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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Journalist Nellie Bly Escaping Blackwell Island Lunatic Asylum Portrayed On Lifetime Cable TV Channel Tonight - Asylum Now Site Of Roosevelt Island's Octagon Luxury Rental Building

In 1887, legendary journalist Nellie Bly went undercover to report about abuses at NYC's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island and wrote a book about her experience, 10 Days In A Madhouse. According to the Asylum Project:

... One of the most famous cases associated with the hospital was the journalism of young female reporter Nellie Bly, who in 1887 entered the hospital under the guise of insanity under assignment from Joseph Pulitzer. She wrote, "From the moment I entered the insane ward on the Island, I made no attempt to keep up the assumed role of insanity. I talked and acted just as I do in ordinary life. Yet strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted, the crazier I was thought to be by all...." Now trapped, Bly was tormented with rotted food, cruel attendants, and cramped and diseased conditions. After talking with other patients she became convinced many were as sane as she was, writing
What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment? Here is a class of women sent to be cured. I would like the expert physicians who are condemning me for my action, which has proven their ability, to take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck.
She was held in the Asylum for ten days before she was finally released with the help of Pulitzer.

Her report, later published in the book Ten Days in a Mad-House, resulted in not only embarrassment for the Institution but a grand jury investigation into the conditions and the question of how so many "professionals" had been fooled. The end result was a $1,000,000 increase in the budget of the Department of Public Charities and Corrections as well as their recommendation of changes proposed by Nellie. Ultimately, this report brought about the end of the Asylum Blackwell's Island....
The Lunatic Asylum is now Roosevelt Island's Octagon luxury rental building.

This evening, January 19, the Lifetime Cable Channel is showing Escaping The Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story:
On a mission to expose the deplorable conditions and mistreatment of patients at the notorious Women’s Lunatic Asylum, investigative reporter Nellie Bly (Christina Ricci) feigns mental illness in order to be institutionalized to report from the inside. The movie delivers an intense and fictionalized account of actual events surrounding Nellie's stay beginning after Nellie has undergone treatment, leaving her with no recollection of how she came to the asylum or her real identity....

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society has more info on the Octagon Building and Blackwell's Island Lunatic Asylum.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Before Blackwell's, Welfare & Roosevelt Island, There Were The Lenape People, Current Resident Asks For Remembrance And Recognition Of Lenape Of Mannahatta

Many Roosevelt Island residents care passionately about the history of our little New York City/State Island in the middle of the East River - we even have our own Historical Society. Our history usually begins with Blackwells Island, then renamed Welfare Island and now Roosevelt Island.

But before there was Blackwells Island - there was the Lenape people.

The Roosevelt Island Twitterverse reported today:

According to Correction History:
... Blackwell's was the name that for nearly two centuries identified what is now known as Roosevelt Island, whose aerial tramway cable-cars gliding over the East River can be seen from the Queensborough Bridge. The cigar-shaped 120-acre isle beneath the bridge extends 1.75 miles and is 750 feet across at its widest point.

Gov. Van Twiller reported obtaining it for New Amsterdam from native tribal leaders in 1637. Then the Dutch settlers put their pigs to pasture there, generating its early Colonial name of Hog Island. In 1652, a man named Flyn acquired the island but 16 years later a British military captain, John Manning, bought it. Unhappily for him, he presided over the surrender and brief return of the city to Dutch rule in 1673. For this, his sword was later symbolically broken in a City Hall ceremony of disgrace. Afterwards, Manning retired to his island refuge. His stepdaughter married Robert Blackwell who took title to it in 1717.

New York City acquired the island on July 19, 1828, through a foreclosure -- later ruled to have been illegal. Total final price: $52,500...
The Bowery Boys have more on the Lenape people:
... Before New York, before New Amsterdam – there was Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape, the original inhabitants of the places we call Manhattan, Westchester, northern New Jersey and western Long Island. This is the story of their first contact with European explorers and settlers and their gradual banishment from their ancestral land.

Fur trading changed the lifestyles of the Lenape well before any permanent European settlers stepped foot in this region. Early explorers had a series of mostly positive experiences with early native people. With the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the Lenape entered into various land deals, ‘selling’ the land of Manhattan at a location in the area of today’s Inwood Hill Park.

But relations between New Amsterdam and the surrounding native population worsened with the arrival of Director-General William Kieft, leading to bloody attacks and vicious reprisals, killing hundreds of Lenape and colonists alike. Peter Stuyvesant arrives to salvage the situation, but further attacks threatened any treaties of peace. But the time of English occupation, the Lenape were decimated and without their land....
Check out what NYC and Roosevelt Island (Mannahatta) looked like

in the early 1600's

from Beyond Manhattan, The Welika Project.

Roosevelt Island Youth Center Free Co-ed Basketball Program For 9-13 Year Olds At Sportspark Starts February 4 - Register Now

The Roosevelt Island Youth Center Free co-ed Basketball Program for kids 9-13 years of age starts February 4 at the Sportspark Facility.

Register here.

Roosevelt Island Transportation This Weekend - No Roosevelt Island F Train Service To Manhattan This Weekend And Every Weekend Thru End Of January

No Roosevelt Island F Train service  to Manhattan this weekend and every weekend thru end of January.

According to the MTA:
TRACK MAINTENANCE Weekends until Jan 28 From 11:45 PM Friday to 5 AM Monday Coney Island-bound F trains run via the E from Roosevelt Av in Queens to 5 Av/53 St in Manhattan

Trains resume regular service at 47-50 Sts.

No Coney Island-bound F service at 21 St-Queensbridge, Roosevelt Island, Lexington Av/63 St and 57 St.

Travel Alternatives:

For service to these stations, take the F to 47-50 Sts and transfer to a Jamaica-bound F.

For service from 21 St-Queensbridge and Roosevelt Island, take the F to Roosevelt Av and transfer to a Coney Island-bound F.
As reported yesterday, due to the Tram Overhaul project starting second week of February with only one Tram Cabin operating:
... RIOC officials received assurances that there will be no disruptions to the subway’s F Train line that services Roosevelt Island, including weekends through April 19.

Additional service will be provided via the E Train line, weeknights March 18 – March 22 and March 25 – March 29; and all four weekends March 23 – April 25.....
 Both Tram Cabins operating at full capacity this weekend.

There is Roosevelt Island ferry service on the Astoria Route. Here's the Winter Schedule for Roosevelt Island ferry service.  

Sponsored Post - Check Out Roosevelt Island Gristedes January 18 To January 24 Product Offerings, Specials & Sales Items - Free Delivery With $75 Or More Order & Enter To Win Big Game Prize

The Roosevelt Island Gristedes Supermarket

invites you to check out their January 18 - January 24 Product Offerings, Specials & Sales items.

Enter to Win The Big Game Prize. Entry Form Prints at Checkout.

Don't forget the 10% Roosevelt Island Seniors Discount on Tuesday and Sign Up for the Gristedes Diamond Loyalty Rewards Program.

More Gristedes Supermarket information

available at their

 web site, Facebook Page and Twitter feed

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Major Roosevelt Island Tram Overhaul To Begin 2nd Week Of February, Only 1 Tram Cabin In Service For At Least 10 Weeks Says RIOC - MTA Says No Disruption In Weekend Roosevelt Island F Train Service Thru April 19

This is not going to be fun. Be prepared for Roosevelt Island Tram service disruption starting second week of February. According to this announcement today from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC):

The Roosevelt Island Tram is scheduled to undergo two major maintenance projects that will reduce operating service to one cabin only beginning the second week of February and continuing for at least 10 weeks, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) announced Thursday.

Track cable relocation, phase 1 of the work, is a safety requirement of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for aerial tramways and gondolas operating in the United States.

As per the safety regulations (ANSI B77.1), the Tram is required to relocate its track cables after a pre-determined amount of time. RIOC’s Tram contractor Leitner-Poma, who totally rebuilt the Tram’s infrastructure nine years ago, will perform the work.

The timeline is subject to change depending on weather conditions and the conditions found within the equipment during the relocation. During that time, one cabin will be taken out of service, starting with the North cabin.

“Much like a car that has recommended maintenance at pre-determined intervals, we are that point with the Roosevelt Island Tram,” said RIOC CEO and President Susan Rosenthal.

“We apologize in advance for the inconvenience this may cause. But this effort is to create the safest transportation system possible and to extend its service life into the future,” Rosenthal said of the Tram that since 2016 has transported more than 10 million commuters. “We appreciate your patience and assistance with this important maintenance project.”

Track cables are basically the “road” that the Tram cabin runs on. Each track cable does have movement with every trip of the tram to allow for expansion and contraction, but for the most part the cables are fixed in a single location on each tower. Over time, this location is subject to more wear and bending actions than the other locations, which is the reason the cable is periodically relocated.

Each track cable also contains fiber optic lines inside the core which the Tram uses for communications and controls. This fiber optic line must be cut and re-terminated following the track relocation.

There will be periods of shutdown for both cabin systems during the actual movement of the rope, during tensioning and during the fiber optic changeover, but the plan is to conduct this work late at night and during normal overnight shutdown periods.

Leitner-Poma crews will be working seven days per week to complete the work as quickly as possible.

The second phase of work consists of four gearbox overhauls (inspecting and replacing internal parts such as the gears, bearings, seals and oil changes). This work will start as soon as Phase 1’s track cable relocation is complete. The schedule may change depending on the construction of needed parts and the impact of the federal government shutdown of the overseas import of those parts.

The duration of Phase 2 is estimated to last four to six weeks. During that repair, the Tram will be running daily on a one-cabin reduced capacity.


Each cabin is pulled by an assembly of two gearboxes. Due to the age of the gearboxes and following the gearbox failure on the North tram last August, Kissling AG, the original gearbox manufacturer and a leader in the industry, has recommended to proceed right away with the overhaul of all four gearboxes.

To help facilitate Island residents’ commutes during this period, RIOC will operate Red Bus shuttles between 59th-Street-and- Second-Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and Roosevelt Island during the weekday afternoon peak commute. Exact schedules will be released before the repairs begin.

In discussions this week with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York City subway and bus system, RIOC officials received assurances that there will be no disruptions to the subway’s F Train line that services Roosevelt Island, including weekends through April 19.

Additional service will be provided via the E Train line, weeknights March 18 – March 22 and March 25 – March 29; and all four weekends March 23 – April 25.

RIOC has also asked NYC Ferry officials to consider expanding ferry service – to and from Roosevelt Island, Queens and Manhattan - during the weekday peak periods and weekends; and is awaiting their response.

More information about this project, updated Red Bus shuttle schedules and project timelines will be posted at Please forward additional questions or inquiries to RIOC’s Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson at
The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council discussed the Tram service disruption during its January 9 meeting. Here's the discussion initiated by new Common Council member Justin Ellis looking for ideas to improve transportation options during the Tram service outage.

Remember what it was like last summer when only one Tram Cabin was in operation during the Tram Station Platform renovations.

Hopefully, the Tram tourist crowds will be less this winter than last summer.

UPDATE 4;30 PM - RIOC adds:
Why Offer the Red Bus Shuttle During the Afternoon Rush Only?

Some people has asked us about running the shuttle during the morning hours too. Our Transportation Department has found that due to morning rush-hour vehicle the free shuttle can only make two roundtrips trips (which equates to about 68 seated passengers) from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan via the 59th Street Bridge. That’s not an efficient use of resources.

As a transportation alternative, the Q102 MTA bus makes the route to Roosevelt Island every 20 minutes and takes riders directly to Queens Plaza where they are able to make transfer connections to three different train lines and two other buses headed directly to Manhattan.

In the afternoon, the shuttle can make up to five roundtrips from Midtown Manhattan. We hope that Roosevelt Island seniors, individuals with disabilities or in wheelchairs, and parents or caregivers with young children (strollers etc.) will use the service in addition to all else needing a ride.

Also, please note that though the Tram will be operating on a one-cabin basis, it will “load and go” to make as many trips as possible during peak times to decrease wait times. When we have two operational cabins, we typically wait until actual departure schedule times (no matter if we were full or had small amounts of passengers).