Saturday, September 1, 2007

Memories of Roosevelt Island

The NY Times Living article on Roosevelt Island evoked these memories from a former resident and blogger As Good As News:

Roosevelt Island was different then. There were only three apartment buildings, a few stores and the old buildings. The Octagon was locked and crumbling. The former asylum at the south end was an abandoned ruin, fenced off but easy to visit anyway. The Island featured tennis courts, public courts, that were actually playable and available. I remember comedian Buddy Hackett strolling down Main Street talking a blue streak, a very blue streak. There was no subway connection and most important, Roosevelt Island was still a mystery to the rest of Manhattan. (That's right, Roosevelt Island was, and is, part of Manhattan despite the fact that the only bridge connects to Queens.) This made for great conversation.

How do you get your food? Every morning the entire Island rises at 6AM and forages communally for roots and berries. If we don't find anything, then we go to the Shopwell near the parking garage.

What do you do if the tram is broken? Training in water and small craft safety is mandatory for all new residents of Roosevelt Island. We maintain a fleet of canoes and kayaks on full alert whenever the tram undergoes maintenance, but because of the treacherous East River currents it is usually easier to just grab the bus to Queens.
The image is of the Blackwell's Island Penitentiary via Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

Cost of Living in Roosevelt Island

According to the NY Times, living in Roosevelt Island has joined the mainstream:

...People who earn a certain percentage of the city’s median income are eligible for Mitchell-Lama housing, though the exact requirements vary from building to units on Roosevelt Island are priced many multiples higher, they’re still 30 percent less than comparable units in Manhattan, says Jason Haber, a sales agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman.

A new two-bedroom 1,000-square-foot condo costs about $820,000, but if the same apartment were located along Third Avenue in Turtle Bay, he said, it could go for $1.2 million.

“There was a time when families bolted for the suburbs en masse, and now they want to stay,” Mr. Haber said. “Here, they get open space and amazing views, but the vibrancy of city life.”

Rents, meanwhile, range from $1,700 for a 500-square-foot studio to $4,000 for a 1,400-square-foot three-bedroom, he said. That’s about 20 percent cheaper than the price would be across the river.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Japanese Restaurant Coming to Roosevelt Island Soon

A sign for the new Japanese Restaurant, Fuji East, went up today at 455 Main Street announcing their opening soon. It's hard to believe but there will soon be restaurant options here on Roosevelt Island. Yay!!!
Also, I was told to expect a September 10 openng for Duane Reade.

Long Island City Waterfront Theater - Can Roosevelt Island Be Next?

Mabou Mines is performing "Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting" on a barge off the shore of Long Island City"s Gantry Plaza State Park. This is the type of event that should occur on Roosevelt Island and Southpoint Park. From today's NY Times:

Mabou Mines is known for epic works and unflinching experimentalism. But even for this group, “Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting,” a seaborne celebration of the city in music and verse, is a first: its first site-specific piece. Its first major one outdoors and on the water. And the first requiring not just the support of civic arts groups but also agencies like the Coast Guard and the Parks and Police Departments. If all goes according to plan, the show is to open tonight off the shore of Long Island City, Queens (the audience will be safely onshore), and run through Sept. 9.

“It’s a response to Walt Whitman’s great New York poems, and Hart Crane’s Brooklyn Bridge poem,” she said. “Those poems are old now, and I thought it would be good for women to speak for the city.”
The new verses are sung by five of them to a mishmash of musical styles, from jazz ballads to tarantellas. They’re connected by a historical narrative — a yarn, in Mabou’s parlance — written by Nancy Groce, an urban folklorist who has worked with the Smithsonian Institution.

Roosevelt Island Feral Cats

Feral cats on Roosevelt Island.
According to the Main Street Wire:

To some, the cats are beloved gardening companions with names and vivid personalities. To others, they are a nuisance – or worse. Now Island cats and the humans they charm or offend will benefit from an agreement reached by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation and Island Cats, a recently formed rescue and adoption group, to trap, neuter and return the cats to live out their natural lives in their own managed colonies, the equivalent of extended families that keep intruders out, with human caretakers who feed and bring them water regularly and keep their food and wintering shelters clean. The Island initiative is part of a nationwide program called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interested in Becoming a Director of the RIOC Board?

I just saw this notice posted on the RIOC web site announcing a meeting for those interested in becoming potential members of the RIOC Board of Directors. The meeting is to be held today at 5 PM at RIOC HQ.
I could be wrong about this and if so I will correct it but I have not seen any other mention of this meeting at all. Why such short notice for such an important issue and why schedule the meeting on a late Thurday afternoon just prior to the Labor Day Weekend?







PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a meeting of the Governance Advisory Committee of the RIOC Board of Directors will be held on Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:00 p.m. at the RIOC administrative office, 591 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, New York. The Governance Advisory Committee will discuss best governance practices and the skills and experience required of potential Board members.

The Open Meetings Law of the State of New York requires that all public bodies conduct meetings, convened for the purpose of officially conducting public business, in a manner open to attendance by the general public to observe and listen.

Purchasing a Condo in a New Development?

For those about to or in the near future planning on buying into a new condo development on Roosevelt Island or elsewhere, this article from the NY Times provides some helpful warnings on what to look out for so not to be disappointed.

WHEN dozens of buyers put down payments on apartments in the glassy new condominium tower called the Link at 310 West 52nd Street, they were looking forward to living with features like floor-to-ceiling windows and a meditation garden. But six months after they started moving in, they are still living in a construction site with an unfinished lobby, uncarpeted hallways and no access to the garden that was supposed to help them escape from the city’s stresses.
The Link is one of many new condos in New York City whose owners complain that developers have been slow to deliver what they promised. “People are spending a lot of money and have high expectations,” said Robert Braverman, a real estate lawyer hired by buyers at the Link.
...Developers have to deliver only what they outline in the offering plan — the book that buyers receive after putting down a deposit, allowing them to review all of a building’s fixtures and features. He said that beyond this, developers are not obliged to deliver on any promise. “The sponsor can say, ‘We’re building the Taj Mahal.’ ”

This means that buyers who are preparing to move into these condos are finding they have little power to get their units finished when they expect them or in the shape they anticipated.
Here are some tips on how to avoid problems with new construction:
...identify all of the problems with the apartment or building by the final walk-through, and then get the developer to agree in writing to make the repairs.

He cautions buyers to be realistic and to expect that some things won’t be fixed until after the closing. These problems should typically be fixed within what lawyers call a “reasonable” time frame, say, 30 days. If developers don’t address the problems within that period, Mr. Braverman advises buyers to write one or two letters asking that they be fixed. He said buyers should consider legal action only after they have sent letters and have tried to work with the developer.
Buyers who have problems with construction defects in their apartments like warped floors or cabinets that fall apart have three years to sue, Mr. Braverman said.

Owners who discover buildingwide problems can sue, or they can file a complaint with the New York State attorney general’s office. But he warns clients that the attorney general has limited resources to respond to complaints and that lawsuits are costly.

Let's hope none of these problems become relevant to the new Roosevelt Island condo developments but be aware and prepared.

AM New York on Roosevelt Island Retail

AM New York has an article (PDF) on the arrival of retail store chains coming to Roosevelt Island

In many neighborhoods, the arrival of a Starbucks or a drug store chain usually signals a deathknell for charm and the beginning of gentrification. Roosevelt Islanders, on the other hand, couldn’t be more delighted.
The Roosevelt Islander blog is also mentioned in the article.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Roosevelt Island Garden

If one does not walk north of Manhattan Park towards the Lighthouse, it is unlikely that you are aware of a patch of land that is the Roosevelt Island Garden Club. I am curious if anyone knows anything at all about how to become a member though I understand there is a long waiting list. RIOC's Ask Erica column has some information here (scroll down a bit).
Here is a 2002 description from the Main Street Wire:

A plot of land you can call your own in the middle of the city: that is the allure of the Roosevelt Island Garden Club. Its garden in Octagon Park is a patchwork of 139 individual pieces but, with a little effort, it can be decoded as a quilt-map of the community.

The garden is deceptive. Occupying less than two acres, it seems bigger because of a trick of perspective – the jumble of miniature landscapes framed in the distance by the towers of the East Side.
Several of the club’s leaders were among the first residents of Roosevelt Island. They arrived at a time when the community garden movement was sprouting in New York City (the Green Guerrillas take credit for the first garden, at Bowery and Houston, in 1974). This movement – postwar, post-Whole Earth – acquired an ambitious agenda that included reclaiming abandoned lots, stabilizing neighborhoods, and improving air quality and biodiversity.
Public access was one of the ground rules; that is why the garden is open to the public for limited hours on weekends during the summer. And eight plots, in four enclosures with raised planters, were built to accommodate gardeners in wheelchairs. But the club’s desire to expand to 200 plots was thwarted because the City, which retained control of the water-tunnel construction site, put in two air shafts instead of one, Berdy said. Plans for a “Hanging Garden” overlook never materialized, nor did a lawn that opened onto the East River, connected by a promenade to the Island’s thoroughfare. Now it’s a Promenade to Nowhere. In the end, only 9 of the 15 acres of Octagon Park were developed.
The club has a good deal with RIOC. There is no fee for use of the site, no payment for water. The tradeoff, however, seems to be what the gardeners consider rather indifferent treatment.
The video was taken at the Roosevelt Island Garden Club

Roosevelt Island - Moscow on the East River?

A visitor to Roosevelt Island shares his thoughts on what he sees here:

Roosevelt Island, NYC is kind if mundane. But the Soviet look of the Philip Johnson apartment slabs (complete with co/op-like businesses occupying the ground levels) make the Island feel more like **Miskolc, Hungary than New York. And that's actually a good foil in the center of the most Commercialized of cities.
and here:
If you squint, you can see the danglingondola of death is as packed as it was when I rode it minutes earlier.
I do have the impression that Roosevelt Island often evokes images of the old Soviet Union or being behind the Iron Curtain, particularly the Main Street area in the middle of Roosevelt Island. But remember, Italy loves Roosevelt Island.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

View From the Roosevelt Island Tram Above The East River

Sailboat on East River Passing Roosevelt Island

I have often passed Roosevelt Island on a Ferry Boat but never a sail boat. The video above illustrates what a great experience it must be. As a waterfront community it is a shame that Roosevelt Island does not take more advantage of being surrounded by the East River. For example, it would be great for a boat house and kayak launch to be established on Roosevelt island as it has been right across the river in Queens at the Long Island City Community Boat House. and at East River Crew on East 96th Street. Several years ago I inquired of RIOC about the possibility of a Kayak launch here and was told that the currents were much too strong to safely permit. But others with practical experience of such matters advised that with proper guidance a kayak launch could readily be created on Roosevelt Island.

Update on Roosevelt Island Tram Sponsorship

Taking a page from Nascar, corporate sponsors are now paying car owners to wrap their own vehicles with advertising and logos.
According to this article from the NY Times,

vehicle wrapping started, by most accounts, in 1993, when PepsiCo bought the rights to paint six city buses in Seattle with its logo. Pepsi planned to put the buses in a paint shop for six weeks, but Louis Hoffman, general manager for a Seattle printing company called SuperGraphics, persuaded Pepsi to have the buses wrapped instead with a vinyl material made by 3M that could be applied in less than two days. (Now it takes just a few hours.)

3M, which remains the largest producer of the material, uses an adhesive similar to the one on its Post-it notes, enabling installers to place vinyl strips on a vehicle that do not stick until pressure is applied. The material is popular for wrapping racecars, helicopters, planes, boats and even buildings. Far from hurting the paint job, the wrap preserves it.

ARD Ventures, a venture capital firm, has studied the phenomenon of wrapped cars and estimates that motorists and pedestrians see a single vehicle’s advertising message as many as 70,000 times a day.
Is this the future of the Tram?

Future of Roosevelt Island Tram - A Short or Long Shutdown?

I spoke with a representative of Dopplemayr, the manufacturer and current operator of the Roosevelt Island Tram, about the various alternatives for the future of the Tram. Basically, the choice is between (1) a major overhaul of the system requiring at least a six month shutdown of the Tram to, among other things, replace the cables knowing that the funds for the repair have been allocated in the NY State budget and (2) some relatively minor repairs for shifting instead of replacing the cables and the stockpiling of future replacement parts shutting the tram down for a matter of weeks but which RIOC President Shane believes could possibly jeopardize the existing $15 million State funding allocation for the time when the major renovation of the tram is needed. The Main Street Wire has the full story here (PDF Version).

For comparison purposes read how another city handled the development of an Aerial Tramway transport issue. Portland Oregon has an Aerial Tramway manufactured by Dopplemayr as well. Here is a blog discussion by a Portland City Commissioner about the contracting process for the the Portland tram as well as a breakdown of the Tram's funding plan.

If the Tram does shut down for an extended period of time, perhaps RIOC and Dopplemayr will consider temporarily installing the Mountain Glide ride shown above for the convenience of Roosevelt Islanders.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Golden Gate Bridge Corporate Sponsor - Is the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway Next?

An article in yesterday's NY Times describes a plan to alleviate a portion of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge's projected $80 million operating deficit in the next 5 years with funds generated from advertising sponsorships from corporate sponsors.
According to the article:

a committee of the board that runs the financially strapped Golden Gate Bridge did pass along a plan for a so-called corporate partnership for the structure, sending a proposal to a vote in front of the full board next month. Even as it did so, however, activists here were already preparing for the possibility that the Golden Gate — the engineering wonder, international tourist attraction and perpetual suicide magnet — might soon be brought to you by Coca-Cola, for example.
Some people think it is a bad idea:
a board member who opposes the plan, said the idea of corporate sponsorship was equivalent to slapping an advertisement on the side of the White House. “I don’t think you take your iconic properties and turn them into advertising opportunities,” ... “There are places in the world that should be kept clean.
Others like it:
But much of the board committee seemed to support the plan. The full board — 19 members from six Bay Area counties — will take up the issue on Sept. 28.
... viewed the sponsorship plan as a chance to upgrade the experience for visitors to the bridge, experience, now limited to a gift shop, a garden and a viewing platform.

“Right now, we don’t really get the story of the bridge,” ...“This is an opportunity to get other people to help us tell that story."
How does this apply to Roosevelt Island? Given the costs associated with the operation and continued maintenance of the Roosevelt Island Tram the temptation must be great to find alternative additional revenue sources. Are corporate sponsorships a possibility for the Tram and if so is that a good idea or not? If it is good enough for the Golden Gate Bridge, is it good enough for the Tram, or even the Brooklyn Bridge as well as other iconic, decaying, New York City infrastructure?

NYC Dept. of Transportation Rest Room Update

Advised by RIOC President Shane that RIOC will investigate possibility of acquiring one of the public restrooms suggested in this post from NYC DOT.
Together with Roosevelt Island 360, spoke with Assemblymember Micah Kellner during last Saturday's Outdoor Movie Night at Southpoint Park. Assembly Member Kellner indicated his support for having one of the NYC DOT public restrooms allocated for Roosevelt Island and that he would work with RIOC and other elected officials to get it done. Any thoughts on where the public restroom should be located? Lighthouse Park, Southpoint Park, Motorgate, somewhere else?

Assemblymember Kellner Offers Regular Roosevelt Island Office Hours

Assemblymember Micah Kellner will offer regular weekly Roosevelt Island office hours every Thursday starting on September 13, from 3PM - 7PM at RIOC's 591 Main Street office. Roosevelt Island 360 has more details here.
Kellner encourages Roosevelt Islanders to meet with him and or his staff to discuss your concerns and any problems that you think he can help with.
Assemblymen Kellner should be congratulated for providing such constituent service to Roosevelt Island. I would hope that his fellow elected officials follow his example as well.