Monday, December 31, 2007

Yuppies Invading Roosevelt Island - Oh My!

More today from New York Observer on Roosevelt Island. The headline reads:

Roosevelt Island Is Dead! Long Live Roosevelt Island! 'Yuppies' Have Moved Ashore in Search of Food
While the development of fair-market housing has certainly widened the gap between the 10,000 original residents of what was once dubbed "welfare island" and the occupants of the 1,500 new luxury apartments completed in the past two years, the gentrification of Roosevelt Island has been a gradual process. The island’s much hyped transformation began in 1989, when RIOC green-lit the first market-rate rental development, Manhattan Park, and did not accelerate until RIOC approved two luxury residential complexes in the middle of the past decade—the nine-building Riverwalk development and the Octagon, Becker and Becker’s 500-unit rental development at the site of the former New York City Lunatic Asylum in the Northtown area.
More on this next year.
Image is from Men Style.
UPDATE 2/10/08 - Roosevelt Island affordable housing at Southtown's Riverwalk buildings?

A Roosevelt Island Wish for a Happy and Healthy New Year to All

It's almost New Year's Eve which brings to a close the year 2007 with the promise and hope of a better 2008 for all. Let's celebrate that wish with a party and a traditional last song from Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes together with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at Cleveland's Agora Club from 1978.

We're havin' a party
Everybody's swinging
Dancing to the music
On the radio
So listen, Mr. DJ
Keep those records playing
'Cause I'm having such a good time
Dancing with my baby

Lyrics are by Sam Cooke.
You Tube video link is here.


Roosevelt Island Receives Curbed Awards for Art & Urbanity

Who would have thunk it? ? Curbed has awarded Roosevelt Island 2 of its 2007 year end awards for Art & Urbanity.
The Encampment came in second place for "Awesomely Absurd Art Project of the Year" behind the Red Hook submarine and ahead of Long Island City's floating tree.

But the big winner was the proposed skyscraper at Southpoint Park by Italian architectural students that Curbed refers to as "The Roosevelt Island Tower of Death" and which:
might be the finest architectural vision for New York City, and Roosevelt Island in particular, we've ever seen. You must watch it immediately, and this must be built. Make it so.

More here on the proposed skyscraper for Southpoint Park.
You Tube video link is here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

NYU Pays $9.4 Million for 25 Roosevelt Island Condos

The New York Observer reports today that:

New York University has paid $9.4 million for a bloc of 25 condos in Riverwalk Landing on Roosevelt Island--the fourth and most recently completed building in the luxury residential complex being developed through a joint venture of Hudson Properties and the Related Companies
Image is from NY Times.

UPDATE: 12/30- According to David Kramer, a principal of the Hudson Companies, the developer together with Related Company of the Riverwalk condos , the New York Observer report is incorrect in respect to the number of condo units sold in this block. The correct number of units sold is 14 not 25.

Next Year Holiday or Christmas Tree for Roosevelt Island?

Has a tiny little corner of the Cultural Divide concerning Christmas and the other winter seasonal holidays reared it's controversial head here on Roosevelt Island? Is Bill O'Reilly about to champion the cause of re-naming the Roosevelt Island Holiday Tree to Christmas Tree?

I ask these questions because a recent letter writer to the Main Street WIRE (PDF file) described being unhappy and "pained" that the signs for a "Holiday Tree" on Roosevelt Island disrespected "sacred" symbols such as the "Christmas Tree, lights and carols...". According to the letter writer:
What is a “holiday tree?” Do you mean Christmas tree?

It is very painful to see the “holiday tree” signs all over the Island. As an Islander for over 15 years (more than half my life), I am truly disappointed over the path RIOC is taking regarding Christmas. Is the term “Christmas tree” offensive to some? If so, why should their feeelings be respected while the traditions and beliefs of thousands of Christian Roosevelt Islanders are stepped on and violated? Cultural diversity should not mean putting down certain people in order to please others.

Roosevelt Island has always been a place where diversity is respected and celebrated. RIOC needs to understand that Christmas trees, lights, and carols are sacred to Christians. Do not disrespect us by not calling them by their historical names! Christmas is one of the most sacred times of the year RIOC, please be considerate!...
I hesitated to post on this topic because there are few if any subjects more divisive than religion in the public square, particularly this time of year, with well meaning and respectful individuals on either side as well as others, unfortunately, who seek to inflame the controversy. I did not see anything positive coming from a post on this subject.

However, on December 21, the Wall Street Journal published this commentary by the historian John Steele Gordon titled, A Brief History of Christmas, that I thought was instructive and made a positive contribution to the issue. According to Gordon:
Christmas famously "comes but once a year." In fact, however, it comes twice. The Christmas of the Nativity, the manger and Christ child, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem, "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one holiday. The Christmas of parties, Santa Claus, evergreens, presents, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" is quite another.

But because both celebrations fall on Dec. 25, the two are constantly confused. Religious Christians condemn taking "the Christ out of Christmas," while First Amendment absolutists see a threat to the separation of church and state in every poinsettia on public property and school dramatization of "A Christmas Carol."

A little history can clear things up.

The Christmas of parties and presents is far older than the Nativity. Most ancient cultures celebrated the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest point and begins to climb once more in the sky. In ancient Rome, this festival was called the Saturnalia and ran from Dec. 17 to Dec. 24.
So what is the answer? After a brief summary of the antecedents of the Christmas Nativity holiday Gordon concludes:
So for those worried about the First Amendment, there's a very easy way to distinguish between the two Christmases. If it isn't mentioned in the Gospels of Luke and Mark, then it is not part of the Christian holiday. Or we could just change the name of the secular holiday back to what it was 2000 years ago.

Merry Saturnalia, everyone!
Some food for thought. Beliefnet, an excellent religion and spiritual web site, has a modest proposal by a catholic priest to move the religious Nativity Christmas to June and let the retailers and consumers have December 25.

Via Queens Crap, a Daily News article by the very same John Steele Gordon on How New York Invented Christmas.
... the Puritans outlawed Christmas altogether. When it was revived in 1660, it was a calmer affair, and still celebrated on a community basis. It was New York City that changed all that, pioneering the family — and very child-centered — holiday that has since spread around the world. This is not surprising, perhaps, seeing that Santa Claus is New York's patron saint.
No, really. The Dutch ship that brought the first settlers to Manhattan was named for St. Nicholas, the patron saint of old Amsterdam as well as children.
It was long a Dutch tradition for children to get presents on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, often put in their shoes or stockings for them to find in the morning. The children of non-Dutch families, noticing how well the Dutch children were making out on Dec. 6, were soon successfully lobbying their parents to give them presents as well. Often these presents came on Christmas instead of St. Nicholas Day.
One other point on this topic. I wish people would stop using the word "War" on Christmas. Their is no "War" on Christmas in America. There is a disagreement and dispute over the proper role of the State in celebrating the holiday but there is no war. To use the "War" analogy makes a mockery of the sacrifices made by the service men and women of the United States Military who are fighting and dying in a real global war.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Roosevelt Island Constituent Services from State Senator Jose Serrano

State Senator Jose Serrano will be holding constituent office hours on Roosevelt Island the first Tuesday of every month beginning on January 8, 2008. Below is Senator Serrano's announcement regarding Roosevelt Island office hours.

Serrano Constituent Hours

On Roosevelt Island
Hosted by
Senator Jose M. Serrano

Who: Everyone is Welcome
No Appointments Necessary

When: First Tuesday of Every Month *

Time: 3 to 7 p.m.

Where: RIOC Offices
591 Main Street
Ground Floor

* New Years Day is the first Tuesday in January. As a result, constituent hours will be held Tuesday, January 8th.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the
Serrano district office at (212) 828-5829.

We look forward to seeing you!

Note: Please bring a photocopy of any paperwork you may have
related to the situation or issue you wish to discuss so that we may
better serve you.

Also, save this date. Senator Serrano will be holding an Eastwood housing forum on Feb. 7 in conjunction with Eviction Intervention Services and Eastwood Residents Association.

Image is a map of the 28th New York State Senate District which includes Roosevelt Island, Yorkville, East Harlem and the South Bronx.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Airstream Trailer Light Show

Via The Presufer, an Airstream Trailer light show that would fit in very well with Brooklyn's Dyker Heights Christmas extravaganza or the Roosevelt Island Holiday Tree.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

Merry Christmas!
Here's the Christmas Song sung by the fabulous Nat King Cole. Enjoy!

And the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights as fantastic as ever from Gowanus Lounge.

Nat King Cole You Tube video link here.

Chinese Food on Christmas

And something for those who eat Chinese food on Christmas and go to the movie theater too. A funny satirical video.

For everybody, in this Holiday Season, let us remember these immortal words from Elvis Costello:

What's so funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?

Chinese Food on Christmas You Tube video link is here.
Elvis Costello You tube video link here.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Santa Claus is Coming to Town - Roosevelt Island

Santa Claus has been spotted near the 59th Street Bridge by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.
Have you all been good this year? Well, according to the Big Man, Clarence and Santa:

you've better been good for goodness sakes!!

You Tube video taken from London concert on December 19, 2007.

Here is Classic Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band from 1978 at the Capital Theater in Passaic, New Jersey doing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

You Tube video is here.

I remember driving through a blizzard in 1980 to see Bruce in Hartford, CT the night before an important exam. Don't remember much about the exam, but the concert was fantastic. He is simply the BEST live performer in the history of Rock.

Image of Roosevelt Island Tram being pulled by reindeer is from a card created by local resident who sells them at the Motorgate Atrium. I'm not sure if they are still available but if anyone is still interested in buying a set for this year or next, let me know and I will put you in touch with the seller.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Beautiful Irish Fairytale of New York

A beautiful Irish Fairytale of New York for Christmas time by the Pogues and Kristy MacColl.

You Tube video is here.
A great animated version here.

The British newspaper Guardian explains that Fairytale of New York is not a Charlie Brown Christmas story. According to the BBC, British radio executives have:

decided to stop censoring The Pogues' Fairytale of New York. But what is such unfestive language doing in a song often voted the nation's favourite Christmas tune?
Here are the lyrics:
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

copyright 1988 Shane MacGowan & Jem Finer

Friday, December 21, 2007

Blackwell House Landscaping

As I was walking by Blackwell House this cold, chilly morning I noticed what appeared to be some landscaping work being done.
Roosevelt Island 360 has the answers.

East River Ferry Service Suspended for Winter

Via Curbed, a report from blogger Brooklyn 11211 that New York Water Taxi is suspending East River ferry service for the winter effective 1/1/08 and will resume in the spring. From New York Water Taxi:

New York Water Taxi regretfully announces the suspension of commuter service on the East River from 1/1/08 to 5/1/08. As you may know, NYWT took over the service in 2003, on short notice, when it was abandoned by another operator. We have added new stops and worked tirelessly to make the run economically viable.

This year, for the first time, the service broke even during the spring, summer and fall when tourists used the commuter service for sightseeing and visitors traveling to and from Water Taxi Beach.

However, fuel prices have doubled since the beginning of 2007 and during the winter months ridership on the East River commuter service decreases approximately 30%. Therefore, it is not economically viable to operate the service during the winter months. We apologize for the inconvenience that this service suspension will undoubtedly cause. NYWT will resume the service on May 1, 2008.
I agree with Brooklyn 11211 that:
From a practical point of view, ferries and water taxis are of limited appeal to most commuters. They are expensive ($5 each way from Schaefer to Wall Street), and unless you live and work near the waterfront, require another $2 for a subway or bus.
The City could make the water taxi a bit more appealing by providing subsidies, or by providing MetroCard transfers to eliminate the double fare hit.
Roosevelt Island ferry service is certainly no panacea to our transportation infrastructure problems but it will certainly help, particularly, as speculated by Roosevelt Island 360, in the event of an emergency when both the subway and tram are out of service.

Roosevelt Island ferry service could also be a component of an East River ferry commuter service with stops on the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, Midtown East, United Nations, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Dumbo, Wall Street and Red Hook. A well thought out East River Ferry commuter ferry system combining metro card service and public transportation subsidies (here is a 2005 report by Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance on subject) could provide waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan (which includes Roosevelt Island by the way) a transportation option similar to that available to residents of Seattle which has a wonderful commuter ferry service.

Seattle even has a ten year ferry passenger strategy report. Imagine that!

Image is from Brooklyn 11211 via Gowanus Lounge.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's Coming on Christmas - But No Skating on the East River

This is a wonderful version of Joni Mitchell's song River, sung by Sarah McLachlan.

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don't snow here
It stays pretty green
I'm going to make a lot of money
Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry
Lyrics to River are here.
You Tube video of Sarah McLachlans's River is here.

Operation Christmas Cheer for New York City Waterfront Workers

Gowanus Lounge provides an interesting option to the reader who asked about Christmas Day volunteer opportunities on Roosevelt Island.

One of the most unique holiday operations in New York City is PortSide New York's Operation Christmas Cheer. It involves visits to dozens of working tug and barges on Christmas Day and the distribution of cookies, newspapers and cheer to the crews. This is the fourth year that PortSide is spreading joy around New York Harbor.
PortSide New York aims to:
breathe life into the relationship between landside communities and the maritime sector—to the advantage of both.
And to:
...create activities and spaces that benefit both groups, nurture economic connections between the two, foster their mutual appreciation, and make the waterfront neighborhood they share a better place to live, work and visit.
Although not a land based volunteer opportunity many of these tug and barge crews probably work the East River and often pass by Roosevelt Island.
Image is from PortSide New York Operation Christmas Cheer.

UPDATE 12/22/08 - Here's an update on volunteering opportunities for 2008 at Coler-Goldwater Hospital.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Christmas Time in the City

It's Christmas Time in New York City. Enjoy a walk through Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park while listening to John Denver's version of Silver Bells.

Or, Twisted Sister's version.

For me, a nice coating of snow in Central Park will make it seem more like Christmas.

You Tube video of John Denver version is here.
You Tube video of Twisted Sister version is here.

Simple Acts of Kindness

Several evenings ago I was rushing up the the Tramway steps at the Second Avenue station trying to catch the Tram before it left for the trip back to Roosevelt Island when I noticed a woman bouncing a stroller with a baby in it passing me going down the stairs. She was clearly having some difficulty but I kept rushing up the stairs to get the Tram before it left the station. I was tired and wanted to get home. I took a couple of more steps up the stairs still hearing the clacking sound of the stroller going down the stairs. Fearing that the woman would lose control of the stroller tossing the baby down the stairs I stopped, turned around and helped the women carry the stroller down the rest of the stairs. Not a big deal but a very small, simple act of kindness.

This incident reminded me of the TV commercial showing strangers helping other strangers that in turn inspires still others to do the same. Some may think the commercial lame or cynical. I thought it was great. You Tube video link of commercial is here.

Roosevelt Island 360 pays tribute to a man named Hank Carter of Wheelchair Charities who helps others and makes life much better for many of the residents of Coler-Goldwater hospital. 360 quotes from Congresswomen Maloney's web site:

Mr. Carter formed Wheelchair Charities, which raises money to give state-of-the-art wheelchairs, speech-rehab equipment, suction machines, imaging chairs, TVs, VCRs and many, many more life-enhancing medical devices to patients. He has given the lame mobility, the mute a voice, and the severely compromised the opportunity to engage in a fuller and richer life. To date, Mr. Carter and Wheelchair Charities have raised more funds than any charity for any public hospital
Perhaps those seeking to demolish Coler-Goldwater's south campus and replace it with more luxury condos should consider, at least for a moment, what will happen to the residents of the hospital.

New York's late Senator Robert F Kennedy once said:
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
It all begins with a simple act of kindness.
Audio recording of Senator Kennedy's speech is here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Charlie Brown Christmas for Roosevelt Island

The Charlie Brown Christmas Television show was always a happy occasion at my house growing up so since it is beginning to look alot like Christmas I thought it would be fun to watch this You Tube video.
Here is a special treat. A link to the entire Charlie Brown Christmas show which was named one of the 100 best all Time TV shows.

Governors Island Says No Way to Louis Kahn/FDR Memorial! Why Can't Roosevelt Island Residents Do Same?

I have made the suggestion in earlier post that Governor's Island would be a more appropriate venue for the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial than the current proposed site at the southern tip of Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island. From that earlier post:

Maybe supporters of Governor's Island development would like the honor of being the site for the Louis Kahn's memorial. In fact, a memorial based upon FDR's Four Freedom's speech (here is transcript and audio) is far more appropriate at a location facing downtown Manhattan and the World Trade Center/Freedom Tower site than on Roosevelt Island where it is not wanted and detracts from a real, green, waterfront park. A memorial to FDR, who overcame many health difficulties, on Governor's Island would also be a fitting tribute that complements Mayor Bloomberg's International Public Health Center proposal for Governors Island.

Roosevelt Island would be glad to cede the Louis Kahn Memorial to Governor's Island. To paraphrase the great, all knowing and wise Henny Youngman - Take the Louis Kahn memorial ... PLEASE!
Apparently Governors Island does not want the Louis Kahn memorial either.

I attended a recent meeting concerning the NYC waterfront. At the meeting were representatives of waterfront neighborhoods, City planners, public officials and others interested in the future development of NYC's waterfront. I had a conversation with a representative of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) about the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial and asked that person's opinion on whether GIPEC would be interested in including the Kahn memorial in the plans for Governors Island. The response was that there was NO WAY they wanted that thing on Governors Island and that the 1970's concrete and granite design was not appropriate for a modern park.
So I ask again. Why does Roosevelt Island get stuck with the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial for Southpoint Park instead of the Trust for the Public Land's Wild Gardens/Green Rooms plan that is favored by the residents of Roosevelt Island and that retains these fantastic views that will be blocked by the Kahn design?

One of the arguements made in favor ot the Louis Kahn design by its advocates is that some sort of committment or binding obligation had been made by New York State to have it built. However, there is no mention at all of the Louis Kahn design in the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan (GDP) but there is a specific mention of a park at Southpoint. Had there in fact been such a committment for the Kahn memorial it would have been included in the GDP which outlines the approved development of Roosevelt Island. Since the Kahn design is not in the GDP please stop making such arguments.

Image of No Way sign is from Image Chef.
Governors Island image is from GIPEC.
Image of Louis Kahn/FDR memorial is from Architectural Record.

UPDATE: 12/23/ - NY Times article from 12/20/ describing the plan chosen for Governors Island development:
The design, commissioned by the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, calls for transforming much of the flat, sober island, which is roughly a half-mile from Lower Manhattan, into green space. That includes a two-mile promenade at the water’s edge, a new park on the southern flat expanse of landfill — where abandoned Coast Guard buildings are to be demolished — and an improved park in the island’s northern historic district. The architects proposed using the detritus from the buildings that are to be destroyed to form hills that would exploit the island’s views, which include the Statue of Liberty.
... one of the architects, said: “We tried to establish different ecological zones with the park. Topography, shoreline, freshwater places for migratory birds to land because they use the Hudson River as their compass.”
Gee, doesn't that sound like the Trust for the Public Land's Wild Gardens/Green Rooms design for Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park? I don't see any concrete or granite memorial for Governors Island Park but that is what is planned for Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park.

More Openness and Transparency on Roosevelt Island - RIOC Governing Statute is Now Online

Chapter 889 of the New York State Unconsolidated Laws of 1984 is the stature that authorized the creation of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) as a New York public benefit corporation with the power to plan, develop, operate, maintain and manage Roosevelt Island. Essentially it is the governing document for Roosevelt Island and together with the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan and the Master Lease between the City and State of NY controls the fate of Roosevelt Island.
Recently, RIOC provided copies of the General Development Plan and the Master Lease which are now available for any Roosevelt Island resident to view online.
Thanks to the efforts of State Senator Jose Serrano and his staff, Chapter 889, the Roosevelt Island governing statute, is now online as well.
Image is of the New York State Capital.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Roosevelt Island Volunteering on Christmas Day

A reader sends in this question seeking places to volunteer on Christmas Day. Any ideas?

Do you know of any Christmas Day volunteering opportunities on Roosevelt Island, perhaps at the senior center? Any info you could give (including pointing me in the direction of others who may know) would be wonderful.
Here is a link to Roosevelt Island charities from Charity Guide that may be of help.
Image is from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri

Roosevelt Island Boy Scout Troop Christmas Tree Sale

The Roosevelt Island Boy Scout Troop is conducting their annual Christmas Tree Sale at the Motorgate Atrium. If you are in the market for a Christmas Tree this week why don't you stop by, pick out a tree and support the local Roosevelt Island Boy Scout troop.

Image below is from Roosevelt Island 360.

Roosevelt Island Dilapidated Renwick Ruins - A Metaphor for the Republican Party?

Roosevelt Island's Renwick Ruins has been brought into the Republican Party Presidential nominating process discussion. According to a blogger on the conservative political web site Red State:

Every night on New York City's Roosevelt Island, someone pays to have lights shoot up at the Renwick Ruin [photo gallery, vid]. It was designed by the man, James Renwick, Jr., who designed St. Patrick's Cathedral, and now it is a dilapidated shell, illuminated at night for all to see. "See what's become of me!"
It's what we risk, should our current intra-party animus linger.
On the Democatic Party side, what Roosevelt Island analogy applies to Senator Barack Obama? Perhaps the hope and promise of the new Wild Gardens/Green Rooms Waterfront Park at Southpoint Park proposed by the Trust for the Public Land and favored by Roosevelt Island residents over the outmoded, environmentally challenged, 1970's design of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial that will obstruct these fantastic views of the East River Waterfront and NYC skyline?

Then what Roosevelt Island metaphor applies to Hillary?

Image of Republican candidates is from MSNBC.
Image of Renwick Ruins is from Weblicist of Manhattan.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Birthday Message to Roosevelt Island and the Rest of the World

I am a big fan of science fiction and Arthur C. Clarke together with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein are my favorite authors of this genre. Via Space Ref,

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a science-fiction author, inventor, and futurist, simply a greate mind celebrates his 90th birth anniversary on 16th of December, 2007.
Sir Arthur was the first person to propose using geostationary satellites for instant global communications.

An ``artificial satellite'' at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth's surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet."

He is the author of many books including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, Rendezvous With Rama and my favorite Clarke book, Fountains of Paradise that describes the construction of a space elevator.

Sir Arthur developed the 3 Laws of Prediction:

1- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. 2- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. 3- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Happy 90 orbits around the sun Sir Arthur. Transcript and video of Arthur C. Clarke's 90th birthday remarks are here. UPDATE 12/16/07: For those interested in space and astronomy, today's Washington Post has a fantastic profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium.
"I grew up in the Bronx, and I'd never been in total darkness before," he says. "The closest you'll get is a movie theater, but even in a movie theater there's a glow from the doors. So I had a kind of urban view of the universe, and when I was at the planetarium and the stars came up, I remember thinking, 'Nice show, but this is not the real universe. I've seen the real universe, and it has 12 stars in it.' " Once Tyson learned otherwise, he was smitten. He'd talk about the universe, read about the universe and, whenever possible, stare at the universe through a telescope he'd lug to the roof of the apartment building where his family lived. Whenever anyone asked what he'd do when he grew up, he had an answer, one that he had trouble pronouncing at the time: "I'm going to be an astrophysicist." Which is what he became, though his PhD in the subject is but one line of a résumé so packed with titles and achievements that it is tiring to read. Tyson is the author of eight books on all things intergalactic, most recently "Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries," a bestseller that was just released in paperback. He is also the host of "Nova ScienceNow," a "60 Minutes"-style show on PBS, as well as a lecturer, researcher and a TV pundit whenever the heavens make news.
I don't think Arthur C. Clarke would mind sharing his birthday message with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Roosevelt Island a Little Bit Closer to Getting Ferry Service

Just received this email from Congresswoman Maloney's office stating that the US Army Corps of Engineers has approved permit application for construction of Ferry Dock at Roosevelt Island. I will find out what else needs to be done in order to finally get East River ferry service to Roosevelt Island.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, Queens) announced today that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has approved the permit application of Octagon LP to construct a water taxi dock on Roosevelt Island. Representative Maloney, who urged the federal agency to render a decision on the water dock permit application in order to improve transportation options for local residents, noted that water taxi service will increase Roosevelt Island’s accessibility and security.

"I am pleased that Army Corps of Engineers has chosen to increase the safety and convenience of Roosevelt Island residents by granting approval to construct this water taxi dock,” said Congresswoman Maloney. "It is a good day when government agencies, private companies, and elected officials can work together in the public interest to improve the quality of life for those whom we serve. With Roosevelt Island residents struggling to board overcrowded subway trains during morning rush hour and the prospect of temporarily losing Tram service while it is rehabilitated, providing other transportation options becomes even more critical,” she said. Congresswoman Maloney also vowed to continue to work closely with public and private sector leaders to ensure that water taxi service becomes a reality for Roosevelt Islanders.

On September 21, 2007, Congresswoman Maloney wrote to Commander Robert L. Van Antwerp of ACE to press the federal agency to render a decision on the long-pending application submitted by Octagon LP to construct the water taxi dock. The application was initially filed more than a year and a half ago seeking a permit to construct a dock near Octagon Park on the northern end of Roosevelt Island. “The water taxi would provide alternative routes to Manhattan for residents of Roosevelt Island,” wrote Representative Maloney in her letter.

In correspondence, ACE Lieutenant Commander M.T. McBrady expressed the agency’s opinion that “the northeastern shoreline of Roosevelt Island across from Hallet’s Cove would be a much better location for the project,” but also noted, “we are satisfied that the design and operational controls... adequately address” ACE’s previous concerns over the proposed original siting, adding that the proposed site near Octagon Park “does not degrade navigation safety to an unacceptable level in our view.”

Representative Maloney has been a vigorous and effective advocate for her constituents on Roosevelt Island since her election to Congress. In 2002, she worked with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to help secure a $250,000 matching grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation to repair and restore one of the Island’s notable landmarks, Blackwell House. After the subway station was built on Roosevelt Island, Rep. Maloney secured $700,000 in federal highway funds to install surveillance cameras in the station to provide better security. She also successfully urged ACE to undertake the $500,000 study documenting failings in the Island’s Seawall. Congresswoman Maloney has also consistently been involved with a range of other issues affecting Roosevelt Island, including fighting for better policing and successfully fighting for the reopening of the Tramway following suggestions from some quarters in the wake of the April 2006 breakdown in service that it be mothballed in perpetuity. She continues to work closely with her fellow elected officials representing Roosevelt Island to present a forceful and united voice for its residents.

Good job by Congresswomen Maloney.
Image is from NY Times
Roosevelt Island 360 has more here.

Update: Roosevelt Island 360 has statement from RIOC President Steve Shane and Octagon developer Bruce Becker on the ferry dock approval. According to Becker:
We've been in discussions with New York Water Taxi for the last three years about bringing service to Roosevelt Island and adding our stop to planned routes up the East River. When service is established we expect to have service running to 34th Street and Wall Street. Eventually we hope there are many more options.

Battle Between Buyers and Sellers Is Not a Life and Death Struggle - But This Is!

A new cycle has begun in the battle for supremacy in the New York residential Real Estate market between buyers and sellers. For a very long time sellers have had the upper hand over buyers but now that may be reversed. According to blogger True Gotham:

Buyers and sellers alike are indeed digging in their heels. Having said that, I'm seeing more motivated sellers on the market right now than those who "test" the market to see if they can get their price (inflated usually). I have also experienced many sellers pulling property off of the market as they have made the decision to stay where they are and "ride out the storm." If there is going to be a storm, and that remains to be seen, then perhaps this is the calm that precedes it?
So what do I see happening in 2008? Based on the plethora of economic data that I have been watching, certain segments of the Manhattan market may see the current imbalance of inventory and buyers tip slightly more toward the buyer's favor.
Or as reported in the NY Times, at least a stalemate has emerged:
Now, brokers say, they see a stalemate developing between buyers and sellers in Manhattan, especially for apartments in the $1 million to $5 million range.
Remember, though certainly an important factor, the residential real estate market does not rise to the level of life and death. Keep your perspective.

This is a life and death struggle that has had over 20 million views on You Tube. The Battle at Kruger is simply an amazing sight to watch. Do yourselves a favor and watch the entire video which is a little more than 8 minutes. It will be worth it.

My question is, who does the Lion and Buffalo represent - the Buyer or Seller? We know the crocodile is the broker.

UPDATE: 12/21/- Maybe the crocodile is the foreign buyer taking advantage of the stalemate between Lions and Buffalos, I mean buyers and sellers. From today's NY Times:
While natives remain wary about real estate and worry about bonuses and the economic climate, foreign tourists are keeping brokers busy with their eagerness to buy up Manhattan apartments, which many see as investments.

Problem with Roosevelt Island Tram Banner Image

As regular readers of Roosevelt Islander can probably tell, the banner at the top of the blog depicting the Roosevelt Island Tram is considerably smaller than usual. This is because of a system wide problem with the Blogger code that has caused banner images to become truncated and distorted. I hope to have this problem fixed soon.
I am not very happy right now!
Image is from Blog Way Baby.

UPDATE - Image has been restored to proper size but Roosevelt Islander Blog Title is not working properly. Still trying to fix.

UPDATE - 12/22/- Image size and Roosevelt Islander title have now been restored. A big thank you to the Blogger help group that made this correction possible.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Toys For Tots on Roosevelt Island

RIOC's Upcoming Events page provides the following information.

Toys for Tots collection program
When: Through December 21st
Participate in this years US Marine Corp Toys for Tots program.
The Marines will be returning on December 21st to collect the boxes and distribute them to charitable organizations, houses of worship, foster homes, shelters, etc. in the NY metropolitan area.
Toy collection boxes will be available at the following locations on Roosevelt Island:

1) RIOC Main Office -591 Main Street
2) Public Safety- 552 Main Street
3) Tram Plaza- Manhattan Side
4) Trellis Diner- 549 Main Street

For more information, please call 212-832-4540

Other Roosevelt Island Weekend Events:

Environmental Awareness Fair
When: Saturday, Dec. 15th from 1pm-3pm
Where: Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Free snacks, refreshments & lots of good information on recycling, water conservation, energy efficiency, and more!
For more information, please contact Sylvia Giralde at 212-832-4540 ext. 314

Holiday Party and Open House
Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance
When: Sunday, December 16th 3:00pm-6:00ppm Music, dance and seasonal songs, refreshments and gift sale
Where: 548 Main Street (Red Awning behind the video store) Free

Roosevelt Island 360 has more on weekend events.
Image is from Toys for Tots 2007

Open Government and Transparency Emerging on Roosevelt Island

One of the first posts on this blog (during the ALL CAP DAYS) stated a goal to:

...provide concerned citizens easy access to the historical background of how Roosevelt Island has been governed in the past and to promote openness and transparency by our current governmental representatives
and noted:
... it would be of great use to the community if other important Roosevelt Island governing documents such as the General Development Plan and all Amendments thereto be made available to the public.
Thanks to RIOC President Steve Shane, the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan and the 1969 Roosevelt Island Master Lease between the City of New York (Lessor) and the NY State Urban Development Corporation (Lessee) and Welfare Island Development Corporation (Subsidiary) are now available online for review by all who may be interested. A permanent link will be on the right side column under the title Roosevelt Island Governing Documents.

The 12/11/07 Washington Post had an article describing problems accessing government information by citizens as well as by other federal, state and city agencies. According to the article:
The biggest hurdle agencies face in sharing information with one another and with citizens is not the technology but rather how the agencies organize information, said Karen Evans, who oversees the e-government program for the Office of Management and Budget.
The article also reports that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and officials from Google will testify before:
the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today, urging Congress to require federal agencies to make their Web sites, records and databases more searchable
and according to Wales:
"It's really important for the notion of public participation for [agencies] to be striving to be as open as possible,"...
Who could have imagined at this time last year that RIOC would be ahead of the curve in making government documents and information available to the public. Certainly not me nor the NY State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions that concluded in 2005 of prior RIOC administrations:
The operation and management of RIOC has exhibited, in the past, a pattern of secrecy and unaccountability consistent with what the Committee has found at other authorities. With respect to relations with the Island's community and institutions, including matters such as open meetings, FOIL requests, public participation and RIOC activities and full public disclosure of important public issues, RIOC must show significant improvement.
Certainly RIOC operations have begun to change for the better here on Roosevelt Island. If anyone has any suggestions for additional information or documents concerning Roosevelt Island to be made publicly available please let me know and I will try and get it. Good job by RIOC in providing citizen access to these essential Roosevelt Island governing documents.

Image is from Inman News.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Berlin Wall is Falling for Roosevelt Island Retail!!!

The December issue of Real Deal highlights the expanding retail services becoming available on Roosevelt Island following the arrival of the Hudson/Related Riverwalk condo and rental developments located in the Southtown area of the Island adjacent to the Tram and Subway. For many years Roosevelt Island suffered from a pitiful lack of retail services that one might have experienced behind the Iron Curtain and in the former Soviet Union , not in a 21st century New York City neighborhood. According to the Real Deal article:
"It looks like East Berlin before the wall fell," said Andrew Oliver, executive vice president of Cushman & Wakefield Sonnenblick Goldman. For years, there was only one chain store, a Gristedes grocery, and much of the remaining retail was service-oriented: a diner, a Chinese takeout joint and a thrift shop, among others.
But now private sector development of the Southtown area has finally brought some small measure of retail services to Roosevelt Island's population of 12,000 residents that will increase to approximately 16,000 when the entire 9 building Riverwalk project is completed. As reported by Real Deal:
As a result of the limited retail options, the arrival of seven store spaces in the new Riverwalk buildings -- Buildings 3 and 4, also known as Riverwalk Place and Riverwalk Landing, respectively -- is a big deal to area residents. David Kramer, a principal with Hudson, noted that the island's location and limited transportation options will never make it a destination for shoppers, but he said that six of the seven retail spaces in the new development have been leased out.

Along with Starbucks and Duane Reade are a salon and a dry cleaner, and two restaurants: Fuji East and Nonno's Focacceria. The seventh space has yet to be filled, but Kramer said the developers are looking to bring a food store into the space.

The retail rents for the new Roosevelt Island buildings have been hovering in the $40 to $45 a square foot range, he said.
With the fall of Roosevelt Island's Berlin Wall, is Riverwalk developer David Kramer Roosevelt Island's Mikhail Gorbachev?

The Real Deal article contains several factual inaccuracies concerning Roosevelt Island including the following:
... below the 59th Street Bridge, is a no-man's-land of old warehouses, currently being debated as the site of future parkland or residential development.
...Riverwalk's fifth building, a 123-unit condominium building known as Riverwalk Court, opened for sales on Oct. 24. The units are priced around $850 a square foot, Kramer said.
There is no "no-man's land of warehouses" on Roosevelt Island below the 59th Street Bridge or anywhere else on Roosevelt Island. Only the south campus of Coler-Goldwater hospital, the Tennis Bubble, Sportspark and Southpoint Park that certainly can't be mistaken for "warehouses". Also, the Riverwalk Court condominium units did not go on sale in October. Sales are just about to begin now in December.

Slideshow is from Roosevelt Island 360. It shows the available retail space at Hudson/Related's Riverwalk development.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Last Night of Hanukkah - With A Reggae Beat & Twist of A Cappella Style

On the last night of Hanukkah, here's wishing you all a very happy Holiday Season with Matisyahu lighting the candles at Brooklyn's Warsaw Club

and the Voices of Liberty, an eight part a cappella group performing at EPCOT in Walt Disney World.

Matisyahu You Tube video link is here.
Voices of Liberty You Tube video link is here.

Why Is Roosevelt Island the Way It Is?

via Forgotten-NY © 2001 Chet Wilson

Several years ago the NY State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions initiated a series of investigations into the activities of State corporations, authorities and commissions. In 2005, the Committee released this study concerning Roosevelt Island's (RIOC):
...operations, its compliance with the terms of the Island's 1969 master lease with New York City, the Island's official owner, and in particular, the selection and appointment of its senior staff, their qualifications and job responsibilities and performance..."
The Committee determined:
that for a number of years the effective operation and management of RIOC was compromised by secrecy, political patronage, a lack of long-term financial planning, and questionable fiscal policies. It is clear, however, that in many areas, past mistakes have been acknowledged and corrective steps have begun to be taken. New staff appointed by the Governor and working with the Board has begun to change RIOC's management culture by ending the policy of one-time payments, making public long-term financial planning documents, and acknowledging the need for greater transparency and accountability.
The new staff referred to applies to the administration immediately preceding the current one. The study covered the period of time prior to the current administration under Governor Spitzer and RIOC President Shane and does not reflect at all upon their management of Roosevelt Island.

The Assembly Committee study does provide some valuable background information regarding the early development of Roosevelt Island.
The City of New York ("City") owns Roosevelt Island, comprising of 147 acres located in the East River and within the borough of Manhattan. In 1969, the City leased the Island to the New York State Urban Development Corporation ("UDC") for 99 years. The main purpose of the Roosevelt Island lease agreement was "to create on the Island as rapidly as possible a New Community" or a planned community.2 In the 1970's, urban planner Ed Logue planned Roosevelt Island and architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee drafted the General Development Plan ("GDP"), also known as the Master Plan, which is the design document of the Island and is part of the lease.3

The GDP delineates the design of the Island and controls its development.4 Roosevelt Island is divided into two principal areas: Northtown and Southtown.5 Northtown and Southtown are separated by Blackwell Park, which is approximately 3.8 acres.6 The GDP specifically called for about 5,500 units (the number of units currently proposed is 5,758 units) of subsidized, middle-income and conventionally financed housing, 20,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, and certain public facilities, including a school for 2,000 children, a library, community rooms, children's day care centers, swimming pools and facilities for the elderly. The GDP requires Northtown to contain 60% of the housing, commercial facilities, child care, recreational facilities and the preservation of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.7 The GDP requires that Southtown contain 40% of the Island housing, a swimming pool, a library, the schools and a Town Center.8 The GDP also requires that certain areas of the Island be designated open spaces including: Lighthouse Park, Octagon Park, Blackwell Park and other areas that were to be linked with pedestrian paths and walkways.9 UDC completed Northtown in 1977. It is comprised of four Mitchell-Lama buildings, of which one is a limited equity co-op, consisting of 2,200 units. Manhattan Park, considered an extension of Northtown, followed in the late 1980s. Manhattan Park is a 1,100 unit market-rate rental building and section VIII housing units.

However, due to fiscal constraints, UDC could not complete the development of the Island. Therefore, in 1984 the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a public benefit corporation, was created to operate and manage Roosevelt Island.10 At the time of creation, RIOC assumed all responsibilities, rights and obligations including the agreement to pay the City rent for the use of the land.11 However, to this date, RIOC has never paid any rent to the City.

RIOC Board members are appointed by the governor, or serve by virtue of their positions in State agencies,...
As to the current Hudson/Related Riverwalk buildings in Southtown the Assembly Committee reported that:
In 1999 RIOC approved Hudson Companies and Related Companies ("Hudson & Related") as the projects' developers for Southtown. Hudson & Related were chosen to develop Phase 1 (four buildings with about 900 units) and Phase 2 (five buildings with 1100 units). RIOC received a one-time payment of about $6 million for the first two buildings of Phase 1. Building 1 was sold to Memorial Sloan-Kettering;17 building 2 was sold to Cornell University.18 Both are used for staff housing. Building 3 is currently under construction as a market rate condominium, with RIOC receiving about $2.17 million. Building 4 is not yet under construction and will be used for rental housing.
Image is from Forgotten New York.

NY State Legislative Grants Available for Roosevelt Island Community Organizations - Application Below

State Senator Jose Serrano provides the following information for Roosevelt Island organizations seeking funding for their projects.

Senator Serrano remains one of the few state legislators to release his list of legislative grants in a timely and accessible fashion.
As part of that commitment to transparency and accountability, the Senator wants to ensure that every organization working in the 28th District is aware of grant opportunities through his office.
Among Roosevelt Island community groups receiving funding in the past are the Roosevelt Island Historical Society ($5,000) and the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association ($8,000). The deadline for grant applications is February 15, 2008.
If your organization is seeking funding, here is an application form and list of previous grant recipients.
Good job by Senator Serrano in making this infomation widely available to his Roosevelt Island and other 28th Senatorial District constituents.

Search For a New Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director

A reader of this post asks:

Who will be the new Public Safety Director? How does one get to occupy that post? Is he or she appointed by the RIOC?
RIOC President Steve Shane answers:
As to the hiring of a new Public Safety Director, we will go through the
process of advising the Appointments Office, posting on our web site,
posting on job sites, word of mouth and personal referrals. Then we will
cull the applicants to make the head hunting process manageable and
proceed with interviews. Obviously, the education, experience,
personality, approach to the prospective position, etc. of the
applicants will bear on the selection process.

We are embarking on the recruiting process immediately as the position
needs filling. In the interim, Mr. Bryan, the deputy director will act
as the director. Mr. Martinez, the VP for Operations will continue to
take a close interest in the affairs of Public Safety, especially during
this transition.
Image of another type of Public Safety Director, Gary Cooper from the movie High Noon, is from Amazon.
You Tube video clip from High Noon is here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

1987 Historical Flashback - Sutton Place Residents Fear Liquid Waste from Roosevelt Island's Delacorte Geyser

Image by Judy Seigel

The Columbia Spectator (Columbia University's student newspaper) has an article today on one of Columbia's and New York City's most generous philanthropists, George T. Delacorte. Among his contributions to New York City Parks are Central Park's Alice in Wonderland Statue, the Central Park Zoo's Delacorte Clock and the Delacorte Theater, the site of the Shakespeare in the Park summer series.

His favorite contribution though was not in Central Park but in the East River just off the tip of Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park, the Delacorte Geyser pictured above. According to his 1991 obituary in the NY Times:
But of all his contributions, his own favorite remained the Delacorte geyser at the tip of Roosevelt Island. He and his wife called it "Delacorte's Folly." In 1969, Mr. Delacorte conceived the idea that New York should have a geyser equal to the Jet D'Eau in Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

His geyser, at 400 feet, was to be the highest fountain in the world, but many New Yorkers were outraged that, when built, the $350,000 jet spewed polluted East River water into the air. He was forced to chlorinate the fountain. Then the chlorination withered trees that Sutton Place residents had placed on the island to improve their view. Mr. Delacorte was more annoyed than moved by the complaints. He said his fountain was there before the trees.

In an editorial when the fountain was installed, The New York Times, citing the city's crucial needs and noting that the money might have been put to better use instead of being thrown "literally down the drain," called him "the wrong-way Corrigan of New York philanthropy."
As reported by the NY Times, from 1969 through 1987:
the Delacorte geyser pumped a graceful plume of East River water hundreds of feet skyward from Roosevelt Island four times a day.
What happened to the Delacorte Geyser? Why was it shut down and still not now working? The answer is that the Delacorte Fountain caused some to fear that:
''liquid waste was being flung 400 feet in the eyes and faces of people who lived on Sutton Place.'' The water was subsequently chlorinated (and, if it's any comfort, whatever was flung by the fountain more recently only reached about 240 feet high because of equipment problems).

Later, during the drought years, city officials expressed concern the geyser might be regarded as a symbol of conspicuous consumption - even though the water, most of which fell back into the East River, was unlikely to be consumed by anybody. The fountain was turned off. (Similar concerns were expressed when energy conservation was in vogue; the electric bill, some $10,000 a month, was paid by the city).
The Geyser finally stopped working in 1987 because of a faulty valve and never repaired.

Delacorte was ahead of his time in seeing the beauty of Water Geysers in an urban or city setting. Take a look at this You Tube video of the Water Fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Pretty Neat! Wouldn't a similar show in the East River be spectacular.

Top image of Delacorte Geyser is by artist Judy Seigel from ArtNet.
Bottom image is from Timeline of Roosevelt Island History.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Resigns

RIOC President Steve Shane sends a copy of the following message delivered to the RIOC Board of Directors:

Please be advised that Jim Fry has resigned as the Director of the
Department of Public Safety, effective December 31, 2007 for reasons
relating to his health.

I expressed my appreciation personally and on behalf of RIOC for his
service and we shall more publicly acknowledge it in the weeks ahead.