Friday, June 13, 2008

Tramless Roosevelt Island Weekend But Regular F Train Subway Service and the Red Bus Will Go To and From Manhattan

Image of Roosevelt Island Tram Gear from itofoto

This will be the first Tramless weekend for Roosevelt Islanders during these current repairs. The MTA reports that there will be regular F train subway service to and from Roosevelt Island this weekend. In addition, RIOC will be providing weekend Red Bus service to and from Manhattan. From RIOC:
Weekend Manhattan-Bound Bus Service:
From 7am to 11pm. Departing on the hour from Gristedes on Roosevelt Island.
Drop-off at Second Avenue and 60th Street.
Departing on the half hour from Second Avenue and 60th Street.
Be aware that the Red Bus service to Manhattan is an experiment. If it is not used, the service may be discontinued.

The reason for the Tram shutdown is that the track rope must be slipped. Let's hope that we do not get a repeat of this incident as reported in the January 2002 Main Street WIRE:
The Tram has been shut down since November 24, when American Tramways began a major repair and maintenance project. The work was nearly finished during the week of December 16 when the company’s technicians committed one of the nightmarish mistakes of the aerial Tramway and ski-lift industry: In connecting a new haul rope to the Tram cabin assemblies, they trimmed the excess cable too much, leaving it a little over eight feet short of the length necessary to allow both cabins to dock in their proper places.

The mistake, a “human error,” as Blomer called it, wasn’t noticed until the workers tried to dock the cabins.

Image of downed Roosevelt Island Tram from Main Street WIRE

Governor Moves Forward On Only Three of Six Elected RIOC Board Candidates

Image of RIOC Board Candidates from Roosevelt Island 360 via Main Street WIRE

An update on the status of the RIOC Board candidate nominees. The Main Street WIRE reports:
The Governor's office has told three of six successful candidates in February's election to nominate residents to the RIOC Board that their names will be sent to the State Senate for confirmation. In addition, longtime resident Board member David Kraut has been asked to continue on the Board.

But Kraut's reappointment means that at least one winner of the community's February election for nomination to the open Board seats will not be appointed. He and other sitting Board members had opted not to be candidates in the February balloting.

On Wednesday night, the Common Council of the Residents Association unanimously authorized a letter to the Governor calling for appointment of all six winners in the community election. Members decried the Governor's office "cherry-picking" the results of the community election. On Thursday night, Assemblymember Micah Kellner assured the Maple Tree Group, a RIRA subcommittee that has worked toward democratization of the RIOC Board, that he will ask the Governor to reconsider his staff's decision to appoint a resident who chose not to run for a Board seat in the February election.

In addition to Kraut, the three announced appointees are Dr. Kathie Grimm, Jonathan Kalkin, and Fay Christian. Election winners passed over by the Governor's office include Frank Farance, Erin Feely-Nahem, and Howard Polivy.

Beause there are only six openings on the Board, and the Governor and Mayor appoint four and two, respectively, at least one of the elected nominees will not be appointed. While the Mayor is not obligated to choose election winners as his nominees (and only one of his nominees must be an Islander), City Councilmember Jessica Lappin has urged him to honor the community's election.
Reaction from RIOC President Steve Shane:
Governor's perogative. See statute.
From State Senator Jose Serrano:
As a strong supporter of the election, I am of course not 100% satisfied. But let's remember, this is an unprecedented process -- one for which RIRA, RIOC, as well as the Governor deserve a lot of credit -- and I think we've moved beyond what anyone expected just a couple of years ago. My next step is reaching out to Andrea Shapiro Davis, who advises Mayor Bloomberg on appointments, so that she understands the new landscape and how much we value self-determination on the island.
And Assemblymember Micah Kellner's response:
... I am obviously very disappointed that the Governor has apparently decided against appointing all of the nominees who were chosen by Roosevelt Islanders in a democratic ballot. As you know, I have been in repeated contact with the Governor's office, insisting again and again that all of the elected nominees be appointed, provided they pass a police background check. I most recently wrote to the Governor on June 4th to reiterate this point, and to specifically note, again:

"Those members currently serving expired terms must not be considered exempt from the democratically-expressed will of Island residents - indeed, some residents have speculated that none of the sitting Board members like Mr. Kraut chose not to participate in the balloting process because they did not want to expose themselves to a clear repudiation from the community they are supposed to represent."

(The letter is attached.)

I wrote to the Governor again on June 6th, to pass on a letter from Matthew Katz, asking the Governor's office to meet with RIRA on this issue as soon as possible. I will continue to pressure the Governor to do the right thing and respect the will of the Island's residents. I'm still hopeful that we can convince him to change his mind and appoint all of the nominees chosen by the residents of Roosevelt Island.
Here is copy of Assemblymember Kellner's June 4 letter to Governor Patterson:
Dear Governor Paterson

While I was pleased that your office interviewed the winners of the Island’s recommendation vote for appointees to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board of Directors, I write to you now because I am incredible disheartened to learn that your appointments office has requested police background checks for only three of the reccomended candidates, Dr.. Kathie Grimm, Mr. Jonathan Kalkin, and Ms. Fay Christian. The fact that Mr. David Kraut is receiving a police background check indicates to me that your office has already decided to reject the will of the Island. I hope I am mistaken.

The winning candidates were chosen by the community as part of a deliberate and well-
considered process. I strongly believe that if the Roosevelt Island community had been satisfied with the performance of the residents who currently sit on the Board, like Mr. Kraut, it would not have undertaken such an exhaustive effort. Those members currently serving expired terms must not be considered exempt from the democratically-expressed will of Island residents – indeed, some residents have speculated that none of the sitting Board members like Mr. Kraut chose not to participate in the balloting process because they did not want to expose themselves to a clear repudiation from the community they are supposed to represent.

I respectfully request that you proceed with police background checks for all six of the resident-reccomended candidates that your office has already interviewed, Not to proceed with these backgroundchecks only limits your options. I would like to avoid such a situation and doing police background checks on all the resident-reccomended candidates allows the dialogue to continue.

I strongly urge you to respect the results of Roosevelt Island’s historic vote. If the six winning
candidates can pass a police background check, I request that your appoint them to the RIOC Board of Directors so that their confirmation by the State Senate can go forward before the end of the legislative session. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Councilmember Jessica Lappin did not respond to inquiry for comment.

UPDATE 6/23 - Assemblymember Kellner advises of the following (message
received on 6/19):
The governor's 4 rioc appointments were just confirmed by the Senate. There are already rumors that the Senate will hold a special session in July, where mayoral reccomendations (if any are made) could be confirmed.

Things To Do This Weekend -Roosevelt Island Day For Some, Shark Surfing For Others

Things to do this weekend. From RIOC:
Roosevelt Island Day
When : Saturday June 14th
Where: Good Shepherd Plaza, 543 Main Street on Roosevelt Island.
9am - 4pm : Flower planting, Rides, Petting zoo, Games
6pm : Concert-Magic Moments - a tribute to the Drifters
For more information, please call 212-838-4747
Also tonight there is a free Summerstage Concert in Central Park with Gospel and Soul singers Mavis Staples and Stephanie McKay. More options for happenings around New York City this weekend from Newyorkology.

Or for those more adventurous, you might want to try some Shark Surfing.

You Tube video of Shark Surfing Man via Andrew Sullivan

I don't think you can Shark surf in the East River though.

Update 8/8 - Go here for current weekend events

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Roosevelt Island Girls Having Fun Up on The Roof

Video from Jump Cut

One of the great things about living on Roosevelt Island is the view of the East River waterfront and Manhattan Skyline, particularly when experienced with good friends, food and drink from high up on the rooftop deck at any of the Riverwalk buildings. Looks like these girls had a great time up on the roof.

I love relaxing on the the rooftop deck of my building. This You tube video from Robson & Jerome explains why.

Here's daytime view from my buildings rooftop deck. Pretty cool!

Click on image for full view.

Tramless Roosevelt Islanders Not Taking Red Bus to Manhattan - At Least on First Day of Availability

Roosevelt Island Red Bus Image from RIOC

RIOC President Steve Shane forwards the following statistics on first day Red Bus Ridership to Manhattan and Queens Plaza for Tramless Roosevelt Islanders.
Stats for 6/11/08:

From RI to Queens Plaza (6AM-9:30AM):
16 passengers 8 trips
From QP to RI (returns):
0 passengers 8 trips

From RI to Manhattan (10AM-2PM):
9 Passengers 5 trips

From Manhattan to RI (returns at 10:30 AM-2:30PM);\:
8 Passengers 5 trips

From RI to Manhattan (7PM-11PM)
9 Passengers 5 trips

From Manhattan to RI (returns at 7:30PM-11:30PM):
9 Passengers 5 trips

We shall see as the word spreads and/or sinks in. Hard to justify at
this level! An experiment.
These numbers reflect only the first day of service. Remember that many people did not know that the Red bus service to Manhattan existed because it was not part of RIOC's original transportation plan for the period of time that the Tram was out of service. It would be helpful to learn what the ridership numbers for the Red Bus were during previous Tramless occurrences.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Roosevelt Island's Child School Performs Their Version Of Little Shop Of Horrors Tonight and Tomorrow at 6PM

You Tube video of Little Shop of Horrors

Received the following message from the Roosevelt Island Child School:

This week, enjoy a night of entertainment in your own neighborhood.

Earthling, you're invited to a thriller!

“I, Pod”
Wednesday, June 11
Thursday, June 12
6:00 PM

Tickets cost $10

Forty-five students perform their adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors.

The Child School

566 Main Street

Roosevelt Island's Westview and Island House Rent Hearings Postponed Until August

Image from Saving Mitchell Lama - Working Together To Save Our Homes

From Assemblymember Micah Kellner's newsletter:

Westview and Island House Rent Determination Hearing Granted 60-Day Extension

Several weeks ago, the residents of Westview and Island House were informed that the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) would be holding hearings on Roosevelt Island to consider a rent determination request from the lanlord for rent increases of up to 88%. This is outrageous and completely out of line with the affordability that these Mitchell-Lamas are supposed to provide to the hundreds of families that call them home. These are already the most expensive Mitchell-Lama buildings in New York State. Also, a significant amount of the rent increase is supposedly justified through the need to pay arrears on debt for the buildings, but it is totally unprecedented and unfair to raise rents to pay a landlord's debt.

The hearings were originally scheduled for this month, but in order to give the tenant associations the time they need to hire accountants to review the proposal and prepare a thorough response, I wrote to DHCR Commissioner Deborah VanAmerongen and requested an extension to this process. She granted that request and the hearings will be rescheduled to August. I will continue to advocate for the hearings to be at a location, time, and date that allow working Roosevelt Islanders to be able to attend and make themselves heard.

For more information here is the Westview Task Force web site. Also, check out Saving Mitchell Lama which includes a 2006 Main Street WIRE article on Westview and Island House.

Second Day of Roosevelt Island Tramless Commute Not As Smooth As Yesterday

You Tube video of Japanese Subway Pushers

Dick Lutz of the Main Street WIRE reports that there were some problems with this morning's Tramless subway commute. Maybe the Japanese subway "Pushers" will become necessary.

Subway Jam Near 8:30 This Morning

Roosevelt Island's second tramless day produced the kind of jam that had been expected yesterday but didn't materialize then, possibly because it was a Monday, or possibly because the day was a Jewish holiday.

At 8:39 this morning, over 90 people were left on the Manhattan-bound platform west of the escalators; presumably almost that many were left, as well, on the east end of the platform. The problem arose when a 14-minute gap between trains had over 128 passengers waiting (with more on the east end of the platform) and an F train pulled in with virtually no boarding space available.

Four minutes later, another jammed train pulled in and, when it left, about 70 passengers remained waiting, again only counting the west half of the platform. The platform emptied two minutes later when another train pulled in with ample available space.

Apart from that problem, which spanned 8:25 to 8:43, it appeared no passengers were left on the platform as trains pulled out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Roosevelt Island Up Escalator Out Of Service This Evening - Are the Paramedics Standing By?

Roosevelt Island subway mezzanine escalator from Subway Nut

Readers are reporting that the Roosevelt Island subway escalator going up from the lower to mezzanine level was not working this evening, at least from 7PM - 8PM, although it was working at 5:30 when I came home. Given the extraordinary heat wave of late and the tram shutdown, it is an absolute disgrace that the MTA cannot maintain the Roosevelt Island up escalators in working order. I worry that someone is going to have a heart attack walking up those 157 stairs from subway platform to street in this heat.

Here is the MTA elevator and escalator status page that is reporting both the lower mezzanine and upper mezzanine up elevators are out of service.

UPDATE: 6/11- As pointed out by RIOC President Steve Shane, the elevators out of service listed on the MTA status page are referencing those being revamped for capital repairs, not the elevators temporarily out of service. However, the point of the post was that the lower to mid level up escalator that is normally going up was out of service for the time period described and is a health danger to many Roosevelt Island residents, particularly when notices are not clearly posted on the platform that one or more of the up elevators are out of service.

First Day Of Tramless Subway Morning Commute On Roosevelt Island - No Need For Japanese Pushers But How Was it For You?

You Tube video of Japanese "pushers" who stuff rush hour commuters into trains via True Gotham

, this mornings first Roosevelt Island rush hour without the Tram was not as bad an experience as this video showing Japanese "Pushers" who stuff rush hour commuters into subway cars.

I got down to the subway platform just after 8:30 AM to see an F train leaving the station with no Roosevelt Islanders remaining behind on the platform. That was good. Another train did not arrive for approximately 19 minutes during which time the platform became crowded but not unmanageable. Certainly nothing like the rush hour crowds waiting for the 4,5, or 6, trains at 86th or 59th streets but I was told by several waiting commuters that there were more than the usual number of people at the station for that time. The arriving train was crowded but there was room for everyone waiting on the station to board. The next F train arrived about 4 minutes later and was not crowded at all, plenty of standing room. All in all, not a bad first day without the tram. Let's hope it continues.

Dick Lutz of the Main Street WIRE reports that:
Manhattan-bound Roosevelt Islanders got through their first tramless rush hour this morning with no passengers left behind on the platform. Whether high temperatures kept Queens commuters at home or other factors played into the 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. period, a Main Street WIRE tally showed no passengers left behind on the platform when trains pulled out.

Roosevelt Island 360 reports:
I myself was on the platform for the short period between 745am and 750am or so. I came onto a basically empty platform except for a few riders like myself who just descended the escaltors. A train showed up within 5 minutes with room enough for the hundred or more riders that had accumulated in those few minutes.
RIOC President Steve Shane advises: Effective 6AM Wednesday June 11, 2008

To address transportation issues, RIOC has been in touch with the MTA
to try to get assurances about the weekend of June 14 & 15, and there
are no scheduled outages. RIOC will run supplemental bus service and it
will be a good opportunity to see how things will work during the longer
period in 2009 when the Tram will be down for the overhaul. The
supplemental bus service will depart from the Gristedes loop on the
following schedule:
First, to Queens Plaza during weekday morning rush hours every half
hour (6:00 AM until 9:30 AM). The trip is 15-18 minutes so pickups,
while not regularly scheduled, will be available on that schedule. There
will be neither service to nor pickup from Queens Plaza during evening
rush hours.
Second, responding to the many concerns about the elderly,
handicapped, school children, etc., weekdays non-rush hours, there will
be hourly service from the Island to Manhattan starting at 10AM until
2PM, and from 7PM until 11:00PM.
Third, weekends, there will be hourly service starting at 7:00AM
until 11:00 PM from the Island to Manhattan.
Service to Manhattan will be to the pet store opposite the
Manhattan terminal of the Tram on 60th Street, returning on the half
hour with the last pickup in Manhattan at 11:30PM. The charge for the
bus will be $.25.
UPDATE: I am glad that RIOC has decided to run the Red Bus to Second Avenue in Manhattan as it had done during prior Tram shutdowns. Initially RIOC had not planned to do this. Steve Shane from an earlier post:
Our present plan is not to run the buses to 60th street as it is very uneconomical, especially during rush hours.We would consider a night time pickup depending on demand. Putting the red buses into rush hour traffic on the Queensboro Bridge takes a lot of time in both directions.
RIOC should be commended for changing their position.

UPDATE-6/11 - Second day of Roosevelt Island Tramless commute.

Stuck on Air Canada Plane at Ottawa Airport Tarmac for 5 1/2 Hours

Video of Jet Blue plane passengers stuck on tarmac from Truveo

Returned home to Roosevelt Island much later than expected. My Air Canada flight back from Calgary got diverted from landing at JFK Sunday evening due to the severe thunderstorms in NY region and I wound up sitting in my seat on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport for more than 5 hours, finally getting home to Roosevelt Island early Monday morning (1:30 AM).

It was a very unpleasant experience though not anywhere near as horrible as some of the horror stories you occasionally hear about where passengers are stuck on airport tarmacs for more than ten hours, as were the Jet Blue passengers in the video, with no food, or water, screaming babies, angry passengers and overflowing toilets. I must admit that the Air Canada flight crew were very professional, courteous and handled the situation as best they could given the situation. Luckily we were able to take off just before the the situation might become very bad.

Here's an excerpt from an interesting Find Law article on the rights, apparently not many, of United States air passengers stuck sitting in planes for hours on airport tarmacs.
...the actions of JetBlue and other airlines prompted New York lawmakers to take action, for it had become obvious that commercial air carriers, the FAA, the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Congress had all failed to do so. The New York legislators' concern for passenger wellbeing was laudable, and provoked by some quite extreme facts. As the legislative history of the New York law records, it was utter disregard for passengers that moved the New York legislature into enacting a minimal passenger bill of rights.

Now, as I reported in Part One of this series, that law has been struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The ruling, which has baleful consequences for airline passengers nationwide, has left all passengers at the mercy of the airline industry.

The Case In Which the New York Law Was Struck Down: Air Transport Association of America (ATA) v. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo

New York's law called for only basic services (food, water, power, and toilets) to be provided when airline passengers were delayed more than three hours on a New York airport runway, prior to takeoff. This was more than reasonable; even a two-and-a-half hour delay without basic services can be a hardship for many, with the disabled, young, and elderly especially harshly affected.

After New York acted, the Air Transport Association (ATA), the trade association for the airlines, moved immediately to strike down the law in federal court, claiming that federal law had preempted the field. Specifically, the federal law the court held to have preemptive effect was the 1978 law deregulating airlines in the United States...
For those interested in more information about the rights of airline passengers Strandedpassengers is a blog describing itself as:
... commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
UPDATE - 12/21/09 - Just prior to the start of the Christmas Travel season, Congress passed an Air Passengers Bill Of Rights that would impose monetary fines on airlines that keep passengers stuck on airport tarmacs without feeding them or letting them off the plane. According to the NY Times:
... Under the rule, airlines that do not provide food and water after two hours or a chance to disembark after three hours will face penalties of $27,500 a passenger, the secretary of transportation announced on Monday.

In recent years, relatively few flights have been held on the ground for more than three hours — about 1,500 a year, or roughly one out of 6,200 flights — but that has been enough to affect more than 100,000 passengers a year and to create substantial public resentment....
However, the legislation does not apply to international flights.