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Friday, May 25, 2018

RIOC Responds To Roosevelt Island Residents Complaints About Weekend 5 & 10 K Races - Will Reduce Number To No More Than 2 Monthly, Eliminate 10 K, Limit Runners & More

Sometimes, Roosevelt Island residents can help change policies of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) by speaking up. In this instance, welcome changes are coming to the frequent Weekend 5 and 10 K races that use Roosevelt Island

and disrupt the lives of residents, particularly those who live in the Southtown Riverwalk area. The changes include reducing the number of races to no more than 2 a month and eliminating 10 K races.

Here's what happened. Earlier this month, Roosevelt Island Southtown resident Jianfan Zhu wrote to RIOC Public Safety Director Jack McManus:

This is the second time I write to you regarding the very disturbing traffic arrangements during weekend race in the Island. Last time, in June 2016, I parked at the street where there was no "no-parking" sign, and the next day I received a ticket. In the end I had to appeal to the judge, who ordered the ticket unlawful.

But what happened today was even worse.

Last night (Friday May 4th), I decided to park my car in the street as I had an important medical appointment for my baby this Saturday morning. I saw “no-parking” signs and cones put in many street parking spots. With the experiences last time, I have been extremely careful about the signs, and last night I chose to park at East Loop Road (south to N Loop Road) where there was no any signs (see attached Pic #1). This Saturday morning at 7:00am, I went there to feed meter, and everything remained normal – no sign, no road block.

At 10:30 when I needed to use the car, to my very surprise, the entrance to East Loop Road and the exit from South Loop Road were both block! When I arrived at the South Loop Road exit, there were already 3 cars waiting, me being the 4th one, and another one was following me – 5 cars were blocked at the exit.

It was around 10:45am when I arrived, but I am sure the road was block much earlier when the race started.

The officer told me that there was nothing I can do, but just wait in the car until the race was over. Even worse, he did not know when the race would be over, but kept referring me to the no-parking signs where it said until 1pm! I could not move forward nor backward, I could not even park the car and go home to check out my baby. All I can do is to stay with the car, and I was not able to even tell my wife when this would be done.

Obviously, my baby missed the appointment. Thank god this was not a life-threatening issue.

Mr. McManus, Roosevelt Island is not Manhattan. It’s a tiny island, and if you block a road, there are no alternatives options. So, if you make a decision to make special traffic arrangements, put your feet in the residents’ shoes, make sure there’s a decent way-out, and their daily lives will not be disturbed....
Mr. Zhu then wrote to RIOC President Susan Rosenthal:
While I look forward to hearing from Public Safety regarding this unfortunate incident in particular, I would like to kindly let you know that the many, many races in Roosevelt Island, weekend after weekend, are indeed very disruptive to the residents - feel free to ask other residents especially in Riverwalk community and you will hear the same. I have lived in Manhattan and Queens before but I never found another neighborhood that has so many races which take up parking spots, block roads, and make noises in early morning.

If you cannot reduce the number, pls at least make them less painful for the residents.
Also, resident Raye Schwartz wrote to RIOC after receiving an Advisory about a Roosevelt Island race on Mother's Day:
I’m really shocked and dismayed that our community has become so thoughtless and insensitive as to allow this. It’s Mother’s Day, and happens only once a year. Although our island population has slowly but surely been taken over by people who obviously do not realize that this is very much a family oriented community, or should I say WAS A FAMILY ORIENTED COMMUNITY, often with family members not living nearby, this community seems to have forgotten that...

... Races are held year round: It really isn’t necessary to have this kind of event on Mother’s Day, when so many families look forward to being together. Thus, to have such an event which limits street parking, is absurd. Further, the red bus and Q102 are also already limited because of weekend schedules as well as the construction of the helix. Additionally, starting this coming week, it will only be worse because of the continued tram plaza construction.
... most of the participants in these frequent races are not residents. Second, many families like to celebrate Mother’s day with either lunch or brunch, especially when there are very young children, and these parking restrictions are in effect until 1PM which is around the end of the lunch hour. And these races, while some include our community members, are not typically family oriented, as for example a Little League softball or Youth Soccer game....
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Southtown Common Council Member Mickey Rindler followed up writing to Ms Rosenthal:
I am writing to you as the co-chair of the RIRA Island Services Committee. The use of loudspeakers on Firefighters field early this past Sunday morning is one of many past violations regarding noise before races. There are also issues with traffic and residents’ access to street parking both in Southtown and on the newly opened loop road around Cornell on mornings when there are races.

In particular, Janet Falk has made a point in her email today that the Girls on the Run race has many hundreds of participants. Last year, I counted 55 taxis, private vehicles and Ubers dropping runners off for this event in a 15 minute period and this was just a fraction of the vehicles as people were arriving for more than 1 hour. Traffic was completely backed up on Main Street.

I would like to meet with you as soon as possible to learn RIOC's plans to deal with the hundreds of vehicles that will once again descend on our Island on June 3 between 8 and 9:30 am.

In light of the Helix construction, one tram service operation and potential suspension of F train service, there is a strong possibility of an unmanageable situation. It is likely that the traffic jam on the bridge will extend to and potentially block Vernon Boulevard. In the event there is any emergency, this could turn into a disastrous situation. We demand that private and commercial vehicles transporting nonresidents (excluding buses) to the Island that morning be forced to turn around at the top of the helix and drop their passengers there.

I look forward to hearing from you about this meeting request.
After receiving these reports from residents, RIOC scheduled a meeting with Mr. Zhu, Mr. Rindler and additional RIRA ISC members.

According to Mr. Rindler, during the meeting RIOC President Rosenthal:
... promised only a few things but she did agree to work on a number of changes including moving the venue away from residential areas and possibly maintaining road traffic during the race.

In the meantime, she agreed to limit commencing amplified sound until 8 am at least verbally, although some permit holders may have already signed contracts. Officers will have a copy of the permit in the future to avoid misunderstandings and PSD will enforce it. Consequences for violators will be put in the contract, including possible fines, and RIOC will inform NYC Runs that they violated the contract on May 13 when they started PA system too early.

She wouldn’t commit to ending races on Mother’s and Father’s Days, although they will consider.

They are discussing a cap on the number of runners but too high (1000) we told her. They are likely to limit races to 2 races/month and to put an end to 10K races because they take too much time and block access of residents to parking and roads for much longer. They will work with the sponsor to limit traffic and tram issues on June 3 which is a huge race with 1500 runners.

The timeline is unclear as she said they had just in the last week discussed the venue move. After the meeting, Ms. Rosenthal apologized in an email for PSD's failure to act appropriately and stop the broadcasting after Janet's noise complaint on May 13.

Overall, the meeting was reasonably productive and the Southtown delegation of RIRA representatives will be following up to make sure RIOC carries through with its pledge to find ways to reduce the inconvenience to residents caused by the races.
Prior to meeting with residents on this subject, RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson reported:
... “We have conducted several internal meetings this week because of the handful of residents who’ve contacted us about their concerns about pre-race noise, parking restrictions and traffic tie-ups following the events,” said Susan Rosenthal, CEO and president of RIOC.

“We decide upon policies and procedures based upon our evaluation of all factors and listening to residents’ comments. And, we have no problem modifying those policies and procedures when appropriate,” she said.

Rosenthal and RIOC Public Safety Director Jack McManus will meet with several residents next week to discuss how they are coordinating the events and share details about potential changes being considered.

In 2018, Roosevelt Island has hosted five different road races, and has confirmed at least six more through the end of the year. The events, usually held on Saturday mornings, attract participant groups ranging from 300 runners to more than 1,500.

Because of the events, usually staged at Firefighters Field and run around the perimeter of the Island; there are temporary morning parking restrictions near the Tram, Blackwell turnaround and Loop Road which encircles Sportspark and Cornell Tech.

RIOC is attempting to find a reasonable solution that will address some residents’ concerns about the noise, parking and traffic tie-ups on Main Street, which is experiencing heavier bus and vehicular traffic than normal due to the Helix road repairs, and the Tram service reduction due to station platform repairs.
 Image From NYC Runs

No more than 1 race a month would be better but 2 is a start.

Will have more on this subject,including statement from RIOC later today.

UPDATE 10:30 PM - Statement from RIOC President Susan Rosenthal on subject.