Saturday, September 22, 2007

Roosevelt Island Bridge Gets Stuck Update

Via Truveo and Roosevelt Island 360, here is the NY 1 story on the Roosevelt Island Bridge getting stuck in the Up position for more than six hours on Friday night.

Waiting for the Roosevelt Island Bridge to Get Unstuck

Received this email message from reader last night advising of problems on the Roosevelt Island Bridge and inquiring if anyone knew what was happening.

...I just wanted to check in and see if you knew what was going on with the bridge tonight? I arrived home very late from Manhattan on the Tram and noticed that the "Red Bridge to Queens" had jammed up a number of motorists on R.I. This was at 10:30pm and it's now about 1:07p.m and it still looks like nothing has moved. We live in Manhattan Park with a view to the east. Anywho, I hope these poor people waiting for the bridge get home soon.
At the Farmer's Market this morning I learned from a Channel 9 reporter who was covering the story that that the Bridge was stuck in the up position for many hours last night.

New York 1 has the story here.
Drivers trying to cross the Roosevelt Island Bridge overnight sat for six hours Friday because the bridge was stuck in the up position.

The span got stuck in an up position at around 11 p.m., leaving a gap in the roadway that kept traffic from crossing.

The bridge and its approach are being completely overhauled, and according to the city's Department of Transportation, the company in charge of the reconstruction tried to fix the jam itself. DOT says they did not get a call until two hours later.
DOT crews were able to fix the problem and the bridge reopened shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday.
Nothing as of yet on the RIOC web site.
Roosevelt Island Bridge Image is from Bridge and Tunnel Club. They are a great source for information on New York City neighborhoods.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Zog Players Unhappy with Roosevelt Island Playing Fields

Apparently the Zog soccer players are having problems with the Roosevelt Island playing field conditions.

We have received some feedback from a few of you stating concerns about the field conditions at Roosevelt Island. So we wanted to take a moment to address those concerns and let you know what we have been doing to rectify the situation. Zog Sports has been speaking with our main contact on Roosevelt Island for the past two months to try to improve the field conditions. Unfortunately, our contact is relatively junior and did not have the clout to get the engineering staff to help us improve the situation. So we made some polite noise and secured a meeting with the VP of Operations and Chief Engineer for all of Roosevelt Island. We will be meeting with them, as well as the field maintenance staff, on Friday morning, September 21, to determine what we can do in the short term to improve field conditions.
I think Roosevelt Island residents would be interested in the results of that meeting as well.
The image of the ball field by Queensborough Bridge comes from Bridge and Tunnel club tour of Roosevelt Island.

They Don't Sing Songs of Roosevelt Island - Yet

The weekend is approaching so it is time for some music. Since Roosevelt Island is surrounded by water I thought it appropriate to again hear the music of one of my favorite live performance bands, Great Big Sea, and see images of another waterfront community, Newfoundland in Canada. I would like to make this a regular weekend feature so if anybody has a waterfront related video they would like to share please send me a link.
Here is the You Tube link.

New York Water Taxi 5 Year Anniversary Party

Last night I attended the fifth anniversary party for the New York Water Taxi ferry service at NY Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City. Great time was had by all with terrific food, drink, company and views. The Water Taxi Beach will be open on weekends through Columbus Day, October 8. If you have not been there yet, go , you will have a great time.
Congratulations to Tom Fox and the whole NY Water Taxi crew for bringing this great service to the waterfront of New York City. Please bring your ferry service to Roosevelt Island.
Here is the You Tube video link.

Free Wi-Fi for Roosevelt Island Public Spaces - When?

There is free wi-fi available in all 17 NYC Parks. According to the Daily News:

WiFi, short for wireless fidelity, works life this:A wireless Internet router sends a signal that's picked up by computer modems, personal digitial assistants and Internet-equipped cell phones within about 250 feet. The wireless signal is transmitted over the airwaves on the 2.4-gigahertz band, the same unlicensed spectrum microwaves travel on — and once dominated by the cries of infants on baby monitors.
About 300 U.S. municipalities have WiFi, or are planning for it.
New York isn't one of them, leaving independent organizations to fill the void.
One of them is Manhattan-based WiFi Salon. Along with a partner, Nokia, WiFi Salon has created 17 local hotspots, including seven in Central Park.
The Washington Post is reporting today about a remote Vietnamese village that is getting wireless broadband Internet access. According to the article:
WiMax and a satellite connection are bringing broadband Internet access to a remote Vietnamese village, part of a collaboration between the public and private sector to narrow the digital divide in rural Vietnam.

Ta Van, a small village located in Vietnam's northern Lao Cai province, has a wireless network that uses Wi-Fi and WiMax, a wide-area networking technology that offers high bandwidth. This wireless network is connected to the Internet over a link to Shin Corp.'s IPSTAR satellite that offers 2M bits per second (bps) of bandwidth on the downlink connection and a 512K bps uplink.
What about Roosevelt Island? I am aware of free outdoor wi-fi available on Roosevelt Island between buildings 3 and 4 of Southtown and, I believe, inside the Roosevelt Island Public Library. The June 3, 2006 Main Street Wire had an article about a company, Telkonet, that planned to develop Island wide wi-fi access though it did not appear to be free. According to the article:

The company providing Internet services at the Octagon Apartments hopes to provide similar services covering all of Roosevelt Island, using both "wi-fi" (wireless coverage via radio waves) and the existing power lines in residential buildings.

For other areas of Roosevelt Island, Telkonet President Frank Matarazzo says his company is contacting building owners, tenant associations, and others in an effort to secure contracts to provide the services. Where it is not provided as part of a blanket contract, NuVisions service can be purchased on an hourly basis. Current pricing is $9.95, for example, for a measured ten hours that can be used in bits and pieces over an extended period of time, or month-by-month for unlimited access at $29.95. Subscribers on the Island will be able to use NuVisions service anywhere it’s offered, not just on the Island.
Has there been any progress on bringing wi-fi, particularly free wi-fi to Roosevelt Island?

Warm Roosevelt Island Night with Coldplay

Roosevelt Island at night video with Coldplay via our Italian friend.
You Tube link is here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Small Piece of San Gennaro Festival Comes to Roosevelt Island

The owners of the soon to be opened (early November?) Nonno's Focacceria have already started serving food to restaurant starved Roosevelt Island by operating an outdoor trailer kiosk between Southtown Buildings 3 & 4. The kiosk is opened in the mornings and afternoon. The menu includes hot dogs, sweet and hot Italian sausages and knishes. When I was there, I waited behind a line of Riverwalk construction workers who gave the food a thumbs up!
I had a knish with onions and peppers. Yum.

Report on Mismanagement of Mitchell-Lama Housing Including Roosevelt Island's Westview

Via Curbed and Roosevelt Island 360, Roosevelt Island's Westview housing complex was cited today in a NY Times article highlighting a report issued by the NY State Inspector General describing NY State's Division of Housing and Community Renewal's (DHCR)

mismanagement and lack of oversight at 80,000 apartments in 189 projects built under the state’s middle-income Mitchell-Lama housing program
and finding
“deep and systemic failure” to properly oversee the rapidly dwindling supply of subsidized middle-income housing has led to the deterioration of the buildings, an increase in rents and a waste of taxpayer money, ...
Regarding Roosevelt Island:
At the highly desirable Westview complex on Roosevelt Island, investigators found a troubling proposal to convert the building to market-rate condominiums. The Division of Housing and Community Renewal granted a proposed buyer a waiver in 2004 to manage the complex. By August 2006, 31 apartments in the complex had been vacant for about a year, despite a waiting list of 1,000 and a policy that “there should be no vacancies in subsidized housing in New York.”

It appears that the operator was warehousing the vacant apartments in anticipation of a windfall from their sale as condominiums. Nevertheless, the report said, an agency inspector “termed the complex’s inflated vacancy rate ‘satisfactory.’ ” The sale fell through in March 2006.
Here is a link to the transcript of Main Street Wire interview with DHCR Commissioner and RIOC Board Chair Deborah VanAmerongen. In regard to taking buildings out of the Mitchell-Lama program, Ms. VanAmerongen says:
The thing that I think creates a difficulty for this owner or any
owner in taking those buildings out of Mitchell-Lama is really the General
Development Plan – though I will admit that, being still new to the job, I’m still getting
up to speed on this and learning everything about what that General Development Plan
says and how it impacts upon the ability of the owner to take those buildings out of
Mitchell-Lama. But you may be aware that there are instances where in the City of
New York, and even outside the City of New York, there were Mitchell-Lamas that
wanted to buy out and because of underlying restrictions on the land – such as an urban
renewal plan, and there was a pretty big case over in Brooklyn with a building called
Tivoli Towers – and I’m not suggesting that the two are analogous, I’m just giving you
an example of the kind of thing that we’re thinking about – where ultimately, the court
said, “You can’t buy out.” And I don’t know that a court would say that here, and I’m
hoping we don’t get to the point where there’s litigation, but I think we need to look at
those things

Roosevelt Island Farmer's Market

This post dealing with grocery shopping competition on Roosevelt Island brought on by the opening of Duane Reade elicited many comments on Island shopping options as well as the subject of new post - the Farmer's Market that takes place every Saturday morning next to the Roosevelt Island/36th Avenue Bridge ramp. A reader began the discussion with this:

The farmer's market on Saturday on RI is as pathetic as one would expect of a Roosevelt Island institution. With the exception of the very few items market "homegrown" everything else comes from the same Carlifornia factory farms that supply Gristede's. Okay -- maybe they make a bit more of an effort to get fresher vegetables or fruit, but it still is not a real farmer's market.

Even the bread -- which, theoretically is high quality -- comes wrapped in plastic to ensure that it loses its crustiness. Try explaining to the sellers (not connected with the bakers, btw) that bread should be wrapped in paper, not plastic and listen to the response.
Followed by another reader:
While I agree that the farmers market is not a real farmers market or even that great it is far better than what Gristedes has to offer, quality and price-wise.
I have purchased fruits and vegetable several times at the Farmer's Market and believe it to be better than the Gristedes on price and quality but not as good as either Fresh Direct or Food Emporium. However, shopping at the Farmer's Market does provide a nice warm and fuzzy feeling because of the outdoor setting, particularly on a sunny morning, and you are more likely to strike up a pleasant conversation with fellow residents or friends than at Gristedes.

A big thank you to one of the readers who sent the following link to a Main Street Wire article on the Gristedes non-compete clause which came close to moving the Farmer's market from the Motorgate ramp area as well this link here. The reader also sent a link (PDF file) to Main Street Wire article providing background on the expansion of the Gristedes store in 1998 and how the impact it had on the smaller Island merchants.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Roosevelt Island Subway Up Escalator Now Working!!!

Just got off the F train preparing for the long ascent up the top staircase to the street when I was pleasantly surprised to find the Up escalator was now working. Although I am glad that the escalator is in service, at least for the moment, the long climb up the staircase served as an exercise substitute for the StairMaster. Now it is back to the dreaded machine.
Here is the You Tube Uni-Geezer link. Don't try this when the escalator goes out again.

18th Century Roosevelt (Blackwell's) Island For Sale - No Buyers

Continuing the Timeline of Roosevelt Island history compiled by the Main Street Wire, this week's history post focuses on the always topical and fun 18th Century. Roosevelt (Blackwell's) Island was put up for sale in 1782 and 1794 being described as a "pleasant, agreeable situation island" and "remarkable for the number of fish and fowl" caught. Property did not sell. Perhaps a Post Revolutionary War credit crunch?
The property finally sold in 1828 when New York City bought the Island for "$32,500 as a location for a charitable and correction institutions".

XVIII Century
  • 1717 Approximate date of death of Robert Blackwell. His son, Jacob, survives him and marries Mary Hallet. They later have a son, also named Jacob.
  • 1776 Jacob Blackwell is loyal to the American Revolution, so Blackwell's Island is confiscated by the British during their occupation of New York.
  • 1780 Jacob Blackwell dies on October 24. His will leaves "my Island known by the name of Blackwell's Island" to his sons, Jacob and James.
  • 1782 A newspaper notes that "Sir Guy Carlton has visited all the prison ships at New York, minutely examined into the situation of the prisoners and expressed his intentsions of having them better provided for; that they were to be landed on Blackwell's Island in New York harbor during the hot season in the day time."
  • After the Revolutionary War, the Island is advertised for sale:
  • For Sale, that pleasant, agreeable situation Island, known by the name of Blackwell's Island, on the East River, about four miles from this City. It is without exception one of the most healthy situations in this state. It is remarkable for the number of fish and fowl that is caught here in the different seasons. There is on the premises two small dwelling houses, a barn, bake and fowl house, cyder mill, a large orchard containing 450 of the best grafted fruit trees, such as Newton & Golder pippins, spitsinburghs, peirmans, bow apples, pears, peaches, plums, cheerries, etc. There are a number of the best stone quarries ready cleared to begin breaking immediately, etc.
  • There is no sale.
  • 1794 Island again advertised for sale. Again, no takers.
  • 1796 Blackwell house is built. Today, it still stands as the oldest structure on the island.
Here is the prior 16th Century Roosevelt Island Timeline post.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jeter Does it Again!!!

Spent the weekend away from Roosevelt Island in Boston to attend Sunday's Yankee/Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Fenway is a beautiful place to see a baseball game and I had a great time - made even better by the exciting game coming down to a classic Mariano/Big Papi bases loaded, 2-out, bottom-of-the-ninth confrontation, won by the greatest closer in baseball history, and an eighth inning three run homer by Derek Jeter, respectfully referred to as Captain Intangible or just CI by knowledgeable Red Sox fans.

During this past summer, I noticed several Roosevelt Islanders wearing Red Sox T-Shirts and Hats. For those of you who root for the Red Sox I recommend you take a look at a great Red Sox fan site - The Sons of Sam Horn. I met several of the Sons and they treated this Yankee fan with respect and friendship. If you love your Sox, you will get a big kick out of this site.

Grocery Shopping Competition on Roosevelt Island

Will the increased competition caused by the arrival of Duane Reade improve service and pricing at the local Roosevelt Island Gristedes? Residents now have greater choices for their grocery shopping on Roosevelt Island being able to choose from among the new Duane Reade, Gristedes, Deli on Main Street, off-Island retailers such as the Food Emporium on First Avenue, Trade Fair on 36th Avenue, Costco on Vernon B'lvd as well as online grocery stores such as Fresh Direct, Bread'nBie and Gristedes online.
According to a recent NY Times article about the planned closing of several Gristedes stores:

the number of Gristedes stores has dropped from 78 a decade ago to 39 today (35 stores are in Manhattan), as a once familiar New York City name continues to recede. Most recently, the Gristedes at Central Park West and 62nd Street shut.
...“The problem in New York City is you’re going to be left with no supermarkets” because of the rise in basic costs, like rent, he said.

Gourmet stores can simply charge more, he said, but traditional markets get excoriated for price increases. “Shopping at Whole Foods goes hand in hand with paying $7,000 rent for a two-bedroom apartment.”
...“People complain supermarkets are too expensive,” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “You have to laugh. We’re not making the bottom line, and people complain we’re too expensive.”

The ideal size for a city supermarket like Gristedes, he said, is 9,000 to 12,000 square feet, big enough to have wide selection but not so big as to have a crippling rent bill. (Gristedes stores range from about 4,000 to about 20,000 square feet.)

When you Gotta Go - Where do you Go on Roosevelt Island?

A reader visiting Roosevelt Island and having any otherwise enjoyable day points out what we already know from previous posts about the necessity for public restrooms on Roosevelt Island. He also raises the issue of easily identifiable signage for the existing restrooms so that people know where they are. He writes:

Good Day: I was visiting Roosevelt Island yesterday.
I basically had a nice time, residents were very
friendly, but I was unable to find any public
restrooms. I took the Red Bus, which has terrible
service and should accept MetroCards, to Lighthouse
Park. I couldn't find any restrooms there, either. I
had to cut my visit short as a result. I was
surprised there were few, if any, places to get a
snack. Next time, I'll bring along my lunch, but the
bathroom problem remains. I was in discomfort until I
got home.
Did you know there was an industrial musical written as an ode to the bathroom? According to WFMU:
..."My Bathroom Is A Private Kind Of Place.' It"s from the "The Bathrooms Are Coming,' an industrial-show musical produced for the American Standard Company to extol the glories of their wonderful plumbing fixtures.
Listen to the song here.
Image is from WFMU.

Chase ATM Machine to Open at Roosevelt Island Duane Reade

Almost every day, well no actually almost every other month, more and more signs of modern retail amenities are appearing on Roosevelt Island. The manager of the recently opened Duane Reade informed me that a Chase ATM machine will be installed inside the store during the first two weeks of October. Existing Chase customers will not be charged for using the ATM. Also, I noticed that there is a coin change counting machine where one can bring in loose change and exchange it for cash. This is a very convenient feature to use for emptying out your penny, nickel, dime and quarter jars, however there is an approximately 9% service charge for using the machine. If you want to save the service fee charge, Commerce Bank has a no fee machine.

Monday, September 17, 2007

9/11 Tribute in Light Update

Today's NY Post has an article on a travelling 9/11 World Trade Center exhibit designed to raise national support for the Memorial. According to the article:

A tour slated for 16 cities attracted thousands in its first two stops over the weekend, in Columbia, S.C., and Raleigh, N.C., where people lined up to sign a steel beam to be part of the memorial.
Fund-raising has topped $300 million, with a goal of $350 million for construction by September 2009.
To my mind the Tribute in Light continues to be the most moving and appropriate Memorial to that day. There is a poll on this topic in the column on the right below the Statement of Purpose. Image is from USA Today.

Roosevelt Island Hurricane Insurance Update

Saturday's NY Times had an article on the increasing cost of hurricane insurance that was the subject of this previous post. According to the article:

The hurricane deductibles are now reaching New England and the New York metropolitan region — areas that can be affected by Atlantic hurricanes.

“I just got it in my renewal, and I live in Rhode Island,” said David Hammarstrom, a spokesman for MetLife Auto & Home. “I hadn’t had it before.”

According to the Insurance Information Institute (, 18 states and the District of Columbia have hurricane deductibles, including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

There are two kinds of wind damage deductibles: those that apply specifically to named hurricanes and those that apply to windstorms or wind and hail damage. Percentages range from 1 to 5 percent of a home’s insured value, but in some coastal areas the deductible can be as high as 25 percent.

“The rationale behind the coastal deductibles is that we’re seeing an explosion of growth along hurricane-exposed coastlines,” Mr. Hartwig said, noting that 53 percent of the population now lives within 50 miles of a coastline.

“At the same time, living along the coast is becoming demonstrably more risky,” he said. “We’re in the midst of a cycle of hurricane activity that will be more frequent and more intense.”
Here is some additional information from United Policy Holders and and more from Insurance Information Institute.
Image is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation (NOAA) History web site describing 1943 "Surprise" Houston - Galveston Texas hurricane that killed more than 275 people.

Update - 9/18. Via Roosevelt Island 360:
This Friday, September 21, 2007, at 2:30 pm on the Manhattan Neighborhood Network [Channel 34 Time Warner/Channel 82 RCN], Community Board 8 will rebroadcast "Hurricane Preparedness Comes to Roosevelt Island".
According to Elizabeth McKee of Community Board 8 the broadcast is a videotape of the July 20, 2006 event that took place at the Church of Good Shepherd which was sponsored by CB8.
The July 20, meeting was referenced here. It would be a great community service for Community Board 8 to upload the video to the web, perhaps a series of 5 minute You Tube clips, for those who are not able to watch on Friday.
Good job by Roosevelt Island 360 in getting more information on topic.

Parking on Roosevelt Island

A reader sends in the following question regarding parking on Roosevelt Island.

I have a friend who is moving to Roosevelt Island and I was wondering, where do visitors park? Like if I had to come over for like 15 mins. at 10PM, is there somewhere I can park my car? Is there even street parking?
There is an indoor parking garage called Motorgate where most cars are parked. Here is information regarding the Motoragate Garage courtesy of RIOC.
Managed by Edison Parking
688 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, N.Y. 10044
Phone#: 212-832-4585

Daily up to1 Hour $7.00
up to 2 Hours $9.00
up to 4 Hours $12.00
up to 10 Hours $15.00
up to 24 Hours $20.00
Monthly Residents $180.00
Non-Residents $160.00
Reserved $235.00
The Octagon building has a separate paid parking facility for their tenants but I'm not sure what is available for their guests.The other buildings at Riverwalk, Manhattan Park and the Main Street buildings do not have their own parking facilities but rely on the extremely limited street space in front of the respective building. There is very little sidewalk parking on Roosevelt Island and a 40 minute time limit for a space on Main Street if it can be found. I would recommend calling RIOC directly to find out what they say are the parking rules. RIOC's phone # is 212-832-4582.

A similar question was posed to RIOC's Dear Cathy feature. Here is that exchange.
Dated: Tuesday, 9/26/06
Dear Cathy,

Lots of good info, but no mention of street parking rules. eh? I gather no one on RIOC staff gets parking tickets so you don't care. Gee, I wish my guests were immune to Public Safety's tickets!. (I almost never walk away from my car, rare can I find a real space, though I load and unload on Main Street almost every time I drive off the Island or return).

I need to give a contractor instructions and Motorgate is expensive for a 1 hour visit. I wanted to check the rules for north Main Street between River Road and Motorgate... I vaguely remember street parking is permitted there for 2 hours? (not just the 40? 20? minutes permitted in front of the WIRE buildings where I live.

One of the benefits of "Ask Cathy" is that we learn what kind of information residents are looking for at our website. Parking rules will be posted. Thank you for the suggestion.

Actually, our staff have received parking tickets! Many residents have complained about people parking illegally on Main Street and Public Safety has been diligent about enforcing the parking rules.

There is metered parking (up to 40 minutes) all along Main Street.
There is metered long-term parking (up to 6 hours) at River Road and the northern end of Main Street (near Gristedes to the Fire house).
As you point out, Motorgate is also available for short-term and long-term parking.

I hope this helps.

UPDATE - 12/11/08 - Here is more information on getting to and parking on Roosevelt Island.

A Transportation Alternative to the Roosevelt Island Tram and Subway?

Via Andrew Sullivans's Face of the Day feature, this picture shows a third grade student from China using a zip line to cross the Nujiang River to get to school (Photo by China Pictures/Getty Pictures). In the event that the Tram is out of service for a period of time, perhaps the zip line can be used for transportation off the island if this method from an earlier post can not be used.
This picture also tells alot about the desire for education by these children.