Friday, November 9, 2007

I'll Take Manhattan - From Roosevelt Island

The Weblicist of Manhattan, who provides virtual photo tours of much of New York City, has shot these incredibly beautiful images of the New York City Skyline from Roosevelt Island. The photos remind me of the opening montage (link to Truveo video - try to catch picture of Roosevelt Island Tram in montage) of Woody Allen's film Manhattan and the wonderful Gershwin music. This time the Weblicist's Skyline is in color.

Today's Roosevelt Island Weekend Waterfront video (it meets my criteria because there are images of the Thames River) imagines if Woody Allen were born in London.

You Tube video link is here.

Also, here is You Tube link to Edinhattan, a tribute to Edinburgh, Scotland and homage to Woody Allen's Manhattan though some don't like the movie.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Roosevelt Island: A Walk Through Time Presentation

I received this notice inviting all Roosevelt Islanders to attend a presentation on Roosevelt Island history given by Judy Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. Please RSVP if you plan to attend. RSVP to the email address at the bottom of this post.

The Riverwalk Community Relations Committee
invites you to:

Roosevelt Island:
A Walk Through Time
with Judy Berdy

Roosevelt Island resident
Author of “Images of America: Roosevelt Island” and
President of Roosevelt Island Historical Society

Monday, November 12th
8 - 9 pm
455 Main St. Roof Party Room

Travel back to old days when the island was home to
convicts, the infirmed and other interesting characters.

Learn how the island changed and
how it has played a vital part in NYC history for centuries.

Bring your questions and get ready for some fun!

Please RSVP if you are coming:
(Your name will be placed on a guest list for the doorman.)

Image is from Roosevelt Island Historical Society.

Tonight, Another Small Step for Roosevelt Island Democracy

Another small step for democracy and direct elected representation for Roosevelt Island. A candidate's orientation meeting for those considering running for the Roosevelt Island Resident's Association nomination to the RIOC Board of Directors will be held tonight at 8 PM in the Westview Lower Community room at 625 Main Street. Here is link for more information on RIOC nomination process.
One of the current Roosevelt Island resident members of the RIOC Board, who are all volunteers, wrote the following in the November 3, 2007 issue of the Main Street Wire (PDF File) describing his take on some of the many important and difficult issues RIOC Board members must consider.

What I’m worried about is, how are we going to get a few thousand additional residents on and off the Island every day for work or school, when the current transportation is straining at its limits?...

We’re working to upgrade Tram service, and we can extend our rush-hour service period, but that still benefits those Islanders whose schedules are adaptable.

There is talk of ferry service, but that will serve only a few hundred Islanders a day at best, and is expensive, and only carries you to the edge of Manhattan in various places, not to your work or school...

The very southernmost point on the Island is to have some sort of FDR memorial on it and that will be very large or it will not, and it will fit into the rest of the Park’s master plan or it will not, and that's going to be a great argument.

There are three more Southtown buildings scheduled to go up. And that has to be properly handled to bring maximum return to the Island without allowing the buildings to get out of scale.
We have a Tram to rebuild.
We have seawall to repair and rebuild.
Main Street must be rebuilt.
We have recurring problems with
street light...
So he asks, who should run for a RIOC Board seat?
We want people of good heart, good soul, and good mind. A vision helps too, I suppose. At least people will ask you for yours if you decide to run. But it will be bound to change once you’re aboard and taking responsibility. And it will be real, actual, legal responsibility, bound round by law and the science of what’s possible, or what can be made to be possible. One of you, reading this, might end up with my seat. And then you’ll get to sit up late, wondering how the hell a few thousand new neighbors, mandated by the City, are going to get to work in the morning. I love it, and I’ll do it as long as anybody wants me to. But maybe I’ll be replaced by one of you.
Link to You Tube video of Leonard Cohen's Democracy sung by John Bliemer is here.

Psycho Killer Visits Lunatic Asylum on Roosevelt Island - Shoots Cormorants

Unable to ride his bike across the 59th Street Bridge on the day of the New York City Marathon, David Byrne takes the Tram to visit Roosevelt Island. His impressions:

Wanted to bike to Long Island City, but the Queensboro Bridge bike lane was closed (for the handicapped they said, though it was completely empty). Took the Roosevelt Island tram instead (the view is from there), and rode down by the abandoned lunatic asylum. There was no one around. From the tip of the island one has a great view of the UN building and a rocky island filled with cormorants — an odd sight for NYC.
He liked the views from Southpoint Park. Maybe he thinks these views should remain unobstructed and opposes the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial. I don't know but would hope so. Here is his shot of the Cormorants. David Byrne's Talking Heads were one of my favorite strange bands along with Warren Zevon, Ian Dury and Frank Zappa. I would be hard pressed to think of a more unusual or appropriate experience then hanging around with these guys at Roosevelt Island's lunatic asylum. Unfortunately Zappa, Zevon and Dury are in Rock and Roll heaven but maybe they can get a day pass. The island just off the south end of Southpoint Park with the Cormorants is named for former U.N. Secretary General U Thant and is according to Wikipedia:
a tiny 100 x 200 foot (30 x 60 metre) artificial island in New York City's East River, just to the south of Roosevelt Island. It lies across from United Nations headquarters at 42nd Street, and is legally considered a part of the Borough of Manhattan and New York County. The islet is currently protected as a sanctuary for migrating birds, including a small colony of Double-crested Cormorant, and access is prohibited to the public. The island has its origins in the 1890s as a side-effect of the construction by William Steinway, of piano manufacturer Steinway & Sons, of trolley tunnels under the river to link bustling Manhattan to his eponymous company town in Steinway, Queens. The island was built up on the existing granite outcrop Man-o'-War Reef with excess landfill from a shaft dug down the reef to the tunnels. But Steinway died before his tunnels' completion, and it was financier August Belmont, Jr. who finished the project in 1907, leaving the finished islet as a bonus.
You Tube video link of Talking Heads Psycho Killer is here. UPDATE - Roosevelt Island 360 advises that:
I thought U thant was the next isand with the tower. Byrns pic is from the islet that is closer to us with I thought U Thant in the background?
I think he is right. I don't know the name of the Island in the picture. Here is picture of U Thant Island from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Response to NY Times Kahn Editorial By RIRA President - Will Times Print It?

Roosevelt Island Resident's Association President Mathew Katz sent the following letter to the NY Times in opposition to their recent editorial in support of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial proposed for Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island.

“A Roosevelt for Roosevelt Island?” Absolutely! Just not this three acre anachronism that was repudiated in a public survey taken in October 2004 by Southpoint Park designer, The Trust for Public Land. For seven years we Islanders have been a part of the planning for this thirteen-acre park and there is consensus that it should include an FDR Memorial. But we endorsed a “Wild Gardens/Green Rooms” design concept and rejected the Kahn plan as too formal and too sterile. The Kahn plan has hung fire for the last thirty-three years and now, as the $12.9 million Southpoint Park Phase I approaches the start of construction, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute has put all their eggs in the Kahn basket. If our public officials no longer find the 2004 survey valid, why don’t they commission another? Parks should be built for the public that will use them not for the architectural community that will visit once and never return.

To date, The NY Times does not see fit to publish the opposing views of the President of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association on the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial.

The Times did publish a very nice letter by a resident of Portland Maine who illustrated the point that:

There’s more to Roosevelt Island than a tram ride to and fro.
There’s a quiet East River walk with spectacular views of Manhattan, highlighted by the United Nations and arresting river traffic.
A historic lighthouse opposite Gracie Mansion on the north end and preening cormorants on a rocky island on the south end. Traffic sounds are distant.
Occasionally there are lovers by the river railing. Seagulls seem tamer. And on a sunny morning Manhattan seems marvelously manageable.

Image of NY Times building is from Arch News Now.

Governor's Island - A Great Place for the Louis Kahn Memorial!!!!

An article in the NY Sun describes various plans for the re-development of Governor's Island but warns against following the same path as that taken for Roosevelt Island.

Concerning Roosevelt Island:

Consider that Roosevelt Island is only a stone's throw from Manhattan and Queens. And yet, to visit the place, something that most tourists and most inhabitants of the five boroughs seldom do, is to travel back in time — specifically to the 1970s, when the island, for better or worse, was extensively reconceived.
And providing a cautionary tale for developing Governor's Island:
Even if the parkland is successfully achieved, and even if the development of other parts of the island prove as extensive as many in the real estate community now hope, great care must be given that the island not be — literally — isolated from the rest of the city. This is the fate that has largely condemned Roosevelt Island to the status of a backwater, despite its being far closer to Manhattan and Queens than Governors Island is to Brooklyn or anywhere else.
This sums up many of the problems encountered on Roosevelt Island - being thought of as a backwater. Out of sight out of mind.

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!

Image is from the Governor's Island Preservation and Education Corporation.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ride the Roosevelt Island Tram and See Progress of New Riverwalk Condo Construction

A recent You Tube video of a ride on the Roosevelt Island Tram from Manhattan facing north. East River views are great.
At the end of the video you can view the construction progress of the new Hudson/Related Riverwalk condo building going up at the moment. They appear to be at the 6th floor of a planned 18 story building.

Peeping Through Windows at Roosevelt Island

Did you ever feel like someone was staring into your apartment following every move you made from the time you get up until finally going to bed? And later at night as well? Well, at least some residents of Roosevelt Island may know that feeling due to the proximity of the adjacent Riverwalk Buildings to each other and their mostly floor to ceiling windows. One discovers that it is quite easy to inadvertently or deliberately peer inside the opposite apartments across the small park dividing the buildings.

According to an article in the NY Times Week in Review, buildings are now being designed to showcase such transparent living.
JEREMY FLETCHER and Alejandra Lillo, designers at Graft, an architecture and design firm based in Berlin, Beijing and Los Angeles, were working out a dialogue between voyeurism and exhibitionism, they said, when they designed the swooping, shiny white interiors of the W Downtown, a glass-walled condominium tower to be built in 2009 in Manhattan’s financial district.Not only will the building’s glass walls allow W residents to see, and be seen by, passers-by on the street below, but Mr. Fletcher and Ms. Lillo have created peekaboo features within each apartment, like a window between the kitchen and the bedroom, and a bathroom that’s a glass cube, allowing residents to expose themselves to their roommates and family members, too. The idea, Mr. Fletcher said, was to frame and exhibit the intimate details of life, or at least ones that would be aesthetically pleasing, “like your silhouette in the shower.”
In September, Curbed, the feisty New York City real estate blog, posted a photograph of a newly completed, glass-walled condo building on East 13th Street. You could see right into the apartments, which looked most like messy dorm rooms. It was a grubby retort to the marketing hoo-ha that surrounds these now ubiquitous buildings and trumpets a sleekly attractive lifestyle accessorized by midcentury modern furniture and designer clothing. There were unmade beds jammed right up against the glass, mangled paper Venetian shades, a towel over a chair.

Accompanying the photo was a report of a sighting of a guy in boxer shorts doing push-ups. “Doesn’t the first condo association meeting need to include a window coverings workshop?” the post wondered plaintively.
Here is the link to the Curbed post.

Image of Jimmy Stewart in movie Rear Window from IMDB.
Image is of building on the West Side Highway from NY Times.

Greatest Play in Football History?

Can the Roosevelt Island Zog football players pull off a play like this? A last second, game deciding, backward lateraling play that looks more like Rugby than Football. It is the type of play that kids playing in parks have been trying to complete since football began. Amazing.
Here is the story about this play in a college game between the Trinity Tigers and Millsaps Majors from the Galveston Daily News:

Here was the set up: Trinity trailed by two points with 2 seconds remaining. Trinity had just taken over possession on its own 40-yard line. Without a field goal kicker who coach Steve Mohr trusted to make a 77-yard field goal, Trinity opted to try for a miracle.

“I was thinking maybe we could get a chance,” Barmore said. “It turned into a little backyard football with some basketball mixed in.”

Barmore passed to Shawn Thompson at midfield to begin the play being called the “Mississippi Miracle.” Eight laterals later, Barmore touched the ball again when he caught a lateral at his own 43. He found some space and ran to the Millsaps' 31, where he pitched the ball to Thompson while falling down.
You Tube video link is here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Roosevelt Island Schools Receive Grade of B

The New York City Department of Education has just released city wide Progress Report cards for each of their schools.

Progress Reports grade each school with an A, B, C, D, or F. These reports help parents, teachers, principals, and others understand how well schools are doing—and compare them to other, similar schools. Most schools received pilot Progress Reports for the 2005-06 school year in spring 2007. Progress Reports for Early Childhood and Special Education schools will be piloted during the 2007-08 academic year.
Roosevelt Island's P.S./I.S. 217 received a B grade. More statistics regarding Roosevelt Island school are here.

According to NY Times:
Under a blunt new A through F rating system, whose results Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled today, 50 public schools across New York City, most in Manhattan and the Bronx, have been designated failures, placing them in danger of closing as early as the end of the school year and putting their principals’ jobs on the line.
Here is more on Roosevelt Island public schools.
Roosevelt Island 360 has more on the report here.

UPDATE - 11/27/07 - NY Times article - New York Grades Set Off Debate on Judging Schools

NY Times Smacks Roosevelt Island Residents Across the Face

The NY Times today demonstrates how little regard it has for residents of New York City neighborhoods that do not have multi-million dollar condos or well connected political supporters. For instance, an editorial in today's NY Times comes out in favor of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial at Southpoint Park but does not even mention that there is a great deal of controversy and opposition to the project by Roosevelt Island residents who believe that this particular design is a blight on what could become a beautiful waterfront park. There is no mention in the editorial that when asked in a survey taken by the Trust for the Public Land the residents voted against the Kahn memorial or that the elected President of the Roosevelt Island Resident's Association opposes the Kahn memorial as well (comment 75 to this NY Times City Room Blog article). Nor is there mention that for those Roosevelt Island residents who do support the Kahn memorial, it is primarily due to the great fear that if it is not built this magnificent site would become the location for more luxury condos and never become the waterfront park hoped for and promised.

If one has never been to the southern tip of Southpoint Park, seen the clear open views of the East River and Manhattan/Queens skyline and walked down to the water (not walking above it on a promenade like much of the NYC waterfront) it might be reasonable to support a design by a famous architect that purports to honor FDR. But even assuming such support is reasonable, for the NY Times to editorialize in favor of this project without at least mentioning that many, if not most, of the residents of Roosevelt Island oppose this memorial is a great disservice to the readers and reputation of the so called "Paper of Record". Perhaps the editorial writers should have read this article from their own paper.

But those opposed to the memorial say supporters waited too long. "Kahn's memorial was played out in a different time, a different era, a different world," said Herbert Berman, president of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. "It was right for 30 years ago, not for now." Today, he said, those who live on Roosevelt Island are interested in less formal uses for the land....

"Louis Kahn would have done it differently if he were alive today," said Charles McKinney, the consultant in charge of the Roosevelt Island park proposal for the Trust for Public Land. "He was well known for his concerns about creating communal spaces, and he would have understood the importance of this community's concerns, and he would have responded."
The NY Times editorial states:
The eminent architect Louis Kahn was commissioned to design the memorial, and his concept was simple and elegant. Drawing inspiration from Roosevelt’s defense of the Four Freedoms — of speech and religion, and from want and fear — he designed an open “room and a garden” at the bottom of the island. Trees on either side form a “V” defining a green space, and leading to a two-walled stone room at the water’s edge that frames the United Nations and the rest of the skyline.
There’s a magic to the project. That the task is daunting makes it worthy of the man it honors, who guided the nation through the Depression, the New Deal and a world war. As for Mr. Kahn, he died in 1974, as he passed alone through New York’s Penn Station. In his briefcase were renderings of the memorial, his last completed plan.
The NY Times editorial is wrong - there is no magic to this project - just raw political and financial power attempting to crush community opposition.

If the editorial writer had done some homework he might have learned that most Roosevelt Island residents preferred this alternative to the Kahn memorial...
"Wild Gardens/Green Rooms," a picturesque park designed by Mark K. Morrison, a local landscape designer who is currently working on security fencing for the United Nations, as well as on numerous Manhattan playgrounds. The design includes a cafe in the ruins of the smallpox hospital and an earth mound providing enough contour for sledding in winter. The removable stage at the edge of a large lawn would be located at the southernmost tip, where Kahn put his granite room open to the sea.

The 14-acre "Wild Gardens" would cost approximately $34 million to complete, with a first phase planned at $10 million needed to stabilize the collapsing hospital ruins and clear pathways on the west side to the now inaccessible point. That's $4 million more than Kahn's 2.8-acre memorial design would cost, according to a revised budget prepared in 2003 for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute by the Plaza Construction Corporation.
But then again it probably does not matter to the NY Times or the supporters of the Kahn memorial what Roosevelt Island residents think of this project in their own neighborhood. We're not rich or politically connected.

Video is a 360 panoramic view of the southern tip of Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island where the granite structure of the Kahn memorial is proposed to be located. The effect of this crypt like mausoleum will be to destroy this view.

You Tube link of video is here.
Image of Kahn memorial is from Architectural Record.

Aerial Photos of The Encampment at Southpoint Park Roosevelt Island

Photo by Stephen Amiaga

Photo by Stephen Amiaga

Anyone who attended the recent Encampment public art project at Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park knows that it is a truly unique waterfront site with exquisite views of the East River and Manhattan/Queens skyline. Southpoint should not be the site for the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial.

Roosevelt Island 360 adds his voice on the subject of the memorial:
What I am fully against is what this is becoming … a hyphenated memorial to Louis Kahn in addition to FDR.

My primary concerns regarding the design of this memorial are (1) the potential loss of the natural 360 degree views afforded by the current space, (2) the loss of the natural green space itself, and (3) my concern that the space will no longer be allowed to play host to events like the summer time outdoor movies series and projects on the scale of "The Encampment". Certainly The Encampment would not have had the same sense of a pitched campground sitting between granite walls inscribed with FDR’s Four Freedoms speech.

Having a memorial would be acceptable if it does not impinge on the access the island population enjoys. It would be one thing if the memorial was built either before the resident population grew to its current level or before the original WIRE buildings were completed but now the voices of the island’s residents should be given weight over the Kahn fanatics and the memory of a former President especially since there are other memorials to FDR here in NYC and elsewhere.
Aerial images of The Emcampment are from Thom Sokoloski.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

NYC Marathon Runners on First Avenue as Seen From Roosevelt Island Tram

Great picture taken from Roosevelt Island tram of 2007 New York City Marathon runners on First Avenue.
Image from Pabo76 is here.