Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Birthday Message to Roosevelt Island and the Rest of the World

I am a big fan of science fiction and Arthur C. Clarke together with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein are my favorite authors of this genre. Via Space Ref,

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, a science-fiction author, inventor, and futurist, simply a greate mind celebrates his 90th birth anniversary on 16th of December, 2007.
Sir Arthur was the first person to propose using geostationary satellites for instant global communications.

An ``artificial satellite'' at the correct distance from the earth would make one revolution every 24 hours; i.e., it would remain stationary above the same spot and would be within optical range of nearly half the earth's surface. Three repeater stations, 120 degrees apart in the correct orbit, could give television and microwave coverage to the entire planet."

He is the author of many books including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, Rendezvous With Rama and my favorite Clarke book, Fountains of Paradise that describes the construction of a space elevator.

Sir Arthur developed the 3 Laws of Prediction:

1- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. 2- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible. 3- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Happy 90 orbits around the sun Sir Arthur. Transcript and video of Arthur C. Clarke's 90th birthday remarks are here. UPDATE 12/16/07: For those interested in space and astronomy, today's Washington Post has a fantastic profile of Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Director of the Hayden Planetarium.
"I grew up in the Bronx, and I'd never been in total darkness before," he says. "The closest you'll get is a movie theater, but even in a movie theater there's a glow from the doors. So I had a kind of urban view of the universe, and when I was at the planetarium and the stars came up, I remember thinking, 'Nice show, but this is not the real universe. I've seen the real universe, and it has 12 stars in it.' " Once Tyson learned otherwise, he was smitten. He'd talk about the universe, read about the universe and, whenever possible, stare at the universe through a telescope he'd lug to the roof of the apartment building where his family lived. Whenever anyone asked what he'd do when he grew up, he had an answer, one that he had trouble pronouncing at the time: "I'm going to be an astrophysicist." Which is what he became, though his PhD in the subject is but one line of a résumé so packed with titles and achievements that it is tiring to read. Tyson is the author of eight books on all things intergalactic, most recently "Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries," a bestseller that was just released in paperback. He is also the host of "Nova ScienceNow," a "60 Minutes"-style show on PBS, as well as a lecturer, researcher and a TV pundit whenever the heavens make news.
I don't think Arthur C. Clarke would mind sharing his birthday message with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Roosevelt Island a Little Bit Closer to Getting Ferry Service

Just received this email from Congresswoman Maloney's office stating that the US Army Corps of Engineers has approved permit application for construction of Ferry Dock at Roosevelt Island. I will find out what else needs to be done in order to finally get East River ferry service to Roosevelt Island.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, Queens) announced today that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has approved the permit application of Octagon LP to construct a water taxi dock on Roosevelt Island. Representative Maloney, who urged the federal agency to render a decision on the water dock permit application in order to improve transportation options for local residents, noted that water taxi service will increase Roosevelt Island’s accessibility and security.

"I am pleased that Army Corps of Engineers has chosen to increase the safety and convenience of Roosevelt Island residents by granting approval to construct this water taxi dock,” said Congresswoman Maloney. "It is a good day when government agencies, private companies, and elected officials can work together in the public interest to improve the quality of life for those whom we serve. With Roosevelt Island residents struggling to board overcrowded subway trains during morning rush hour and the prospect of temporarily losing Tram service while it is rehabilitated, providing other transportation options becomes even more critical,” she said. Congresswoman Maloney also vowed to continue to work closely with public and private sector leaders to ensure that water taxi service becomes a reality for Roosevelt Islanders.

On September 21, 2007, Congresswoman Maloney wrote to Commander Robert L. Van Antwerp of ACE to press the federal agency to render a decision on the long-pending application submitted by Octagon LP to construct the water taxi dock. The application was initially filed more than a year and a half ago seeking a permit to construct a dock near Octagon Park on the northern end of Roosevelt Island. “The water taxi would provide alternative routes to Manhattan for residents of Roosevelt Island,” wrote Representative Maloney in her letter.

In correspondence, ACE Lieutenant Commander M.T. McBrady expressed the agency’s opinion that “the northeastern shoreline of Roosevelt Island across from Hallet’s Cove would be a much better location for the project,” but also noted, “we are satisfied that the design and operational controls... adequately address” ACE’s previous concerns over the proposed original siting, adding that the proposed site near Octagon Park “does not degrade navigation safety to an unacceptable level in our view.”

Representative Maloney has been a vigorous and effective advocate for her constituents on Roosevelt Island since her election to Congress. In 2002, she worked with the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to help secure a $250,000 matching grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historical Preservation to repair and restore one of the Island’s notable landmarks, Blackwell House. After the subway station was built on Roosevelt Island, Rep. Maloney secured $700,000 in federal highway funds to install surveillance cameras in the station to provide better security. She also successfully urged ACE to undertake the $500,000 study documenting failings in the Island’s Seawall. Congresswoman Maloney has also consistently been involved with a range of other issues affecting Roosevelt Island, including fighting for better policing and successfully fighting for the reopening of the Tramway following suggestions from some quarters in the wake of the April 2006 breakdown in service that it be mothballed in perpetuity. She continues to work closely with her fellow elected officials representing Roosevelt Island to present a forceful and united voice for its residents.

Good job by Congresswomen Maloney.
Image is from NY Times
Roosevelt Island 360 has more here.

Update: Roosevelt Island 360 has statement from RIOC President Steve Shane and Octagon developer Bruce Becker on the ferry dock approval. According to Becker:
We've been in discussions with New York Water Taxi for the last three years about bringing service to Roosevelt Island and adding our stop to planned routes up the East River. When service is established we expect to have service running to 34th Street and Wall Street. Eventually we hope there are many more options.

Battle Between Buyers and Sellers Is Not a Life and Death Struggle - But This Is!

A new cycle has begun in the battle for supremacy in the New York residential Real Estate market between buyers and sellers. For a very long time sellers have had the upper hand over buyers but now that may be reversed. According to blogger True Gotham:

Buyers and sellers alike are indeed digging in their heels. Having said that, I'm seeing more motivated sellers on the market right now than those who "test" the market to see if they can get their price (inflated usually). I have also experienced many sellers pulling property off of the market as they have made the decision to stay where they are and "ride out the storm." If there is going to be a storm, and that remains to be seen, then perhaps this is the calm that precedes it?
So what do I see happening in 2008? Based on the plethora of economic data that I have been watching, certain segments of the Manhattan market may see the current imbalance of inventory and buyers tip slightly more toward the buyer's favor.
Or as reported in the NY Times, at least a stalemate has emerged:
Now, brokers say, they see a stalemate developing between buyers and sellers in Manhattan, especially for apartments in the $1 million to $5 million range.
Remember, though certainly an important factor, the residential real estate market does not rise to the level of life and death. Keep your perspective.

This is a life and death struggle that has had over 20 million views on You Tube. The Battle at Kruger is simply an amazing sight to watch. Do yourselves a favor and watch the entire video which is a little more than 8 minutes. It will be worth it.

My question is, who does the Lion and Buffalo represent - the Buyer or Seller? We know the crocodile is the broker.

UPDATE: 12/21/- Maybe the crocodile is the foreign buyer taking advantage of the stalemate between Lions and Buffalos, I mean buyers and sellers. From today's NY Times:
While natives remain wary about real estate and worry about bonuses and the economic climate, foreign tourists are keeping brokers busy with their eagerness to buy up Manhattan apartments, which many see as investments.

Problem with Roosevelt Island Tram Banner Image

As regular readers of Roosevelt Islander can probably tell, the banner at the top of the blog depicting the Roosevelt Island Tram is considerably smaller than usual. This is because of a system wide problem with the Blogger code that has caused banner images to become truncated and distorted. I hope to have this problem fixed soon.
I am not very happy right now!
Image is from Blog Way Baby.

UPDATE - Image has been restored to proper size but Roosevelt Islander Blog Title is not working properly. Still trying to fix.

UPDATE - 12/22/- Image size and Roosevelt Islander title have now been restored. A big thank you to the Blogger help group that made this correction possible.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Toys For Tots on Roosevelt Island

RIOC's Upcoming Events page provides the following information.

Toys for Tots collection program
When: Through December 21st
Participate in this years US Marine Corp Toys for Tots program.
The Marines will be returning on December 21st to collect the boxes and distribute them to charitable organizations, houses of worship, foster homes, shelters, etc. in the NY metropolitan area.
Toy collection boxes will be available at the following locations on Roosevelt Island:

1) RIOC Main Office -591 Main Street
2) Public Safety- 552 Main Street
3) Tram Plaza- Manhattan Side
4) Trellis Diner- 549 Main Street

For more information, please call 212-832-4540

Other Roosevelt Island Weekend Events:

Environmental Awareness Fair
When: Saturday, Dec. 15th from 1pm-3pm
Where: Chapel of the Good Shepherd
Free snacks, refreshments & lots of good information on recycling, water conservation, energy efficiency, and more!
For more information, please contact Sylvia Giralde at 212-832-4540 ext. 314

Holiday Party and Open House
Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance
When: Sunday, December 16th 3:00pm-6:00ppm Music, dance and seasonal songs, refreshments and gift sale
Where: 548 Main Street (Red Awning behind the video store) Free

Roosevelt Island 360 has more on weekend events.
Image is from Toys for Tots 2007

Open Government and Transparency Emerging on Roosevelt Island

One of the first posts on this blog (during the ALL CAP DAYS) stated a goal to:

...provide concerned citizens easy access to the historical background of how Roosevelt Island has been governed in the past and to promote openness and transparency by our current governmental representatives
and noted:
... it would be of great use to the community if other important Roosevelt Island governing documents such as the General Development Plan and all Amendments thereto be made available to the public.
Thanks to RIOC President Steve Shane, the Roosevelt Island General Development Plan and the 1969 Roosevelt Island Master Lease between the City of New York (Lessor) and the NY State Urban Development Corporation (Lessee) and Welfare Island Development Corporation (Subsidiary) are now available online for review by all who may be interested. A permanent link will be on the right side column under the title Roosevelt Island Governing Documents.

The 12/11/07 Washington Post had an article describing problems accessing government information by citizens as well as by other federal, state and city agencies. According to the article:
The biggest hurdle agencies face in sharing information with one another and with citizens is not the technology but rather how the agencies organize information, said Karen Evans, who oversees the e-government program for the Office of Management and Budget.
The article also reports that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and officials from Google will testify before:
the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today, urging Congress to require federal agencies to make their Web sites, records and databases more searchable
and according to Wales:
"It's really important for the notion of public participation for [agencies] to be striving to be as open as possible,"...
Who could have imagined at this time last year that RIOC would be ahead of the curve in making government documents and information available to the public. Certainly not me nor the NY State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions that concluded in 2005 of prior RIOC administrations:
The operation and management of RIOC has exhibited, in the past, a pattern of secrecy and unaccountability consistent with what the Committee has found at other authorities. With respect to relations with the Island's community and institutions, including matters such as open meetings, FOIL requests, public participation and RIOC activities and full public disclosure of important public issues, RIOC must show significant improvement.
Certainly RIOC operations have begun to change for the better here on Roosevelt Island. If anyone has any suggestions for additional information or documents concerning Roosevelt Island to be made publicly available please let me know and I will try and get it. Good job by RIOC in providing citizen access to these essential Roosevelt Island governing documents.

Image is from Inman News.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Berlin Wall is Falling for Roosevelt Island Retail!!!

The December issue of Real Deal highlights the expanding retail services becoming available on Roosevelt Island following the arrival of the Hudson/Related Riverwalk condo and rental developments located in the Southtown area of the Island adjacent to the Tram and Subway. For many years Roosevelt Island suffered from a pitiful lack of retail services that one might have experienced behind the Iron Curtain and in the former Soviet Union , not in a 21st century New York City neighborhood. According to the Real Deal article:
"It looks like East Berlin before the wall fell," said Andrew Oliver, executive vice president of Cushman & Wakefield Sonnenblick Goldman. For years, there was only one chain store, a Gristedes grocery, and much of the remaining retail was service-oriented: a diner, a Chinese takeout joint and a thrift shop, among others.
But now private sector development of the Southtown area has finally brought some small measure of retail services to Roosevelt Island's population of 12,000 residents that will increase to approximately 16,000 when the entire 9 building Riverwalk project is completed. As reported by Real Deal:
As a result of the limited retail options, the arrival of seven store spaces in the new Riverwalk buildings -- Buildings 3 and 4, also known as Riverwalk Place and Riverwalk Landing, respectively -- is a big deal to area residents. David Kramer, a principal with Hudson, noted that the island's location and limited transportation options will never make it a destination for shoppers, but he said that six of the seven retail spaces in the new development have been leased out.

Along with Starbucks and Duane Reade are a salon and a dry cleaner, and two restaurants: Fuji East and Nonno's Focacceria. The seventh space has yet to be filled, but Kramer said the developers are looking to bring a food store into the space.

The retail rents for the new Roosevelt Island buildings have been hovering in the $40 to $45 a square foot range, he said.
With the fall of Roosevelt Island's Berlin Wall, is Riverwalk developer David Kramer Roosevelt Island's Mikhail Gorbachev?

The Real Deal article contains several factual inaccuracies concerning Roosevelt Island including the following:
... below the 59th Street Bridge, is a no-man's-land of old warehouses, currently being debated as the site of future parkland or residential development.
...Riverwalk's fifth building, a 123-unit condominium building known as Riverwalk Court, opened for sales on Oct. 24. The units are priced around $850 a square foot, Kramer said.
There is no "no-man's land of warehouses" on Roosevelt Island below the 59th Street Bridge or anywhere else on Roosevelt Island. Only the south campus of Coler-Goldwater hospital, the Tennis Bubble, Sportspark and Southpoint Park that certainly can't be mistaken for "warehouses". Also, the Riverwalk Court condominium units did not go on sale in October. Sales are just about to begin now in December.

Slideshow is from Roosevelt Island 360. It shows the available retail space at Hudson/Related's Riverwalk development.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Last Night of Hanukkah - With A Reggae Beat & Twist of A Cappella Style

On the last night of Hanukkah, here's wishing you all a very happy Holiday Season with Matisyahu lighting the candles at Brooklyn's Warsaw Club

and the Voices of Liberty, an eight part a cappella group performing at EPCOT in Walt Disney World.

Matisyahu You Tube video link is here.
Voices of Liberty You Tube video link is here.

Why Is Roosevelt Island the Way It Is?

via Forgotten-NY © 2001 Chet Wilson

Several years ago the NY State Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions initiated a series of investigations into the activities of State corporations, authorities and commissions. In 2005, the Committee released this study concerning Roosevelt Island's (RIOC):
...operations, its compliance with the terms of the Island's 1969 master lease with New York City, the Island's official owner, and in particular, the selection and appointment of its senior staff, their qualifications and job responsibilities and performance..."
The Committee determined:
that for a number of years the effective operation and management of RIOC was compromised by secrecy, political patronage, a lack of long-term financial planning, and questionable fiscal policies. It is clear, however, that in many areas, past mistakes have been acknowledged and corrective steps have begun to be taken. New staff appointed by the Governor and working with the Board has begun to change RIOC's management culture by ending the policy of one-time payments, making public long-term financial planning documents, and acknowledging the need for greater transparency and accountability.
The new staff referred to applies to the administration immediately preceding the current one. The study covered the period of time prior to the current administration under Governor Spitzer and RIOC President Shane and does not reflect at all upon their management of Roosevelt Island.

The Assembly Committee study does provide some valuable background information regarding the early development of Roosevelt Island.
The City of New York ("City") owns Roosevelt Island, comprising of 147 acres located in the East River and within the borough of Manhattan. In 1969, the City leased the Island to the New York State Urban Development Corporation ("UDC") for 99 years. The main purpose of the Roosevelt Island lease agreement was "to create on the Island as rapidly as possible a New Community" or a planned community.2 In the 1970's, urban planner Ed Logue planned Roosevelt Island and architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee drafted the General Development Plan ("GDP"), also known as the Master Plan, which is the design document of the Island and is part of the lease.3

The GDP delineates the design of the Island and controls its development.4 Roosevelt Island is divided into two principal areas: Northtown and Southtown.5 Northtown and Southtown are separated by Blackwell Park, which is approximately 3.8 acres.6 The GDP specifically called for about 5,500 units (the number of units currently proposed is 5,758 units) of subsidized, middle-income and conventionally financed housing, 20,000 square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of commercial space, and certain public facilities, including a school for 2,000 children, a library, community rooms, children's day care centers, swimming pools and facilities for the elderly. The GDP requires Northtown to contain 60% of the housing, commercial facilities, child care, recreational facilities and the preservation of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.7 The GDP requires that Southtown contain 40% of the Island housing, a swimming pool, a library, the schools and a Town Center.8 The GDP also requires that certain areas of the Island be designated open spaces including: Lighthouse Park, Octagon Park, Blackwell Park and other areas that were to be linked with pedestrian paths and walkways.9 UDC completed Northtown in 1977. It is comprised of four Mitchell-Lama buildings, of which one is a limited equity co-op, consisting of 2,200 units. Manhattan Park, considered an extension of Northtown, followed in the late 1980s. Manhattan Park is a 1,100 unit market-rate rental building and section VIII housing units.

However, due to fiscal constraints, UDC could not complete the development of the Island. Therefore, in 1984 the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a public benefit corporation, was created to operate and manage Roosevelt Island.10 At the time of creation, RIOC assumed all responsibilities, rights and obligations including the agreement to pay the City rent for the use of the land.11 However, to this date, RIOC has never paid any rent to the City.

RIOC Board members are appointed by the governor, or serve by virtue of their positions in State agencies,...
As to the current Hudson/Related Riverwalk buildings in Southtown the Assembly Committee reported that:
In 1999 RIOC approved Hudson Companies and Related Companies ("Hudson & Related") as the projects' developers for Southtown. Hudson & Related were chosen to develop Phase 1 (four buildings with about 900 units) and Phase 2 (five buildings with 1100 units). RIOC received a one-time payment of about $6 million for the first two buildings of Phase 1. Building 1 was sold to Memorial Sloan-Kettering;17 building 2 was sold to Cornell University.18 Both are used for staff housing. Building 3 is currently under construction as a market rate condominium, with RIOC receiving about $2.17 million. Building 4 is not yet under construction and will be used for rental housing.
Image is from Forgotten New York.

NY State Legislative Grants Available for Roosevelt Island Community Organizations - Application Below

State Senator Jose Serrano provides the following information for Roosevelt Island organizations seeking funding for their projects.

Senator Serrano remains one of the few state legislators to release his list of legislative grants in a timely and accessible fashion.
As part of that commitment to transparency and accountability, the Senator wants to ensure that every organization working in the 28th District is aware of grant opportunities through his office.
Among Roosevelt Island community groups receiving funding in the past are the Roosevelt Island Historical Society ($5,000) and the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association ($8,000). The deadline for grant applications is February 15, 2008.
If your organization is seeking funding, here is an application form and list of previous grant recipients.
Good job by Senator Serrano in making this infomation widely available to his Roosevelt Island and other 28th Senatorial District constituents.

Search For a New Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director

A reader of this post asks:

Who will be the new Public Safety Director? How does one get to occupy that post? Is he or she appointed by the RIOC?
RIOC President Steve Shane answers:
As to the hiring of a new Public Safety Director, we will go through the
process of advising the Appointments Office, posting on our web site,
posting on job sites, word of mouth and personal referrals. Then we will
cull the applicants to make the head hunting process manageable and
proceed with interviews. Obviously, the education, experience,
personality, approach to the prospective position, etc. of the
applicants will bear on the selection process.

We are embarking on the recruiting process immediately as the position
needs filling. In the interim, Mr. Bryan, the deputy director will act
as the director. Mr. Martinez, the VP for Operations will continue to
take a close interest in the affairs of Public Safety, especially during
this transition.
Image of another type of Public Safety Director, Gary Cooper from the movie High Noon, is from Amazon.
You Tube video clip from High Noon is here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

1987 Historical Flashback - Sutton Place Residents Fear Liquid Waste from Roosevelt Island's Delacorte Geyser

Image by Judy Seigel

The Columbia Spectator (Columbia University's student newspaper) has an article today on one of Columbia's and New York City's most generous philanthropists, George T. Delacorte. Among his contributions to New York City Parks are Central Park's Alice in Wonderland Statue, the Central Park Zoo's Delacorte Clock and the Delacorte Theater, the site of the Shakespeare in the Park summer series.

His favorite contribution though was not in Central Park but in the East River just off the tip of Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park, the Delacorte Geyser pictured above. According to his 1991 obituary in the NY Times:
But of all his contributions, his own favorite remained the Delacorte geyser at the tip of Roosevelt Island. He and his wife called it "Delacorte's Folly." In 1969, Mr. Delacorte conceived the idea that New York should have a geyser equal to the Jet D'Eau in Lake Geneva, Switzerland.

His geyser, at 400 feet, was to be the highest fountain in the world, but many New Yorkers were outraged that, when built, the $350,000 jet spewed polluted East River water into the air. He was forced to chlorinate the fountain. Then the chlorination withered trees that Sutton Place residents had placed on the island to improve their view. Mr. Delacorte was more annoyed than moved by the complaints. He said his fountain was there before the trees.

In an editorial when the fountain was installed, The New York Times, citing the city's crucial needs and noting that the money might have been put to better use instead of being thrown "literally down the drain," called him "the wrong-way Corrigan of New York philanthropy."
As reported by the NY Times, from 1969 through 1987:
the Delacorte geyser pumped a graceful plume of East River water hundreds of feet skyward from Roosevelt Island four times a day.
What happened to the Delacorte Geyser? Why was it shut down and still not now working? The answer is that the Delacorte Fountain caused some to fear that:
''liquid waste was being flung 400 feet in the eyes and faces of people who lived on Sutton Place.'' The water was subsequently chlorinated (and, if it's any comfort, whatever was flung by the fountain more recently only reached about 240 feet high because of equipment problems).

Later, during the drought years, city officials expressed concern the geyser might be regarded as a symbol of conspicuous consumption - even though the water, most of which fell back into the East River, was unlikely to be consumed by anybody. The fountain was turned off. (Similar concerns were expressed when energy conservation was in vogue; the electric bill, some $10,000 a month, was paid by the city).
The Geyser finally stopped working in 1987 because of a faulty valve and never repaired.

Delacorte was ahead of his time in seeing the beauty of Water Geysers in an urban or city setting. Take a look at this You Tube video of the Water Fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Pretty Neat! Wouldn't a similar show in the East River be spectacular.

Top image of Delacorte Geyser is by artist Judy Seigel from ArtNet.
Bottom image is from Timeline of Roosevelt Island History.