Friday, April 4, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated 40 years Ago Today

Sadly, today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. on a Memphis Tennessee motel balcony. He was 39 years old.

Here's a You Tube video following Dr. King from Birmingham Alabama to his last speech in Memphis before he was killed.

And a You Tube video of Robert Kennedy's speech after learning of King's assassination.

How might the United States been different had these two men not been killed?

An excerpt and audio of King's Letter from a Birmingham jail is here.

Here's how the BBC reported on the assassination at the time.

No Weekend F Train Service to Manhattan From Roosevelt Island - But Meet the Roosevelt Island Tram's Bilbao Grandfather, Biscay Transporter Bridge

F Train T shirt image from Everything NYC

The MTA is reporting that there will be no Manhattan bound F Train service from Roosevelt Island this weekend.

How do other cities transport people and vehicles over rivers? Was this the Roosevelt Island Tram's Grandfather? From UNESCO:
At the end of the 19th century, Martín Alberto de Palacio y Elissague was given the task of building a bridge over the Nervión, in the Basque country (Spain), with one prerequisite: uninterrupted river traffic. To meet the challenge, the engineer dreamed up the first metallic bridge with a gondola.
Take a look at this You Tube video of the Biscay Transporter Bridge located in Bilbao Spain.

Here is another similar type of gondola bridge, the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge in North-East England.

You Tube Video here.

Roosevelt Island Magnolia Tour on Saturday April 5 and Cherry Blossom Tour on April 20

Top and Bottom image from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society

Let's hope for some nice weather on Saturday. The Roosevelt Island Historical Society is conducting a:

Magnolia Walk
Lighthouse Tour

Roosevelt Island Historical Society

Join us on Saturday, April 5th

for a flower walk on the north end of the island.

Meet outside the Octagon

at 11 a.m.


$5- to the RIHS

There will also be an April 20 Cherry Blossom Tour.

Brooklyn blogger the Flatbush Gardener reports that Saturday is also:
the official opening of Hanami, the Cherry Blossom Viewing Season, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Last week, inspired by the success of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitors group on Flickr, BBG launched a new Flickr group, Hanami: Cherry Blossom Viewing at Brooklyn Botanic Garden...
After taking the Roosevelt Island Magnolia Tour head over to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for some Cherry Blossom viewing. Let's hope for some sun and nice warm weather. I have Yankee tickets.

Is Roosevelt Island Part of Manhattan or Queens - Daily News Thinks Queens

Image of Queens Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park from Streetsblog

Roosevelt Island rarely receives any newspaper coverage from the three major daily New York City newspapers so I am pleasantly surprised to see that this week the Daily News covered three Roosevelt Island stories - two of news value and one a human interest story. The two news stories are of great importance for Roosevelt Islanders.

On April 1, the Daily News reported on the Town Hall meeting for the Louis Kahn memorial with an article entitled "Time Running out for FDR Memorial". We can all hope this is true. Also on April 1 was a story about Roosevelt Island resident Judy Berdy's new book celebrating the Queensboro Bridge and today there was a news article on the impact of Elliot Spitzer's resignation and replacement by David Patterson as Governor for appointing the winners of the recent election for nominees to the RIOC Board of Directors.

I think it is great that the Daily News is covering Roosevelt Island but why in the Queens section of the newspaper and not Manhattan. Roosevelt Island is part of Manhattan - isn't it.

Not that there is anything wrong with Queens - to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld

Yout Tube video link here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What Sound Does Roosevelt Island Make? A New Participatory Public Art Film Project!

Image from Forgotten NY © 2001 Chet Wilson

Have you ever wondered what is the sound or music emanating from Roosevelt Island. Is it the soothing tones of the East River waterfront at day or night, the majestic trumpets of New York City's day and night skyline, the jazz like multitude of languages from the nearby United Nations, or the piercing cries and anguished wailing from the ghosts still inhabiting the Octagon Lunatic Asylum and Renwick Ruins Smallpox hospital? Most likely, it is some combination of all plus much more.

A film is being made about the Roosevelt Island community and its music called A Necessary Music. The film's creators are seeking the further participation of residents and are holding a meeting at Roosevelt Island's Gallery RIVAA (527 Main Street) this Saturday April, 5 from 11AM - 3PM. A Necessary Music will be exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Storefront for Art and Architecture in May and June 2008. The film A Necessary Music is:
The second in a trilogy of works concerning sound and social space, A Necessary Music investigates the modernist, utopian, social housing community of New York's Roosevelt Island. Exploring the social imaginary of a bordered landscape, through the voices that inhabit it, A Necessary Music is a film about Islands and their Music. Referencing the video operas of Robert Ashley and employing the Island's residents as its authors and actors, the film will set up musical parameters around found and encountered everydays situations and events, facts and fictions, re-contexutalizing them by rescripting and re-staging them for film
Here is a message from A Necessary Music's creators:

A Necessary Music


Dear Roosevelt Islanders,

We would like to invite you to come to a casting session for the film ‘A Necessary Music.’
Several weeks ago we posted a letter and questionnaire in the WIRE and online at our website asking you to take part in the creation of a film about island music, or in particular the music of Roosevelt Island. We invited you to be a part of our process and part of our film, to be
its authors and its actors. We started by listening to the island, to you, and asking a series of questions about your lives and the sounds that define them. We’ve received an amazing amount of stories, facts, fictions and thoughts, and have started to organize these in the form of
a script. The script takes its cue from all that you have shared with us, and from other ideas about islands that resonate in their spatial
and cultural imaginary.

We would now like extend the invitation to you once more to help us enact this script, to become the characters that animate its text and populate its story. If you’d like to take part please email the address below in advance and simply show up on Saturday. We will
hold a rehearsal for those cast the following Saturday and will shoot the actual film during the week of the 14th April. For a little more information about the project please see

Beatrice Gibson and Alex Waterman

Saturday 5th April
Gallery RIVAA
11am - 3pm
A Necessary Music will be exhibited by the Whitney Museum of American Art, and
Storefront for Art and Architecture in May and June 2008. A Necessary Music
is funded by The Graham Foundation and Arts Council England.

Assembly Member Kellner's Support of Roosevelt Island Community To Be Communicated to Governor Patterson

Image from Newsday

At last night's Roosevelt Island Common Council Meeting it was reported that Assembly Member Micah Kellner will be meeting next week with Governor Patterson's representatives to discuss issues facing the Roosevelt Island community. I hope those issues include:
  1. status of affordable housing and Mitchell-Lama program on Roosevelt Island,
  2. exemption of Main Street retail from the Public Authorities Act
  3. appointment of the elected nominees to the RIOC Board
  4. opposition by residents to the Louis Kahn memorial but residents favor a true memorial to FDR
  5. Increasingly overburdened Roosevelt Island transportation infrastructure.
Below is copy of April 1, 2008 letter sent from Assembly Member Kellner to Governor Patterson requesting the Governor to re-schedule the the vetting interviews for the winners of the RIOC Board nomination vote, and to appoint them if they pass the vetting process. Note that Kellner references the anniversary of RIOC's creation - April 1 - April Fools Day.

How fitting. Now I understand. It has all been one big joke!

April 1, 2008

Governor David Paterson
Executive Chamber
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

I am writing on behalf of the residents of Roosevelt Island on this, the forty-first anniversary
of the creation of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), a public benefit corporation which governs the island and whose board members are appointed by you as Governor. For many years now, Roosevelt Islanders have sought a greater role and a more democratic voice in determining the future direction and operation of their island home.

In response to the islanders’ calls for better representation on the RIOC Board of Directors
and in the affairs of running the island, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) held an Island-wide referendum on February 5, 2008 to reccomend residents’ choices for filling the six vacant or expired Board seats.

Turnout for this historic vote was unprecedented. More people voted for the RIOC Board
than in the Presidential primary or for Governor in the 2006 election. Altogether, 1,718 residents came out and cast ballots.

The top six candidates were Kathie Grimm, Jonathan Kalkin, Frank Farance, Erin Feely-
Nahem, Fay Christian, and Howard Polivy. These individuals truly represent the diverse nature of Roosevelt Island and include a pediatrician, lawyer/entrepreneur, systems analyst, social worker (who runs a women’s shelter), teacher, and an actuary. Together they represent hundreds of years of Island residency and activism.

Former Governor Spitzer was gracious enough to begin the vetting process by scheduling
interviews with each of the winning candidates and his Appointments office. However, these
appointments were understandably cancelled during the recent transition to your administration. It is my hope that you will pick up where former Governor Spitzer left off and these interviews can quickly be re-scheduled so that the vetting process can go forward.

I believe that the recommendation vote was a stunning example of civic activism and
democracy in action, and I hope that you share in that sentiment. I am very supportive of the process undertaken by the residents of Roosevelt Island, and I request that, if they are successfully vetted, you appoint the six winning candidates to the RIOC Board of Directors so that, as set out by statute, they may be confirmed by the State Senate as swifty as possible.

I very much look forward to working with your administration, and I know that you will be a
friend to Roosevelt Island’s thousands of residents. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Very truly yours,

Micah Z. Kellner
Assembly Member

cc: Matthew Katz, President, Roosevelt Island Residents Association
David Bauer, Chair, Maple Tree Group
Deborah VanAmerongen, Chair, RIOC Board of Directors
Stephen H. Shane, President, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation
Charles O’Byrne, Secretary to the Governor
Carl Andrews, Deputy Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Governor
James Clancy, Director of Legislative Affairs, Office of the Governor

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

RIOC Real Estate Development Advisory Committee Meeting Today - Any Progress on Main Street Retail Vacancies?

Among the items on the agenda are a review of the leasing status of current tenants as well as prospective tenants for the existing vacant stores. It will be interesting to see if any progress has been made on applying the New York State Public Authorities Act to Roosevelt Island Main Street retail vacancies. The issue, as explained by DHCR Commissioner VanAmerongen to the January 10 2008 Main Street Wire, is the following:

"There are parts of the Public Authorities Accountability law that make it more cumbersome for RIOC, but they are the same laws that apply to the Queens West Development Corporation and to the Battery Park City Authority and some other, not dissimilar developments. We have been trying to work with the Attorney General’s office to gain greater flexibility but, clearly, the law was not written with the idea of doing rental leases on Main Street. We have to comply with the law but we are trying to gain some greater flexibility." [The Public Authorities Accountability Act, passed in response to a Pataki administration attempt to give Erie Canal land to a developer at bargain prices, and in response to the MTA’s proposed sale of development rights over the West Side railyards, provides that State authorities like RIOC must get top dollar for the State’s properties, or have a good reason not to do so. This generally entails competitive bidding, requests for proposals, and detailed financial representations – something "mom and pop" merchants are unwilling or unable to do.]
RIOC President Shane had this to say in January Main Street WIRE:
Northtown Commercial Leasing: Unhappy to report that there is no progress in resolving the paralysis of the marketing of the vacant stores on Main Street. The application, pushed by Assemblymember Micah Kellner, to the Attorney General for an opinion that would permit RIOC to go forward without the cumbersome steps required by the law, languishes without decision. The legislation introduced by Assemblymember Kellner is grounded in Albany, like almost everything else. I have canvassed some of the commercial brokers in Astoria to get a feel for what would be involved in the appraisal process if RIOC has to go that route. Negotiations with all of the existing tenants has taken place to give them the security of leases so as to encourage interior improvement.
Here is the Public Notice of today's RIOC Real Estate Development Advisory Committee Meeting:

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a meeting of the Real Estate Development Advisory Committee of the RIOC Board of Directors will be held on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. at the RIOC administrative office, 591 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, New York. The committee will meet to:

1. Review present tenant leasing status;
2. Review prospective leasing for vacant stores;
3. Discuss Orphans International use of 559 Main Street (formerly Montauk Credit Union);
4. Discuss lease extensions for Dayspring Church and Trellis Restaurant;
5. Discuss current issues at the Motorgate parking facility;
6. Discuss Public Safety alternate plans to expand and rehabilitate in present space; and
7. Discuss such other business as may come before the Committee

Rosemarie & Robin Russell Family Concert Series - 7 PM, Saturday April 5 - Chapel of the Good Shepherd

A reader sends in this information about a very worthwhile event here on Roosevelt Island. A concert series to continue the work and music legacy of Rosemarie and Robin Russell.

The Rosemarie & Robin Russell Family Concert Series on Roosevelt Island

Rosemarie and Robin Russell, through their love of music and generosity of spirit, brought world-class concerts and music education to Roosevelt Island. To build upon this legacy, R&R Concerts is bringing highly accomplished musicians to a new generation of Roosevelt Island families.

Admission is FREE so concerts are accessible to everyone including children, who are encouraged to come and enjoy. Any contributions at the door will support future concerts.
Here is some more information on the program:
Mozart • Kodály • Beethoven

Ralph Allen, violin
Junah Chung, viola
Iris Jortner, cello
Saturday April 5 at 7:00 PM
Chapel of the Good Shepherd
543 Main Street, Roosevelt Island

Admission is FREE. Contributions welcome.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Preludes to Fugues by Bach for String Trio
Zoltan Kodály
Duo for Violin and Cello, Opus 7
Ludwig van Beethoven
String Trio Opus 9 in G Major
The March 10 2007 Main Street WIRE reports on Robin Russell's legacy:
Though a resident of Greenwich Village, Robin Russell made himself a major figure in the cultural life of Roosevelt Island a dozen years ago as the founder of River Music, which put on an annual St. Patrick’s Day concert and dance performance at the Good Shepherd Community Center. He brought classical artists of considerable note to the Island, including guitarist Eliot Fisk, who was videotaped here for a film about Carnegie Hall’s program of neighborhood concerts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Iraqi Shiite Cleric Bids to Re-Develop Roosevelt Island as Sadr City 2

We all know that Roosevelt Island has too often been treated like an unwanted step-child by the State of New York but, despite the severe fiscal and budgetary problems being experienced by New York, I never thought the State of NY would sell off its leasehold interest in Roosevelt Island to Iraq's Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It has been reported that:

With the US real estate market in the crapper, Iraqi Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has taken an incredible gamble by bidding on some prime Manhattan properties

... This research has led to a plan to turn Roosevelt Island into a fundamentalist Muslim Shiite enclave across the 59th street Bridge. Muqtada al-Sadr told the NY press that he could not wait to hear the Islamic call to prayer echo across the East River and through the canyons of NYC skyscrapers: "On Roosevelt Island, soon to be renamed Sadr City II, we will follow Sharia law...
The supporters of the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial are not concerned with these new circumstances. After all, they can easily remove the name of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the 4 freedoms inscription from the memorial walls and retain the Louis Kahn design without making any alterations to the basic memorial structure - the stewardship of the Louis Kahn legacy being most important to them anyway.

Have you gotten over the shock yet? Take a deep breath.

The story is fictional. It was written by the satire site The Spoof. My contribution was the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial portion. Hat tip to Roosevelt Island 360.


Image from english-blogs

Roosevelt Island Monthly Tuesday Constituent Service from State Senator Serrano

Today is the first Tuesday of the month so representatives from State Senator Jose Serrano's office will be holding constituent service hours today on Roosevelt Island. Here is some more information:

State Senator José M. Serrano
Constituent Hours on Roosevelt Island
Who: Everyone is welcomed, no appointments necessary
When: First Tuesday of every month*
Time: 3-7pm Where: RIOC Offices, 591 Main Street Ground Floor
For more information, please call (212) 828-5829

Constituents should bring photocopies of any paperwork related to their cases so that Serrano staff can effectively and efficiently address the issue.

Graffiti and Dog Dropping Eyesores at Octagon Boat Prow Dock

While walking towards the Octagon Park this past weekend, I passed by the West Promenade dock shaped like the prow of a boat and was disgusted by the amount of graffiti plastered all over it. The graffiti strewn dock, both inside and out, is quite an eyesore and has been like that for years. It should be cleaned up. Is this the responsibility of RIOC, the Octagon owners or someone else? Whoever is responsible has neglected this area for a very long time and should clean the area immediately. There is also plenty of dog droppings in the grassy area surrounding the dock. It is obvious that dog owners are not cleaning up after their pets and should start to do so or the Public Safety Department should start issuing some tickets.

The NY Times FYI column from 2000 provides some more information on Roosevelt Island's protruding rusty old ship's prow:

It's a performance stage and observation platform, built over an old boat landing in 1997 and designed to look . . . well, like a ship's prow. It projects about 50 feet out into the West Channel, and consists of a flat, unadorned concrete wedge clad with rusty plates of steel. Two small slots near the tip -- presumably for imaginary anchor chains -- are the only real nautical embellishment, though a few heavy mooring posts have been placed nearby.
Today's Metro reports on how graffiti problem was eliminated in the subway system:
“We had to put in place not only clean trains, but the means to keep them clean,” he said. “We also decided that once you put out a clean train it would never go out dirty. If we could keep them clean, we could make a projection as to when the last train with graffiti would run.”

...In a train yard at 132nd Street, the graffiti was sophisticated. With the same trains laid up every evening, taggers could take their time: one night for an undercoat, the next for an outline and the third for color.
“These kids worked three nights, all night long, until they had something they were proud of,” Gunn said. “Just before the train would go into service ... we’d have cops dressed as car cleaners come in to slosh paint all over it. The kids would be in hysterics, literally, crying and begging you to let it make just one trip.”
Let's get the Octagon boat prow dock cleaned up!

World Trade Center Memorial Slowly Going Forward But Let's Not Forget the Tribute In Light!

Image from NY Times (Rendering: Squared Design Lab)

The March 27 NY Times City Room reported:
A $103.9 million concrete contract, the largest single construction contract for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, was awarded Thursday to a company in Long Island City, Queens, that has not yet performed work at ground zero.
... steel erection for the $530 million memorial is scheduled to begin this summer.
Gothamist reminds us that:
The WTC memorial, officially known as the National September 11 Memorial, was originally scheduled to open next year but is delayed until 2011 (construction began in 2006 but the memorial has been plagued with design changes, controversy and questions).
I have always thought that the Tribute in Light is the most moving and appropriate memorial for remembering the events of 9/11/01 and should be the permanent World Trade Center memorial. A poll question on this topic is posted on the right side of the page. The question is "Should the Tribute in Light be made a permanent fixture to the New York City Skyline"?

Here is a You Tube video of Assembling the Tribute In Light.

Monday, March 31, 2008

At least No Roosevelt Islander Run Over By Own Car But More Public Safety Incidents at Motorgate Garage

You Tube video of parking garage moron

There were several more public safety incidents at the Motorgate Parking garage last week. From the Roosevelt Island 24 hour Public Safety Incident reports:

3/29/08-700 AM to 3/30/08-700 AM
Petit Larceny- At 688 Main Street (Motorgate Garage) A vehicle parked that had the hatch lock previously damaged. Unknown subject gained entry and took an EZ pass and a transistor radio.
NYPD refused.

3/28/08-077 AM to 3/29/08-700 AM Petit Larceny
At 688 Main Street (Motorgate Garage) a vehicle's window was broken and a bag was taken. NYPD responded and prepared a report. PSD conducted a search for the subject yielded negative results.

Criminal Mischief- At 688 main street (Motorgate Garage) a Vehicle's window was broken. PSD responded conducted a search for the subject with negative results. Complainant will go to the 114 th Precinct and file a report.

Found Property- At 688 Main Street (Motorgate Garage) a black bag was turned over to the PSD where it was secured.

0700 hrs 03/25/08 - 0700 hrs 03/26/08
Unsecured vehicle - Officer observed unsecured vehicle in garage.
Owner notified and corrected condition.

3/23/08-700 AM to 3/24/08-700 AM
Loose Animal-At 688 Main Street (Motorgate Garage) PSD receive a report
of a loose beaver. Search made with negative results.

You can help by remembering to keep your car doors, windows and trunks locked. Also, don't follow any parking or garage safety tips from people like the guy in the video who get run over by their own car.

The full Roosevelt Island Public Safety Incident reports from January 19 to date are here. For comparison purposes here is the Police Blotter for Brooklyn neighborhoods including Park Slope, Williamsburg, Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights from The Brooklyn Paper.