Friday, January 25, 2008

Roosevelt Island - The Next Catalina Island or Return to 1970's South Bronx

Image is from Destination Catalina

Image is from NY Times

Today's Daily News has a profile of Roosevelt Island. Here are some highlights.
With the luxury of more parkland than apartment buildings, the island should be an idyllic Manhattan location with magnificent skyline views of three boroughs. For residents, however, it can also mean living with complex community politics.
A resident's opinion:
"For the most part we have lived off the good graces of New York State for the better part of the past 30 years," says Judith Berdy, president of the island's Historical Society.
"There are some who think we have suffered. Politics is a disease out here," adds Berdy, who has lived in three residences on the island in that time.
Another resident:
it's an urban ecological center with a small- town feel minutes from midtown. There is no other place in the world like it."
An opinion from RIOC management:
"You cannot do everything at once," says Shane, who according to some has made more progress in six months than several of his predecessors did in several years. "People may have got spoiled out here. Sometimes I think the residents forget what it is to live in Manhattan, the Bronx or Queens."
Nevertheless, renting retail space on Main St. is still a problem that needs fixing. Because of legislation enacted to prevent state-operated groups from committing fraud, it takes nine months to a year to go through the approval process to rent an 800-square-foot store on Roosevelt Island.
The reporter's verdict:
It's clear Roosevelt Island residents don't know how good they have it. Yes, they've worked hard to build a small-town feel and they deserve to maintain it, but they might want to try working with each other as opposed to against each other.
This is a fantastic and peaceful place to live. Without the complaints, lawsuits, constant jockeying for political representation and state problems with the retail, the island has a chance to become an outdoor wonderland with a front-view view to the finest skyline in the world. What could look like Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angles or the South Street Seaport instead resembles abandoned retail stretches of the South Bronx circa 1976. It's depressing, and the state needs to take a look.
As for the politics, I just hope the personal-interest groups don't turn a beautiful neighborhood into a hard place to live, or worse place to visit.
Fact check - Roosevelt Island's local Red Bus costs 25 cents not $1 unless the reporter is breaking some news that we don't know about.

Does Q Train + F Train = Happy Roosevelt Island Subway Commuters

Image from MTA

Image from MTA

Below is the unedited content of letter sent jointly by Roosevelt Island elected representatives to Howard Robert, President of the MTA concerning the problems of F line subway service as it effects Roosevelt Island. Be interesting to see what, if any, response from the MTA. They urge the MTA to extend the Q line:
through the 63rd Street tunnel, with a new terminus at 21st St./Queensbridge, would allow NYC Transit to increase service to Roosevelt Island by alternating Q trains with F trains, without adding any trains to the Queens Boulevard line.
Here is the letter.

January 22, 2008

Howard H. Roberts, Jr.
MTA New York City Transit
2 Broadway
New York, NY 10004

Dear President Roberts:

As elected officials representing the thousands of New Yorkers who live and work on Roosevelt Island, we urge you to address the developing crisis in the island’s mass transit link to Manhattan and the rest of New York City. Already, Roosevelt Islanders are faced with overcrowding on the island’s sole subway connection, the F line. With thousands more residents projected to join the island’s population in the near future, as well as a prolonged period of downtime planned for the Roosevelt Island tram, immediate action is required to prevent a transportation overload of critical proportions.

New development already underway is projected to increase the island’s population by as much as 80% – to more than 18,000 – within the next ten years. Many of these new residents will be arriving within the next year. Further affecting the island’s transportation situation, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation is planning a major overhaul of its tram system, a project that will entail suspending tram operations for approximately six to nine months, beginning in early 2009. During this time, the estimated 4,000 – 4,500 daily tram users will be forced to use alternative means of transportation – and, as in the case of previous tram outages, the great majority of them will use the subway. Additionally, repairs currently being made to the F train line have often eliminated weekend subway service to the island. Since these repairs are expected to continue while the tram is taken out of service, it will be increasingly difficult for residents of Roosevelt Island to travel between their homes and the rest of the City.

In a letter dated July 26, 2006, Councilmember Lappin urged to you consider means of improving subway service to Roosevelt Island, including the possibility of extending the Q line from the 57th Street/7th Avenue station in Manhattan to the 21st Street/Queensbridge station in Queens, thus increasing the number of trains able to serve Roosevelt Island. Councilmember Lappin wrote to you again on June 25, 2007, reiterating her concerns about rush hour service levels on the F line. In your response to Councilmember Lappin, dated July 27, you made no mention of the proposal to extend the Q line, instead focusing on the impossibility of adding additional F trains, due to the fact that “AM and PM F service is operating at full track and signal capacity along the Queens Blvd line.”

However, extending the Q line through the 63rd Street tunnel, with a new terminus at 21st St./Queensbridge, would allow NYC Transit to increase service to Roosevelt Island by alternating Q trains with F trains, without adding any trains to the Queens Boulevard line. It is our understanding that NYC Transit has, at times in the past, operated such a service via a currently-unused tunnel under Central Park. While we understand that this arrangement might eventually conflict with service plans for the Second Avenue line, we see no reason why it could not be undertaken as, at the very least, an interim measure.

In your response to Councilmember Lappin you stated that “our recent data continues to show that, on average, the F line operates within passenger loading guidelines.” While this may be true – though it conflicts with the daily experience of Roosevelt Island residents who ride the F line – it strikes us as a somewhat shortsighted view of the problem, in light of the island’s rapid population growth and the impending overhaul of the tram.

Given these realities, it is imperative that NYC Transit seriously consider ways to augment subway service to Roosevelt Island as soon as possible. We urge you to consider extending service on the Q line to 21st St./Queensbridge. If you believe this would not be practicable, we ask that you investigate alternate possibilities for increasing service to the rapidly growing population of Roosevelt Island.

Very truly yours,

Micah Z. Kellner Carolyn B. Maloney José M. Serrano Jessica S. Lappin
Assembly Member Member of Congress State Senator Council Member

cc: Stephen H. Shane, President, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation
Deborah VanAmerongen, Commissioner, NYS Division of Housing and Community
Matthew Katz, President, Roosevelt Island Residents Association

Experimental East River Transport Service for Roosevelt Island - Who needs the Tram, Subway, Escalators or Ferry! Part 2

You Tube Video of Rope bridge on Nujiang River, Yunan Province China is here.

Since it is Friday it must mean another weekend without full F Train subway service for Roosevelt Island. Just like last weekend and the two prior, there will be no Queens bound F Trains stopping at Roosevelt Island but there will be Manhattan bound F trains service from Roosevelt Island. These service interruptions are scheduled to continue for one more weekend.

Last week, our crack sources discovered this alternative MTA and RIOC plan to get Roosevelt Islanders over the East River in an emergency or as an alternative to the subway and when the Tram is shut down next year for at least 7 months for repairs.

We now know of two more secret sites where testing is under way for Roosevelt Island alternative transportation systems. The one above is over the Nujiang River in Yunan Province China and the one below is over the Urubamba River in Peru. I certainly feel better now knowing that such plans are being considered for Roosevelt Island's future!

You Tube video of Crossing Peru's Urubamba River in a box is here.

Here is the MTA F Train weekend subway advisory.

Queens-bound trains run on the V from 47-50 Sts to Roosevelt Av
Weekends until Feb 4
12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

How does this affect my trip?
~~ For service to 57 St, take the F to 5 Av-53 St and walk.

~~ For service to Lexington Av-63 St, take the F to Lexington-53 St and transfer to an uptown 4 or 6 to 59 St and walk.

~~ For service to Roosevelt Island and 21-St Queensbridge, take the F to Roosevelt Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound F.

~~ For service from 57 St, Lexington Av-63 St, Roosevelt Island, and 21 St-Queensbridge, take a downtown F to 47-50 Sts and transfer to a Queens-bound F.

Why is service being changed?
We are making electrical improvements to ensure that trains continue
to operate safely along the F line.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Assembly Member Kellner's Statement on Rescission of FMV Tax Bill

Below is unedited statement by Assembly Member Micah Kellner addressing the rescission of Fair Market Value Equivalency Tax bills recently issued to the Rivercross, Westview and Island House buildings.

January 24, 2008

Rivercross, Westview, and Island House Tax Bill Rescinded
Statement by Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner

“Yesterday, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) Chairman Patrick J. Foye announced that after considering the input of residents, owners, and local elected officials, ESDC has decided to rescind the tax bills sent last September to Westview, Island House, and Rivercross and to continue to allow the buildings to receive their tax exemptions as long as they remain in the Mitchell-Lama program. I’m glad to see, after six months of playing keystones cops, that the administration has finally come to its senses and rescinded this unfair tax bill.

“When the tax bills were first received, they put the future of affordability for Mitchell-Lamas on Roosevelt Island in peril. I immediately wrote to the Governor expressing my frustration over the disparate treatment that Roosevelt Island residents were receiving. Every other Mitchell-Lama in New York City receives this tax exemption, and Roosevelt Island should not be treated any differently. In 2005, after authorization from the State Legislature, the New York City Council passed Resolution No. 388-A, extending real property tax exemptions for 50 more years to housing companies if their buildings remain in the Mitchell-Lama program. Rivercross, Westview, and Island House are still in that program.

“I could never understand how the administration could argue that threatening to raise taxes was an appropriate tactic to bullying struggling tenants and shareholders into remaining in the Mitchell-Lama program. This was a dangerous game of chicken that could have gone horribly wrong, costing thousands of families their homes.

“Sadly, ESDC was driving this process blind because they did not have all the facts. When it was clear that the administration was not aware of the impact the tax bill would have on the standing of Rivercross’ Community Preservation Corporation loan – it might have caused Rivercross to be forced to raise maintenance levels for shareholders by as much as 60% – I made sure that they were informed. I’m glad to see that everyone is finally on the same page. I only wish that it had not taken six months and that Roosevelt Islanders could have been spared the frustration and the anxiety that comes from your home being threatened.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, this issue is far from settled and the devil is always in the details. As we go forward I will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the ground lease amendments are negotiated in such a way such that retroactive, unfair taxes are never again a possibility that looms over the heads of Islanders.”

All Ten Roosevelt Island Subway Escalators Out of Service - Pass the Oxygen Cannisters

Roosevelt Islanders using the subway should be prepared with oxygen cannisters as they make their way up the 157 steps from the subway platform to the street today because Roosevelt Island 360 is reporting that:

Today is an extemely bad day for the subway escalators at Roosevelt Island. Ten Escalators are out of service. Ten out of Ten. This is absolutely ridiculous and who ever the station manager is should be in big trouble for not demanding repair crews working all night to fix the escaltors that are not even under construction.
MTA elevator status page is here.

What happened to these new escalators just installed?

Image by Kevin Smith

Maybe the MTA needs to read this from How Stuff Works on escalators:
The core of an escalator is a pair of chains, looped around two pairs of gears. An electric motor turns the drive gears at the top, which rotate the chain loops. A typical escalator uses a 100 horsepower motor to rotate the gears. The motor and chain system are housed inside the truss, a metal structure extending between two floors. Instead of moving a flat surface, as in a conveyer belt, the chain loops move a series of steps. The coolest thing about an escalator is the way these steps move. As the chains move, the steps always stay level. At the top and bottom of the escalator, the steps collapse on each other, creating a flat platform. This makes it easier to get on and off the escalator.
You Tube Escalator video is here.

UPDATE - 9:20 PM: MTA Emergency Escalator SWAT team to the rescue. MTA elevator status page is now reporting only 6 of the 10 Roosevelt Island escalators are out of service.

Senator Jose Serrano Hosts Roosevelt Island Housing Forum, Thursday February 7


Co-sponsored by:
Eastwood Residents Association
Eviction Intervention Services

• Unexpected increases for market rate tenants?
• Problems with enhanced vouchers?
• Unresponsiveness from government agencies?

Come Thursday evening for a community forum followed by
one-on-one attention from people in the know. Confirmed at-
tendees include representatives from Urban American, Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), Center
for Independence of the Disabled NY, Citywide Task Force on
Housing Court, and Legal Director Paul Kushner at EIS.


Church of the Good Shepherd
543 Main Street
Thursday, February 7th
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

NYU Ante's Up $43 Million For Roosevelt Island Faculty Housing - If You Subsidize, Will Profs Leave Greenwich Village for Roosevelt Island?

Will NYU faculty members prefer renting here

Greenwich Village map Image from New York City 2005

or owning here

Image of Riverwalk Roosevelt Island buildings from Hungry Hyaena

New York University purchased on a bulk basis 58 discounted, pre-construction condominium units for $43 million as faculty housing from the Hudson/Related developers of Roosevelt Island's already occupied Riverwalk Building 4. The building is a combination market rate rental for the general public and condo ownership for NYU faculty. According to the Washington Square News,
"We're trying to create another community on Roosevelt Island," said Sara Goonan, finance director for faculty housing and residential services. "It's kind of like the suburbs in the city. It's so close; it's only 20 minutes on the subway to NYU, but it's so pretty and quiet."
The reason for NYU's Roosevelt Island investment is to: up rentals and provide a new option for incoming faculty, Goonan said. In 2005, faculty housing offered a loan program that was intended to help faculty purchase their own homes in exchange for moving out of NYU rentals. However, only 10 faculty members signed up for the program, Goonan said.
To date only 12 of the 58 units have been sold to faculty members. Is NYU having trouble persuading faculty members currently living in Greenwich Village to hop on the F Train to Roosevelt Island even with below market condo prices?

How will Roosevelt Island residents react to our new neighbors? The Roosevelt Island Residents Association President:
...feels the presence of "professional folk" on the island is an asset.

"I think if [the NYU faculty] can expand themselves into thinking of this as more than just a bedroom community, they will find a very rich society out here," he said.

However, Katz and many other island residents are unhappy about aspects of the new upscale developments that are going up on the island, including Riverwalk.

"We don't want to be a gentrified community," he said. "We don't want to be a gated community."
I say welcome to the hood Profs and jump right in - the water is fine right here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Roosevelt Island Tram

I thought this was a nice photo of the Roosevelt Island Tram from a perspective one does not usually see facing the 59th Street Bridge.

Image by Yilenes

Last Night's CPB 8 Meeting - Trust Kahn or Kahn Go Home?

Nothing much got settled at last night's Community Planning Board 8 Roosevelt Island Committee meeting on Southpoint Park and the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR memorial. It was an opportunity for the proponents and opponents of the project to express their positions to members of the Community Board which is a very good thing. For the most part, the Community Board members were not aware of the issues or history of the project but were very interested in learning which is also a good thing. None of the other item agendas such as the future of Coler- Goldwater hospital or Roosevelt Island transportation issues were discussed since the entire 2 plus hours were spent on the Kahn project.

What is clear from last night event is that this is about the Louis Kahn Memorial not a Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial.

Advocates of the project made the following points:

  1. detailed what a great President FDR was,
  2. how the Kahn design is an architectural masterpiece,
  3. claimed that Roosevelt Island residents and users of Southpoint Park have no greater say over the ultimate fate of the Park than the rest of the world and
  4. those who oppose the Kahn design do not understand it and are not qualified to judge it unless they are architects.
In the words of one advocate for the design "Trust Kahn".

Opponents of the Kahn design:
  1. admire FDR as much as anyone but do not think the Kahn design honors FDR but rather honors Kahn,
  2. do not want the current views destroyed by the Kahn design (the proponents deny this will occur),
  3. want a real waterfront park to play and relax in not a solemn memorial more suited for the National Mall in Washington DC
  4. state that Roosevelt Island residents and users of Southpoint Park do have a greater say in the outcome since we will have to live with the ultimate decision on the fate of Southpoint Park on a daily basis unlike others who may visit once in their life and funds earmarked from Roosevelt Island are being used to pay for the park.
  5. object to the claim that only architects can judge the Kahn design as an example of elitist snobbery at it's very worst.
Roosevelt Island 360 has an excellent summary of the evening as well as some additional images of the Kahn design.

There will be a Roosevelt Island Town Hall meeting on this sometime is February or March.

Image of Louis Kahn from Design 20.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gorgeous Mermaid Comes Ashore at Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island - Can She Save Waterfront Views From Louis Kahn/FDR Mausoleum?

Image from RAKURS Architects

The Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Planning Board 8 will be holding a public hearing tonight at 7 PM in the Good Shepherd Church Community Center (543 Main Street) to discuss these important issues facing Roosevelt Island:
  1. the future of Coler-Goldwater Hospital;
  2. Tram and F Train transportation issues and
  3. the future development of Southpoint Park including the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR Mausoleum. Sorry, they call it a Memorial.
An advertisement in the 1/12/08 Main Street WIRE (PDF File) announced that proponents of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial were bringing some heavy hitters - Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Founder William vanden Heuvel and architect James Polshek - out to Roosevelt Island to attend the community board meeting and advocate on behalf of their cherished project. As an aside, I wonder when was the last time during the prior 35 years of failure to build the Kahn project that either of these gentlemen visited Roosevelt Island or talked to some of the residents and users of Southpoint Park.

As readers of this blog know, I and many others are adamantly opposed to the Kahn project because it will block and destroy unique one-of-a-kind waterfront views from Southpoint Park of the East River and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan Skyline.

This is the view as currently exists from Southpoint Park.

Click on this link for the full beautiful panoramic effect.

Here is a You Tube video with a 360 degree view from Southpoint Park.

Now take a look at the proposed Louis Kahn project.

Image from Architectural Record

Below image from Cooper Union Exhibit

Image from NY Times

It is an indisputable fact that the one-of-a-kind, awesome and beautiful, panoramic views of the East River waterfront and Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan skyline pictured above that are currently available from any spot at the southern end of Southpoint Park will be blocked and lost forever by the construction and placement of the proposed Louis Kahn/FDR concrete and granite memorial at the tip of Southpoint Park.

Why is that? Take a look again at the panoramic image and 360 You Tube video of the view from Southpoint Park that will be blocked by the Kahn memorial. Compare the contrasting views. There is a huge difference between the open panoramic waterfront views that currently exist at Southpoint Park or those contemplated in the Trust for the Public Land's Wild Gardens/Green Rooms (PDF File) plan and that envisioned by the Louis Kahn design with:
V-shaped promenades leading to an open space with granite walls, framing views to the south and west of the river and Manhattan towers, including the U.N. complex.
It is precisely the intended "framing views" of the design which destroys the open panoramic beauty of the East River waterfront and New York City skyline views that currently exists at Southpoint Park and is the reason why the Louis Kahn project must not be built at the proposed site.

The proponents of the Louis Kahn project are also trying to scare residents into accepting the Kahn memorial by claiming that luxury condos will be built at Southpoint Park if the Kahn project is not approved. According to Councilmember Jessica Lappin:
''If the FDR memorial doesn't happen, there's no other plan for those three acres. People could put up luxury condos. It's up for grabs, and that makes me nervous.''
Councilmember Lappin knows this to be untrue yet still makes such a false and misleading statement. There is a plan for Southpoint Park developed by the Trust for the Public Land (TPL) called Wild Gardens/Green Rooms which won the support of the Roosevelt Island community. The projected cost for TPL's entire 10 acre plan for Southpoint Park without the inclusion of the Louis Kahn memorial is estimated at $30-40 million. In contrast to the price tag for the TPL plan, the cost for the purported Louis Kahn memorial to FDR is estimated at $40 million for only three of Southpoint Park's 10 acres. In the past supporters of the Louis Kahn memorial claimed that they would raise these funds through private supporters. After 35 years of failure they are now turning to the public for taxpayer funds to finance this project according to their fundraiser as reported in the Daily News:
Gina Pollara, who manages the institute's fundraising effort, said she expected an infusion of more money soon. ''We hope this will include contributions from the city and the state, as they promised when this project began 35 years ago,'' she said.
In this time of City and State funding and service cutbacks, the Louis Kahn memorial should not be allowed to feed at the public trough.

I believe that for many of the proponents of this project, it is more of a memorial to the architect Louis Kahn and the desire to have one of his designs built in New York City than it is to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indeed Roosevelt himself had this to say about a memorial in his honor:
According to W. Averell Harriman, who served Roosevelt as a special envoy and ambassador, the president told Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941 that he wanted his monument to be a block of stone “about the size of this” — putting his hand on his desk — in front of the National Archives Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. When that memorial was dedicated in 1965, Mr. Harriman said: “It was characteristic of Franklin Roosevelt that he proposed so modest a commemoration. He did not care about monuments of stone.”
Yes, let us honor President Roosevelt but not by going against his express wishes which is what the Kahn design does. Any number of honors would be more appropriate than the Kahn design such as naming Southpoint Park for him and/or placing a more appropriate memorial, perhaps by the Coler-Goldwater Rehabilitation Hospital, to him on Roosevelt Island such as this on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Image of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial from National Park Service

Finally for now, Roosevelt Island residents and the people of NYC deserve to have a real waterfront park at Southpoint. A place where you can enjoy open and unbroken views of the East River and New York City skyline, throw a Frisbee, have a catch, fly a kite, view outdoor movies, maybe have a summer beach like that at Long Island City's Water Taxi Beach, attend temporary exhibits like the public art installation of The Encampment and just have some fun. Roosevelt Island is a residential neighborhood and not a place for memorials like those at the National Mall in Washington DC.

Image of the Encampment from the Weblicist of Manhattan

Jumping from Southpoint Park images from Brooklyn Hillary via Roosevelt Island 360

Image of Water Taxi Beach from Eater.

Here's hoping that the Southpoint Park mermaid will be able to stop the Louis Kahn memorial just as Marina, the mermaid from the 1983 Bill Forsyth movie Local Hero starring Peter Reigert and Burt Lancaster, was able to stop the destruction of a small Scottish fishing village from the building of an Oil refinery.

The Mermaid image is from a submission to a 2006 architectural competition sponsored by the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) titled Southpoint: From Ruin to Rejuvenation.
The submission was from Moscow based RAKURS Architects.

UPDATE 2/8- Roosevelt Island 360 shows this version of the views from Southpoint Park as it currently exists

and his take with the Kahn/FDR Memorial' V shaped Linden trees.

Quite a difference don't you think?

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Roosevelt Islander's Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The third Monday in January has been designated as a Federal holiday in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was born January 15, 1929 and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

An excerpt from his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".
...An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in it's application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.
Here is audio of the Birmingham letter.

Pride (In The Name of Love) is U2's Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.
Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

In the name of love
What more in the name of love.
In the name of love
What more in the name of love.
A You Tube video of U2's Pride interlaced with a slide show of Dr. King's speeches and news clips.