history of the tram has been interesting; consider some of these highlights after it opened in 1976:

It was the site of many movies and TV shows
  • Night Hawks
  • Fear Factor
  • City Slickers
  • Turk 183 And, of course,
  • Spiderman !
In the 1980s, it seemed to run out of insurance and closed down for two weeks.

The first system was counterbalance, requiring both cabins to shut down simultaneously every week for maintenance.

In 2003, it finally accepted Metrocards.

Our new Poma system opened November 30th, 2010, on time.

While the tram was being re-built, the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s Visitor Center kiosk was restored and our garden was planted to enhance the “neighborhood.”

The Tram is people, the professionals who daily climb the towers at 5 a.m. to check conditions, the cabin attendants who drive the cabins and deal with every kind of person, packed into the cabins, thankfully for just 4 minutes at a time.

The tram is Roosevelt Island. No matter who came with the message to cut or shorten service; that leader learned that our tram is sacred – and that person is gone.

The tram is here. It is curiously romantic, at all hours of the day and night. It is the site of marriage proposals, engagements and even weddings. One recent Sunday morning, 100 people cheered as their friends disembarked from the cabin, she wearing a new ring on her finger.

The tram brings us the world, dozens at a time. Since 2007, the Roosevelt Island Historical Society has welcomed thousands of people at the kiosk, from every state, country and continent. The tram is the attraction. Every week, Manhattanites tell us they are here out of curiosity. Some come into the kiosk, walk up Main Street, become enamored of our community and soon are our neighbors.

Many residents say the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s Visitor Center kiosk is for tourists, which is partly true. Really, the visitor Center kiosk is for all of us.

Our staff complements the tram and makes every visitor welcome.

The history of Roosevelt Island emerges from the people who ride the tram and tell us their stories, their families, the who and why of a community.

The secret is long out. The tram is it.

Its loyal staff and riders make it part of our being.
Here's the full Roosevelt Island 40th Anniversary Tram Celebration.

More scenes from yesterday's 40th Anniversary of the Roosevelt Island Tram festivities.

Long time Tram Employees being honored

Image From Frank Farance

and saluted by the community.

Image From Susheel Kurien

The original Roosevelt Island Tram engineers take a bow with Ms. Berdy and Ms. Rosenthal.

Image From Frank Farance

The Roosevelt Island PS/IS 217 Band.

Image From Frank Farance

Image of PS/IS 217 Band From Irina Island at Celebrating 40 Years Anniversary

A couple, (Jennifer & Wes), that were married on the Tram attended the ceremony.

Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Ben Kallos arrived by Tram with a wave to the crowd.

Image From Frank Farance

Former RIOC President Steve Shane, who initiated the 2010 Roosevelt Island Modernization Project, attended too.

Image From Frank Farance

Riverwalk Bar & Grill chef Allyssa Gangeri made a fabulous Roosevelt Island Tram Anniversary Cake

Image From Ellen Jacoby


was enjoyed by the assembled crowd.

RIHS President Judy Berdy shows off the limited edition Tram Commemorative Mugs

Image From Frank Farance

available at the Visitors Center Kiosk and the decorated cardboard Tram cabins.

 made by Roosevelt Island kids.

Resident photographer Irina Hage, of Irina's Island, has many more pictures of the Roosevelt Island Tram 40th Anniversary Celebration.

Celebration 40 Years Roosevel Island Tram

The Twitterverse reports on the Roosevelt Island Tram 40th Anniversary.
More here from NY 1 on the Roosevelt Island Tram 40th Anniversary yesterday.

Happy Anniversary Roosevelt Island Tram. May you have many more.