Friday, August 24, 2007

Roosevelt Island Public Restroom - Action to be Taken

Fellow blogger Roosevelt Island 360 sends the following suggestion for adding additional public restrooms stating:

RIOC should work with the NYC DOT who is responsible for the current Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise (CSFF) which includes the City's goal of buying and installing 20 new public access stand alone toilets. After all this is City land we stand (and sit) on. The NYC DOT link is below.

The NYC Department of Transportation will
bring automatic public toilets (APTs) to New York City. These state-of-the-art facilities offer comfort, hygiene, accessibility, and security to the public, within a modern design. Designed to self-sanitize after each use, the APTs will also be serviced twice a day for inspection and system maintenance, affording the people of New York a safe and valuable convenience.

Site Specifications
The footprint of the APTs will span 6'7" x 12'.
Siting Criteria include:

1. Clear Path: Automatic Public Toilets must allow a minimum clear path of 8 feet in width.
2. Clearance from Curb: All APTs must allow a straight unobstructed path of at least 1.5 feet between the APT and the curb.
3. Other Minimum Distances:
10 feet fire hydrants, standpipes
5 feet tree trunks, canopies
3 feet streetlights, traffic signal poles
2 feet ventilation, street signs, cellar doors
4. Permissible Locations:
a. On wide streets, only in commercial, manufacturing or mixed use districts
b. On sidewalks or plazas adjacent to property owned or leased by a government agency or public authority, or under the jurisdiction of the EDC.
c. On traffic islands or public places bounded on all sides by mapped streets under the jurisdiction of the Department.
d. On or adjacent to parks property of playgrounds, subject to the approval of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
The Department will begin to reach out to local bodies to solicit recommendations for potential locations of automatic public toilets. Because these structures must meet extensive technical siting criteria, the selection process will include extensive location surveys.
Above please find information on some of the siting specifications to consider when making recommendations.
If you are interested in recommending a location, please submit your recommendation in writing to CSFF via email at or contact your local community board with that request.

RIOC should work with our local community board, RIRA, Councilperson Lappin, Assemblymen Kellner, State Senator Serrano and Borough President Stringer to allocate one of these public restrooms for Roosevelt Island. If you think adding an additional restroom is an important quality of life issue for Roosevelt Island please send an email to the officials listed above. Links to their respective web sites and email addresses are provided above or in the sidebar. Good job by Roosevelt Island 360.

Skyscraper at Southpoint Park?

Click here for a stunning Youtube illustration of what a Skyscraper at Southpoint Park Roosevelt Island might look like. There is also what looks like a footbridge from Southpoint to Manhattan.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Roosevelt Island Condo/Rental Market

Here are links to NY Times, and Craigslist for Roosevelt Island sales and rentals as of today. Craigslist has a 530 sq. ft. studio at Building 3 of Related/Hudson Riverwalk Southtown development listed at $445,000 or $839 psf.

Work is progressing quickly at the fifth of an eventual nine Related/Hudson Riverwalk buildings at Roosevelt Island development site as shown in picture above. I have been told that the building is scheduled for occupancy in January 2009. Here is a Youtube construction video of site.

What type of real estate market will New York City be in when these new condo units come up for sale? Of course nobody knows, owners hope that prices in NYC are immune from what is going on in the rest of the country and will continue to rise or at least not fall and buyers who are new to market or have been waiting on the sideline for the inevitable drop in prices are hoping for the opposite.

Urbandigs had an interesting post on future of lending environment stating:

We are returning to a lending environment more like this! We are in the very early stages of tighter lending and underwriting standards after we got so used to no standards at all for the past 3-4 years! Looking forward, buyers will have to prove their earnings and employment. As Michael McGivney, a Wells Fargo Private Banker, said back on Aug. 10th:

Last week, a client getting approved for an interest only product, like a 5 year ARM, on a $500,000 loan qualified on the payment of $2604 at a rate of 6.25%.
Today, that same client, to qualify for the same loan, will need to have enough income to qualify for the "fully indexed, fully amortized" payment. That means they MUST qualify at a rate of 11.25%, fully amortized. That means a payment of $4863!!!!!! That's nearly DOUBLE the payment. That means they must have nearly DOUBLE THE INCOME!!!

And they will need to have the documents to prove that income before the loan gets committed to! Adjust accordingly and be prepared! This credit squeeze is only 5-6 weeks old in the tradable markets minds; although many have been waiting for this to happen for years.
It's going to take more than a few months to adjust to such a different world after years of loose lending standards. For any seller thinking about accepting a deal from a buyer whose income is derived 100% via self-employment, be sure that they can back that up with documents so you have no issues with the deal closing!
The market for new condo units in Washington DC is in trouble. Is this the future for the new condo projects coming on line in NYC. According to the Washington Post:
A growing number of condominium developers are backing out of projects as the worsening real estate market causes lenders to tighten their standards.
... In the past 12 months, nearly 20,000 condo units have been removed from the glutted local development pipeline, said Gregory H. Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates, a real estate research firm in Alexandria. By Delta's count, in the second quarter of this year, developers abandoned plans for 22 local condo projects.
More here:
During the real estate boom that ended two years ago, developers could get loans even if they presold only one-quarter of their units, said Peter Antonoplos, a real estate lawyer in Carter Ledyard & Milburn's District office. But then sales slowed drastically, and many would-be buyers cancelled their contracts. Now lenders are asking that 50 percent or more of the units be sold before construction, he said. Others want the developers to contribute more of their own money.

"Institutional lenders don't have the appetite for condo properties that are going to sit around and present a credit risk," Antonoplos said.

Developers are more likely to get financing for rental properties because the rental market is healthier, real estate experts said, hence the push to convert condos to rentals. However, there are concerns that the recent turmoil in the mortgage market could cause that financing to tighten.
Does this sound familiar?
Still, analysts said that because of local job growth, they don't expect the condo market to melt down in this region as it has in other areas of the country. The result here will be a healthier market as supply and demand reach an equilibrium, analysts said.

RIOC Reviewing Public Restroom Facilities

RIOC President Steve Shane on possibility of additional public restrooms for Roosevelt Island.

Will let you know the outcome of our review on public restroom
facilities. Problem with portables is that they are subject to
vandalism. Trouble with permanent facilities is that they cost a fortune
with infrastructure, ADA, building code requirements. We are reviewing.
Do we have any experts able to offer assistance to RIOC in finding an affordable, vandal free and ADA compliant public restroom? For those still interested in additional information on topic, there is an American Restroom Association that is "America's advocate for the availability of clean, safe and well designed public restrooms", The Bathroom Diaries which lists and reviews public restroom in NYC and The Privy Council, "a group of New Yorkers who see the need for a working system of public toilets for our otherwise great city".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

8/25 Southpoint Park Outdoor Movie Night is Christmas Vacation

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the movie selected to be shown at Southpoint Park on Saturday, August 25 at 8:30 PM. This is the last movie of the series for the summer so come come out to watch the movie and enjoy the fabulous views. Good job by RIOC for re-instituting the outdoor movie program this summer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Waitin' for the Red Bus on Roosevelt Island

Waiting For Red Bus Image by Amy Kim Ganter

A frequent topic of concern is whether the Red Bus schedule should continue to be linked with the Tram. The major benefit of linking the Red Bus to the Tram schedule, aside from the convenience of Tram Riders knowing there will be a bus waiting for them when they get off the Tram, is that residents are able to plan the time they leave their apartment in order to catch the bus. As stated in the RIRA letter to RIOC published in the June 16 Main Street Wire:
Up through 2003, the Red Bus was a reliable service, arriving precisely every 15 minutes during normal hours, and every 7.5 minutes during rush hours. All Island residents had their own formula that worked for 30 years:

“If I leave the apartment at 11:02, I can catch the bus at 11:06, arrive at the Tram at 11:11, catch the 11:15 Tram, and be in Manhattan by 11:20.”

Since 2004, RIOC has been tinkering with the bus schedule. The bus schedule and its variance (variability in waiting times) is so bad that residents have given up on the bus service. Although the bus is supposed to run on average every 7.5 minutes, there is no scheduling at all: during rush hour, one can wait up to 22 minutes for a bus (assuming a seat is available), and outside of rush hours one can wait over 30 minutes for a bus.
However, in a letter to the editor of the Main Street Wire dated June 16, 2007, another view is expressed by a Roosevelt Island resident who thinks it is unfair that the Red Bus is linked to the Tram schedule,
First, and most importantly, is the sense of entitlement that Tram riders have of expecting to never have to wait for a Red Bus. Apparently, a Tram rider’s 25-cent Red Bus fare is worth more than everyone else’s. Far more people depart and arrive on the Island every day using the subway than the Tram. So why does the Red Bus then stop and wait at the Tram while subway riders are piling up at the subway station? And why should a subway rider have to wait for a Tram rider to arrive before a bus shows up? Am I, as a subway rider, a second-class citizen? Is my 25-cent fare worth less than a Tram rider’s? Why not keep the bus in constant motion in a loop? Eventually everyone, including the Tram riders, will get picked up. But at least everyone will have equal access to the bus service.
A RIRA representative points out that the constant loop bus service advocated above leads to bus bunching as occurs during the continuous service morning rush hour that can stretch waiting times as much as 30 minutes. If the only reason not to institute continuous bus service is the issue of bus bunching I would think that problem could be solved if the bus drivers were in communication with each other via radio/walkie talkie or if there were a traffic dispatcher advising the driver.

I think think the Red Bus schedule is a good issue with which to start a new polling feature to Roosevelt Islander. The first polling issue is "The Red Bus schedule should be changed to run on a continuous service schedule and not be linked with the Tram schedule" agree or disagree. The poll is located on the right hand column below the Statement of Purpose.

Roosevelt Island Public Safety Report, January 2007-May 2007

Above is the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Report for the months of January-May 2007. The top chart lists what are called "incidents" by type, such as criminal mischief, harassment, graffiti etc., the middle chart lists those "incidents" by building location, Eastwood, Motorgate, Westview etc., and the bottom chart lists "incidents" by post location, Main Street, Seawall Walkway, Manhattan Park complex etc.
Click on each chart to be able to read information.
The report indicates that these statistics represent only those incidents reported. I do not know if that means reported to RIOC HQ, Public Safety, the NYPD or some combination. How do these numbers correlate with the general impression by residents of crime and public safety on Roosevelt Island?

RIOC Board of Director Meetings Now Being Webcast

RIOC Board of Director Meetings are now being webcast. The August 16, 2007 meeting is archived here. The webcasting of Board of Director meetings is a great tool for those who are interested in Roosevelt Island affairs, but cannot go to these meetings, to learn what is going on as well as an archival record of what was actually said.
There are also written transcripts of prior Board of Director Meetings here, although the latest archived is from May 17, 2007 and does not include the August meeting.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Public Restroom Update -RIOC Responds

RIOC President Steve Shane responds to the issue of public access to existing Roosevelt Island bathroom facilities at the Tram and Octagon Soccer field.

FYI. Per our personnel at the Tram:
The bathrooms at the Roosevelt Island Station are accessible to the
public at any time. But for security reasons the bathrooms are locked at
all times. When somebody needs the bathrooms any one of the cabin
attendants or a tram employee will open the door upon request. In this
way we control who is going into the bathrooms. At the Manhattan side
they are closed to the public because the homeless were getting into the
bathrooms and locking themselves in. Once we had a homeless person
molesting a woman that was coming to use the bathroom. For this reason
we keep the Manhattan Station out of reach from the public.

The Comfort Stations located by the Octagon Soccer fields are open:

M - F
Open 11:00 - 11:30am
Close 9:00 - ( if there is a game in progress 10:00pm)
Sat & Sun
Open 10:00 - 10:30am
Close 9:00 - ( if there is a game in progress 10:00pm
In regard to the lack of public restrooms and the possibility of additional bathroom stations Mr. Shane states:
FYI. We are looking at the possibilities of either permanent or
portable facilities.
Please let me know and contact RIOC directly if you find the restrooms closed during the times they are supposed to be open. The RIOC directory with employee phone numbers and email addresses is here.

The picture above is from the 34th Street automatic public toilet in Herald Square which cost fifty cents per visit.

Roosevelt Island Schools Update

With the weather getting a little bit colder recently and the days getting slightly shorter, summer begins to recede and the upcoming school year comes closer to starting. I thought it might be a good time to revisit one of this blog's earliest post about a reader who was considering moving to Roosevelt Island but was concerned about the Island's schools. She writes:

My husband and I are considering moving to Roosevelt Island with our two kids. We are a bit concerned about schooling there, particularly with the influx of so many more residential units, and the desire to attract families. Would you know where I can get information about existing schools (size, capacity, etc.)and whhat plans they may have to keep up with this growth? Thank you.
The NYC Dept. of Education issued a Quality Report Review dated 1/22-23/07 of the Roosevelt Island school. The report states:
This elementary/intermediate school has 463 students on roll from pre-kindergarten
through grade 8. The majority of students are general education students, 8.4% are
special education students and 11.6% are English language learners.

The school’s population comprises of 41% Black and Native American, 15% White, 23%
Asian and 20% Hispanic students. The percent of enrollment of recent immigrants is three
times as high as New York City schools. The school has no Title 1 funding. Attendance at
the school was 92% in 2005 which is higher than New York City schools. The percent of
utilization of the school’s capacity is lower than that for similar schools. A challenge for the
school is to retain students through to eighth grade.
The overall evaluation of the school is:
This is an undeveloped school.

The principal and assistant principal are new in post and have begun to put procedures in
place which will improve student performance. They are committed to the Public School /
Intermediate School 217 community and recognize the challenges presented by the
uniqueness of Roosevelt Island and its diverse community. Already they have improved
communication and both staff and parents speak very positively of their work. They
recognize the difficulties of managing a transient population where families who work for
the permanent mission to the United Nations are part of the school for three years or less
and also the problems associated with students admitted and discharged at various times
throughout the school year. The school has some systems in place to track student
progress. These are particularly effective in identifying and meeting the needs of the
students who require the greatest support. The performance of subgroups of students is
not measured and there is underperformance by boys in both English language arts and
mathematics at grades four and eight, according to the 2005 School Report Card.
I have no personal knowledge or experience with school situation, either public or private, on Roosevelt Island but would welcome any thoughts or comments by those who do.