Friday, September 28, 2007

Run for Congo Women on Roosevelt Island

Via Roosevelt Island 360 there will be a Run for Congo Women 5K run/walk event with accompanying morning Red Bus disruptions tomorrow morning. Registration starts at 8:30 AM.

Weekend Waterfront Video for Roosevelt Island

It is Friday and the weekend is approaching. The warm weather is almost over so here is another waterfront music video to remind you of why it is great to live on the water. Could this be the future of Turbulent East River sailing conditions? Probably not.
Here is the You Tube link.

RealShare New York Real Estate Conference

Attended 6th annual RealShare New York's real estate conference last Wednesday. According to Globe Street:

...John Bralower, president and managing director of the Carlton Group, noted that "we are fortunate that we have so many drivers in the city. We can weather anything except the most severe crisis." He explained that one such driver that New York City has is that "people from all over, including overseas, want to be here."
...the worst case scenario being a national recession, panelists still remained optimistic that the city could handle it. "Most companies in New York City today earn a lot of their earnings from the global market," Kuriloff said. "If you look at the supply, Manhattan's vacancy rate right now is 5.5%, and if we had 50,000 job cuts for example, our vacancy rate would go up to 9%."
In addition to the prevalent view that New York City will weather the credit crunch crisis better than the rest of the country I was pleased to find a great deal of interest in building Sustainable and Green by those in the real estate industry.

Also, Bill Rudin gave a very interesting interview about his father Lew Rubin's advocacy for NYC during the mid 70's and continuing through the rest of his life.

I was disappointed by the answer given by a Massey Knakal Brooklyn based broker to my question regarding the impact of local neighborhood real estate blogs on "emerging neighborhoods". Concerning these blogs the broker commented that he primarily sees only "alot of negativity" from them. Contrast that statement with post from Brownstoner today about local Brooklyn bloggers:
Councilman Bill de Blasio organized a Brooklyn blogger gathering on Wednesday night, ostensibly because "more and more of my constituents say they're getting their news from blogs."
Image is part of sculptor Tom Otterness's Roosevelt Island sculpture "The Marriage of Real Estate and Money, the subject of this prior post.

Roosevelt Island Fall for Arts Festival 10/06/07

In addition to marking your calendar for the weekend of October 5-7 to see the Encampment project at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint park, remember to include in your calendar Roosevelt Island's Fall for Arts Festival to be held next Saturday, October 6 from 11AM - 5 PM. The festival will feature live performances from an outdoor stage on the Rivercross lawn including dancing, singing, storytelling, comedy, puppetry as well as food and drink.
According to the Main Street Wire (PDF File) Roosevelt Island will be:

a hub of art and creativity, with the proverbial “something for everyone.”
A concert will be held at 7:30 PM in the Good Shepherd Community Theater:
featuring vocal and instrumental artists including pianist Roy Eaton, Mitch Elinson, jazz and gospel singer Juanita Fleming, folk guitarist/singer/songwriter Chris Fuller, classical flutist Natalia Gruzdeva, classical soprano Sherie Helstein, opera singer Marianne Labriola, and classical guitarist David Lieber.
Roosevelt Island 360 has more here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Encampment Volunteer Blogs Roosevelt Island

A volunteer from the Encampment project is blogging about her experiences on Roosevelt Island. Here, here and here.

This amazing exhibition will take place over the course of three nights (October 5th, 6th, 7th, from 7p.m. to 1a.m. each night). You will be able to view installations created by nearly 100 different artists, each installation somehow informed/inspired by the history of the people of Roosevelt Island and the history of the island itself. There is no guest list--this is a free event, open to the public. Please come and take part in this unique event.

Town Hall Meeting on Future of Roosevelt Island Tram!!

There is no issue facing Roosevelt Island more important than the fate of the Roosevelt Island Tram. According to the Main Street Wire (PDF File):
RIOC President Steve Shane will meet with the community Thursday evening, October 4, to lay out the possibilities for servicing and upgrading the Tramway. The session will start at 7:00 in Good Shepherd Community Center.
I’m going to give everyone who comes the preview of the presentation to the Board,” Shane wrote in an e-mail to The WIRE, referring to the scheduled October 18 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. “The idea is to gather community sentiment as to the question of whether to do only an overhaul or to go for the whole system change.There are pluses and minuses to either, and gradations in between.”
The Main Street Wire has links to engineering and consulting reports on the condition of the Roosevelt Island tram. Here is Executive Summary.
RIOC will webcast. Good idea so that those who are not able to attend or those who want to carefully evaluate the issues over a period of time can refer back to the presentation.

Above all Roosevelt Island residents want and need a reliable and safe transportation system to get on and off the Island. We do not want a repeat of the April 18-19, 2006 episode depicted here and in the above video of fellow residents and visitors stuck on the Roosevelt Island Tram dangling over the East River.

Here is Main Steet Wire transcript from NYC Council Hearings on Tram "mishap".
Video via Truveo and NY 1.

Recent Roosevelt Island Condo Sale at Hudson/Related Riverwalk Building

According to Property Shark, apartment 4G, a 1 bedroom, 674 sq. ft. 1 bedroom apartment at Riverwalk 455 Main Street sold on August 20, for $589,000. NY Times Real Estate section lists Roosevelt Island condos for sale or rent here, Streeteasy lists here and Craiglist here.
Image is from The Architetect's Newspaper.

Take the Shoppers Bus to Costco - From Roosevelt Island

Off Island grocery shopping options have improved for Roosevelt Island residents. Apparently RIOC provides a regularly scheduled "Shoppers Bus" for Roosevelt Island residents which includes a stop at Costco in Long Island City. According to RIOC Advisory page:

Shopping Bus Advisory
The Shoppers Bus will now make a stop at COSTCO
every second Tuesday and Wednesday of each month starting July 10th, 2007.
The Costco stop will be added to the regular shoppers bus schedule.
Please bring shopping bags and/or cart for groceries. Pick up & drop off location will be at the Costco bus stop.
The Red Bus can not drive inside of Costco parking lot.
This is a great idea. If it is still operating why not run on weekends when more people are available to shop? I wonder if this is a service for senior citizens or is it available for everyone?
Image is from LICNYC.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roosevelt Island Bridge Again Temporarily Out of Service This Morning

Via Roosevelt Island 360, the Roosevelt Island Bridge was out of service for a while this morning but is now operational. For how long - your guess is as good as anyone else.
Image is from The Onion.

Marriage of Real Estate and Money on Roosevelt Island

The Encampment is not the only public art project on Roosevelt Island. Unlike the temporary Encampment project, there is a permanent public art installation in the East River located just off of Roosevelt Island near the Manhattan Park apartments created by the sculptor Tom Otterness. The series of three sculptures depict "The Marriage of Real Estate and Money".
According to the Modern and Contemporary Design blog:

Otterness specializes in creating large-scale pieces, mostly of bronze, which is why his work is so well-suited to the realm of public art. The Marriage of Money and Real Estate is a sculptural installation he did just off Roosevelt Island in New York, a set of three sculptures that depict very simply how money and real estate are connected. In a cartoon-like manner, Otterness manages to make this capitalist reality look cute.

New Roosevelt Islander Has Pity for Time Warner Building Residents

A new Roosevelt Island resident has this to say about Roosevelt Island in the NY Observer.

Sometimes I don’t even leave my room and just stare out the window. We pity Manhattanites, even that hedge fund guy who lives on top of the Time Warner building. We’ve been playing tennis—six courts right outside our door.
As well as this:
And the kind of people Roosevelt Island attracts—a friend of mine went for a bike ride on Roosevelt Island and it was so strange, because you see completely opposite ends of the spectrum. She rode past a beautiful family of people speaking French, these adorable perfectly-dressed angelic children, and then right beyond them, there was a group of people having a big cookout and my friend heard shouting, a wife or girlfriend yelling at her boyfriend or husband: “All you do is sit around and drink all day and watch the game!” and it was kind of ghetto-like. And you have all the people who are in rehabilitation on the island, tons of wheelchairs, and there’s one nice guy who lives on a gurney—“the Gurney Man.” And then there’s “Party in a Wheelchair,” he’s kind of like Radioman but in a wheelchair, with James Brown blasting. Every time you see him, it’s the same thing, in the middle of the ecological sanctuary, this protected garden like space—beautiful wildflowers, and you’ll see a child flying a kite, and seagulls will fly over—and here comes Party in a Wheelchair, zooming past at Mach speed. The other day I got on the tram, and it was packed, body to body—and it was kind of hot, it was gross—and the doors shut, and I realize there is a guy in a wheelchair on there, and he had one of these machines that says insults, profane insults: `Fuck you! You’re an asshole!’ I can’t remember the other one, but over and over, the entire ride. Finally, the tram landed and everyone was like, “Oh, phew,” and I got on the little red shuttle bus that takes you to our building—he got on there, too, and he kept on playing this thing the entire time.
Maybe we are becoming cool.
Image is from The Shops at Columbus Circle.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tourist Says Roosevelt Island is the Coolest Thing!

A fish-outta-water recently visited Roosevelt Island and provided nutshell version of Roosevelt Island history and this recap of trip to Roosevelt Island.

You've never heard of Roosevelt Island? Well, unless you are a HUGE dork, you really have no reason to know about it.
...You basically have Small Town, USA plopped right into the middle of the East River. With incredible views of Manhattan, to boot! There is some car access via some bridges that were added in the 1980s, and there's even a Subway stop now, but you still don't go there unless you have a reason to.

As you can imagine, with access limited like this, and with that small-town-island feel, crime is virtually non-existent. There are biking/jogging paths around the perimeter of the island, and a shuttle bus (cost $0.25) runs every 15 minutes in a loop around the island. "Around" isn't really accurate, since there's really just 1 street (you guessed it, "Main Street") that forms a spine on the island so the bus really runs up-and-down the island (and not "around").

The tram ride (which conveniently starts adjacent to my new favorite grocery store, underneath the Queensboro Bridge, that I recently gushed about) is one of the most incredible experiences ever- it's like a ski-left tram but instead of rising above the alps, you are floating amidst a sea of residential skyscrapers!!
I think you liked Roosevelt Island.
Image is from fish-outta-water blog.

Flying Up and Down the East River

When I am boarding a plane returning home to New York City via LaGuardia Airport, I hope to be on the side of the plane with the stunning views of Manhattan skyline and to glimpse my building on Roosevelt Island. More often than not, I'm on the wrong side of the plane. For those of us on the wrong side of the plane this video is for you - a trip up and down the East River corridor in a small plane with Neil Diamond.
Here is the You Tube link.

Religious Institutions on Roosevelt Island

With the ending of the Jewish High Holy days on Saturday night and the start of Jewish calendar year 5768, I thought it useful to provide contact information for the various religious faiths located on Roosevelt Island. The information has been compiled by the Main Street Wire and are believed to be accurate as of September 2006. The link above contains contact information for many other Roosevelt Island organizations as well and is a very valuable resource.

Religious Organizations on Roosevelt Island
  • 832 6778 Catholic Parish (St Francis Cabrini) 555 Main Street Fr Peter Miqueli; masses TWT 10, 564 Main; Sa 5, Su 8:15, 11:15, 543 Main
  • 917 572 6674 Church of the Good Shepherd (Protestant) 543 Main St C Calderhead, Pastor services Su 10;
  • 644 2291 Dayspring Church 851 Main St Pastor Olu Obed; services Su 10;;
  • 832 6778 Good Shepherd Community Center 543 Main St Fr Peter Miqueli (to reserve Community Center)
  • 486 5733 Jewish Congregation (RIJC) 548 Main St Ron Meltzer 753-0237;
  • 223 3113 Quran Society of NY at RI 540 Main St David Glenn
Preparing this post reminded me of a very interesting NY Times article from the 9/18/07 New York Times Science section:
Where do moral rules come from? From reason, some philosophers say. From God, say believers. Seldom considered is a source now being advocated by some biologists, that of evolution.

At first glance, natural selection and the survival of the fittest may seem to reward only the most selfish values. But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living. Could the behaviors evolved by social animals to make societies work be the foundation from which human morality evolved?

In a series of recent articles and a book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist at the University of Virginia, has been constructing a broad evolutionary view of morality that traces its connections both to religion and to politics.
Dr. Haidt believes that religion has played an important role in human evolution by strengthening and extending the cohesion provided by the moral systems. “If we didn’t have religious minds we would not have stepped through the transition to groupishness,” he said. “We’d still be just small bands roving around.”

Religious behavior may be the result of natural selection, in his view, shaped at a time when early human groups were competing with one another. “Those who found ways to bind themselves together were more successful,” he said.
Food for thought.

Why the Flowered Taxi Cabs?

What's the deal with the Taxi Cabs with flowered hoods? I have been wondering what was going on with so many cabs with the brightly colored front and back hoods. They are even on Roosevelt Island.
The New York Sun provides the answer behind the "Garden in Transit".

The brothers behind the painted flowers dotting yellow cabs throughout the city are not quite Christo and Jeanne-Claude. But since the public phase of their art initiative started 12 days ago, the two middle-age California natives, Ed and Bernie Massey, have seen their art project burgeon, with between 2,500 and 3,000 taxis being adorned with a painted flower skin.

Their nonprofit project, "Garden in Transit," was conceived in 2000, with a goal of placing unique pieces of art on one of the most visible icons of New York: the yellow cab. About 27,000 vinyl sheets of flowers were painted by children in schools and hospitals, mostly in New York, beginning in 2006, with each meant to be affixed — temporarily — to taxis that requested some floral sprucing up.

The privately funded project is tied to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the metered, motorized taxi in the city.
It almost makes you forget the problems with getting a cab to go to Roosevelt Island. Almost, but not quite.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Are Public Funds Jeopardizing Roosevelt Island Affordable Housing?

Citylimits, described as an urban affairs news source, reports on a study showing public pension funds being used to partially finance the purchase of former Mitchell - Lama housing developments, including on Roosevelt Island, thereby, some claim, jeopardizing the future of affordable housing in New York City. According to the article:

City and state employee retirement funds are helping support purchases of former Mitchell-Lama developments at eyepopping prices, in an odd twist that has public investments benefiting from the erosion of a once-successful affordable housing program, according to a new analysis by city housing advocates.
State Assemblyman Micah Kellner, a Democrat whose Upper East Side district includes one of the purchased properties, criticized the investment of retirement funds for city and state employees in “private equity groups that purchase former Mitchell-Lama developments and make them unaffordable to those same workers.”
The city comptroller's office, which has heavily invested retirement funds in affordable housing, is concerned about the loss of such apartments through public investments, spokeswoman Laura Rivera said. "The comptroller is sensitive to investments in real estate deals that have a negative impact on affordable housing. In fact, he finds the practice of investing in speculative real estate deals that pressure low-income tenants very troubling and will do everything in his power to protect tenants at risk," Rivera said.

But Thompson did not consider the Harlem portfolio to be an unwise investment, she said. “This does not seem that it would be the type of investment that would have a negative impact on affordable housing,” she said.

In response to that, Kellner said, “I would have to disagree with that. From my firsthand experience I see this investment has a negative impact on affordable housing.” Kellner's district includes residents of a development on Roosevelt Island that was part of the $938 million deal. The assemblyman spoke with the city comptroller’s office late Friday and planned to meet with them further in the coming weeks on the investment.
New York Observer has the story on the real estate transaction.
Roosevelt Island 360 comments here.
More on Assemblymember Kellner here.
Image is from the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition.

Roosevelt Island Bridge Stuck - Medical Emergency

Informed by a driver stuck on the Roosevelt Island Bridge last Friday night that a women in labor and a man in cardiac arrest were not able to cross the Bridge to get medical assistance but had to use the Roosevelt Island Tram. I do not know their status and of course hope all is well.
In a medical emergency even a few minutes are critical. These examples illustrate how vulnerable Roosevelt Islanders are when access on or off Roosevelt Island Bridge is unavailable.
Still no information on RIOC's web site.
Video via Truveo and NY1.

Looking for a Roosevelt Island Condo-Read This First

Those looking to buy a condo on Roosevelt Island, or anywhere else in the New York metropolitan area, read this article about the new market guidelines for obtaining a mortgage from the NY Times 9/23/07 real estate section. According to the article:

A MONTH after the mortgage markets started to crumble, mortgage brokers and lawyers say that New Yorkers are finding it harder than ever to get mortgages and are increasingly backing out of deals. This lending slowdown has seemed to affect a broader segment of New York City apartment hunters, many of whom are now waiting to see if prices drop because of the mortgage crisis before they commit to buying.
...The market has reached the point that mortgage brokers like Lori Famighetti, chief executive of Oxford Wellington Mortgage Company, are telling their clients in New York not even to try to get a mortgage for more than $1 million at a competitive interest rate if they have a credit score of less than 680 and want a loan of 90 percent or more of the purchase price.

“This is the market now,” Ms. Famighetti said. “The buyer has to have a 700 or 720 credit score” to be considered for a mortgage that would cover more than 90 percent of the sales price.
Also, for those buying into a new development:
Brokers warn that some of the most adversely affected buyers will be those seeking to borrow a lot of money for new condominiums that cost $1 million to $2 million, without having been able to lock in rates on loans.

Jeffrey Appel, director of new development financing at the Preferred Empire Mortgage Company, says he has seen buyers who have already made down payments on apartments this expensive, who are now having trouble setting mortgage rates. As he explained it, these buyers originally thought that they could borrow nearly the entire amount of the purchase, but now many banks won’t lend them as much, and they will have to come up with the difference.

“I’m concerned about the folks who have been approved at the 90 or 95 percent level where the products or programs may change before they close,” Mr. Appel said.
Many people hoping to buy new apartments are finding that, months before their closing dates, they cannot lock in rates. Buyers who do not qualify for the mortgages they need by the time they close also risk losing their down payments, because contracts for them tend to be ironclad.
Other buyers have backed out of deals because they can’t afford their higher mortgage payments and they think prices may drop later this year.
Here's Curbed view.
More "End of the Boom" from Gotham Gazette.

Is Roosevelt Island Prepared for a Hurricane?

Following up on prior posts regarding the potential for Hurricanes striking New York City and Roosevelt Island, here is an article from today's Gothamist which lays out the possible storm scenarios. According to the Gothamist:

Many experts say yes. "Roughly every 70 years the New York region gets a monster hurricane," Bill Evans, WABC-TV senior meteorologist and co-author of the new novel Category 7 wrote in an opinion piece in Newsday. The National Hurricane Center's statistics corroborate Evans’ prediction. There seems to be a 20-year pattern in the frequency and intensity of Atlantic coast storms and hurricanes. Based on this pattern, the city can expect one or more category 3 Atlantic coast storms in the next several years. Such a storm, Evans writes, "could send a 22-foot surge of water into Manhattan streets. Subways would be out for months …. Low-lying neighborhoods south of Sunrise Highway would be unrecognizable."
But hurricanes aren't the only potential threats out there. A Nor’easter, named because it generally travels northeast up the Atlantic seaboard, is not as organized or as windy as the hurricane but because it hangs around longer, can be just as destructive. A Nor’easter is formed when the cold dry arctic air of the jet stream blows south and collides with the warm moist air of the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting quarrel gives birth to an icy storm. Nor’easter winds never exceed 35 miles, but because it has no eye and is irregularly shaped, a Nor’easter can cover a greater distance and therefore inflict as much damage as a hurricane.The City’s Plan.
Regarding Roosevelt Island:
Zone B areas are less vulnerable low-lying lands where there will be flooding if a severe hurricane – category 3 or higher -- strikes the city. Zone B areas include Roosevelt Island, City Island and much of southern Queens, including John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Although New York is surrounded by water – and located on three different islands – unlike New Orleans, most of the city does not lie below sea level. "We can keep New Yorkers safe as long as we can get those affected to shelter," Troisi says. Currently, the city could provide shelter for more than 600,000 people.

In general, the city has tried to encourage New Yorkers to prepare themselves for a hurricane or other disaster (see box). "The key to any plan begins with education. First, find out if you live in an evacuation zone, then find out where your local evacuation center is," Troisi said.
More on how to prepare and what to do in the event such a storm hits Roosevelt Island in future post.
The You Tube video is from the Daily Green. According to the interview, the consequences of a hurricane hitting New York City are quite scary.