Friday, September 25, 2009

East River Security Precautions For United Nations General Assembly Meetings Causing Roosevelt Island Traffic And Safety Headaches

Image of United Nations From Soutpoint Park By Natasha

A Roosevelt Island resident sent a message expressing concern that the health and safety needs of Roosevelt Islanders are being neglected by the raising of the Roosevelt Island Bridge for non - essential boat traffic during the UN General Assembly Meeting currently being held. She was fearful that emergency vehicles such as ambulances and FDNY trucks would be delayed traveling to and from Roosevelt Island resulting in a tragedy due to the Roosevelt Island Bridge not being accessible during these openings.

I asked RIOC President Steve Shane to comment and he replied:
Since any such raising of the bridge is for the short term of the passage of the vessel and this displacement takes place during UN week only, RI should, in my opinion, like the rest of New Yorkers discomfitted by traffic diversions, wailing sirens, usurped restaurants, etc., bear up while New York City serves its function as capital of the world. Emergency services are all well aware of the issues of the RI bridge and, as they have in the past, prepare to meet the exigencies as they may arise. Hope that they do not.
RIOC coordinates with the City's emergency services. Specific contingency plans are in place.
Every year, at this time, the same concerns arise and so far, all emergencies have been met.
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Frank Farance commented:
I'm not sure RIOC has direct control over the bridge, however RIOC does have contacts in the City government (Rosina can help?).

On Tuesday, the bridge was opened for approximately 30 minutes between 14:15 and 14:45. Although one sailboat had gone through early on, the bridge was kept open for another 15 minutes when there was no river traffic in either direction for as far as the eye could see. PSD Director Guerra told me that a half dozen officers were late for the 3-to-11 shift because of the extra long bridge opening.

We really need to investigate why the bridge is being operated so poorly.
To which RIOC President Steve Shane replied:
We have lodged an inquiry through the OEM to discuss the procedure.
Yesterday, Mr. Farance did some investigating and found the following:
Attached, please find five photos at approximately 16:42 today:

1: Looking northbound on the East Channel (the bridge had just closed), there is no river traffic causing the bridge to open.

2: Looking southbound on the East Channel, there is no river traffic.

3: Impact on Roosevelt Island, cars are backed up ...

4: And backed up ...

5: And backed up as far as the eye can see.

Mr Farance continues:
As I've stated previously, the bridge remains unnecessarily open -- there is no river traffic causing the bridge to open.
Below is the initial message I received from the Roosevelt Island resident that started all this.
There's More!

Because of the UN General Assembly meetings this week, Homeland (In)security and the NYC DOT are making boats go down the East Chanel of the river. Because of this, the Roosevelt Island Bridge is opening and closing every time a boat goes by.

Today when I came home from grocery shopping in Queens, I couldn't get on to the island for about 15 minutes because the Roosevelt Island Bridge was raised to let a boat go by. It wasn't a commercial boat either: it was a small boat that may have been a pleasure boat. However, there was an ambulance ahead of me with his lights flashing: he couldn't get on to the island because the bridge was raised! I only hope that nobody's life was threatened because an ambulance couldn't get to them. And what if there were a fire and our neighborhood fire deparment, located across the river in Queens, couldn't get on the island quickly enough?

There are about 12,000 residents and workers here. At the time of another UN meeting, I contacted my state assemblyman, Micah Kellner, about this issue. He replied that I should be proud and honored to have the UN here! Now truthfully, as I am a senior citizen, my thoughts were, as I watched the blinking lights on the ambulance ahead of me, if I had a heart attack or terrible accident and died because an ambulance couldn't reach my home, would he tell my kids they should be honored that their mom died while the city was protecting the likes of Momar Kadalfi, Hugo Chavez or Achmadinnerjacket?

Seriously, has anyone in NY government bothered to try to think like terrorists to understand that endangering 12,000 people on Roosevelt Island, in the hopes of keeping a terrorist with a bomb on a boat away from the UN, by sending them down the river on the other side of this island, is not how to prevent an attack? First, there's a major power plant (Con Ed/big alic) across from the UN. If a terrorist with a bomb or a missile wanted to, he could blow up the power plant and cripple the entire city, or worse, take down the 59th St bridge from underneath. Second, once the boats get to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, with the right kind of missiles or ammo, they can still attack the UN or FDR drive. Who knows what kinds of things these maniacs have up their sleeves or in their backpacks (which I'm sure that nobody is inspecting, nor do they have to take off their shoes)? Maybe I read too many John LeCarre, Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlam books??? Maybe, instead, the people who are supposed to protect us should start reading and using their brains! Oh well, closing southpoint park and stationing State Department personnel there is a solution, right? Especially as RIOC does thank us for our cooperation!

And why aren't backup emergency services stationed on Roosevelt Island during this period? Oh, they're missing in action because nobody bothered to arrange for our protection...after all, it's an honor and just a minor inconvenience not to have an ambulance or the fire department reach our residents while the pleasure boats go by! Besides, it's not their yob!

So the answer about how to protect the UN is not simply rerouting water traffic to the other side of the river and endangering our lives. Instead, either have the Coast Guard and NYPD turn away all boats on the east river during these times, or only let those which have a reason to be here, such as delivering fuel to the power plant or first responders such as a Fire Department scuba diving team, have passage. The rest of the boat traffic should be turned away or sent down the Hudson River. Period.

Thank you for your cooperation!

(Mrs.) Raye Schwartz
Roosevelt Island, NY
Mrs. Schwartz urges others who agree with her to contact Roosevelt Island's elected officials and express these concerns.

Mr. Shane previously addressed issues of emergency services during time periods when the Roosevelt Island Bridge was out of service.


Anonymous said...

The other day I saw three Coast Guard boats escort one of DEP's sludge ships down the western canal. I guess sludge transportation has a priority over everything else, and so the vessel was actually allowed to get dangerously close to the UN building. Good thing they had a Coast Guard escort - you know, in case the sludge boat had a 5 inch gun mounted that nobody noticed before.

Anonymous said...

According to DOT the bridge was stuck in the open position on Tuesday afternoon. They had run several test openings the previous week, presumably to prevent that from happening. As for blaming Micah Kellner or NYC government, the Coast Guard controls the river and they decided after 9/11 that the channel between RI and Manhattan would be closed during UN week.

Anonymous said...

Frank "Super Traffic/Parking Watchdog" Farance to the rescue, with his trusty sidekick Digital Camera!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what kind of marine traffic is passing through (commercial, pleasure, etc), the bridge needs to open for boats and will close when they've passed through. This is how bridges are operated citywide.

It happens one week out of the year and island residents were well aware that this was coming. As Steve Shane said, it's just part of living in NYC (and on Roosevelt Island).

As long as arrangements have been made with emergency services, this is a minor inconvenience to residents. If you were leaving or coming onto the island during the UN Assembly, you should have given yourself an extra few minutes in case the bridge opened. Frank Farance needs to get a grip.

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