Friday, January 8, 2010

Welfare Island Photo Exhibit Celebrating 40 Years of Roosevelt Island Reception Saturday Afternoon & An Evening Of Film & Performance

Image From Gallery RIVAA

The opening reception of " Welfare Island: A Spirit of Place Past" will take place this Saturday, January 9th beginning at 2 PM at the Octagon. This is a photography exhibition profiling the abandoned structures on the island prior to its development. The exhibit will be the kickoff event to the 40th anniversary of the ground lease signing for Roosevelt Island.

More information about this event is available from this previous post.
An exhibition of thirty-two photos is the first in a series of events that will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1969 agreement between the City of New York and the State of New York for the redevelopment of Welfare Island, as Roosevelt island was formerly called. The kick-off event, co-sponsored by The Roosevelt Island Historical Society and The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York, features photos taken before construction of a residential community on the Island had begun.

Despite their forbidding air of abandonment, the massive castle-like buildings of Welfare Island fascinated Suzanne Vlamis, compelling her to photograph these grotesquely beautiful structures. The photos of the old hospitals, asylum, labs and churches, taken by an adventurous young woman, were exhibited in 1972. Welfare Island: A Spirit of Place Past, includes these photos, as well as others never exhibited before. The show is at the Octagon Gallery, 888 Main Street on Roosevelt Island, from December 20 to January 31. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 9, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Later Saturday evening, Gallery RIVAA will be hosting:
An evening of film and performance at Gallery RIVAA, Saturday, Jan. 9th at 7:30 PM
Image From Gallery RIVAA

New and Improved Roosevelt Island Tram Like Aerial Transportation System Proposed For Manhattan To Newark Airport & LaGuardia Too

A possible Brooklyn-Governors Island-Manhattan-Newark Liberty Airport route (in blue) as compared to the current commuter rail route (in red). Image by Steven Dale.

Hold on to your hats. Is this a crazy idea or what? A Cable Propelled Transit (CPT) system similar, but much improved to the Roosevelt Island Tram (RIT), that takes riders from Brooklyn and Manhattan over Governors Island to Newark's Liberty Airport. That's Steven Dale's proposal to improve upon Santiago Calatrava's previously announced idea of a Governors Island Gondola. Writing in Urban Omnibus, Mr Dale states:
... There is, however, a way to re-mix the Calatrava concept into a worthwhile addition to the Manhattan transportation network that solves a problem millions of people have each year:

What if we extended the link all the way to Newark Liberty International Airport?

The current experience of getting from Newark Liberty to Lower Manhattan is an infuriating and expensive odyssey of subways, transfers, commuter rails and people movers. Delays and missed transfers are constant. An urban gondola cable trip from Brooklyn to Newark would take around 45 minutes and would certainly be a more pleasant ride. Constructing and implementing such a link would be challenging, but it is technologically and economically feasible.

Or how about connecting Queens to the Bronx via Rikers Island? Or Harlem to LaGuardia via Randalls Island? A Staten Island connection across the Verrazano Narrows? They’re all doable. Once you wrap your mind around the implications of cable, you can quickly imagine the possibilities....

How would such a system compare to the Roosevelt Island Tram? According to Mr. Dale:
... In the cable industry, the RIT is what is known as an “aerial tram.” The technology features two large cabins shuttling back-and-forth between two terminals. Wait times between vehicles are long and the size of the cabins require costly infrastructure. It is a high cost, low efficiency technology that is entirely antiquated. Current CPT systems are capable of much more.

For instance: Maximum capacity offered by the Tram is about 900 PPHPD (persons per hour per direction), whereas more advanced CPT systems today offer up to 6,000. Newer CPT systems allow for intermediary stations, dense urban alignments, corner-turning, full-integration with transit systems and less-than-one-minute (LT1M) wait times at a price cheaper than most aerial trams (not to mention light rail). It’s also the safest transit technology around save for elevators, which, if you think about it, operate in a very similar manner....

Examples of more recent CPT systems include those in Medellin Columbia

You Tube Video of Medellin Columbia Metro Cable System

and Singapore.

You Tube Video of Singapore Aerial Cable Car

Read the whole article at Urban Omnibus and more information on Cable Propelled Transit is available at the Gondola Project as well as an article about the possibility of a Toronto Cable system.

Flock Of Roosevelt Island Seagulls

You Tube Video of Roosevelt Island Seagulls

Thursday, January 7, 2010

RIOC Proposing To Reroute Southbound Roosevelt Island Red Bus Traffic - Presentation Made At Last Night's RIRA Meeting

Image of RIOC VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez Addressing RIRA

Last night's Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council Meeting began with a presentation by RIOC's VP of Operations Fernando Martinez describing a proposed plan to reroute the Roosevelt Island southbound Red Bus to the East Channel (Queens Side) Road when it passes the Blackwell Turnaround in Southtown replacing the current West Channel route. Mr. Martinez explained the reason for this change is due to safety issues caused by a "blind spot" at the current subway Red Bus stop as riders exit the back of the bus and cross the street to the subway station not seeing oncoming northbound traffic. Mr. Martinez said that during the last two years there have been 3 pedestrian and one vehicular accident at this spot.

According to the proposed new Red Bus route, after the Southbound Red Bus passes Blackwell House it will make a left around the turnaround to the East Channel and stop at Riverwalk Commons near the Bar & Grill. It will then travel along Main Street and stop opposite the current Tram stop and continue on its way to the subway. Below is a diagram detailing new route provided by Mr. Martinez. Click on image for larger picture.
After the presentation, there was a productive question and answer period between Mr. Martinez and RIRA Council Members. Some members favored this new route and others had additional thoughts and suggestions. One suggestion was to keep the existing route but move the current subway bus stop further north to remove the "blind spot" safety problem and/or place a Public Safety officer at the bus stop to direct traffic during rush hours which would also eliminate the "blind spot" issue. Another suggestion was to just ban private cars from using the West Channel during rush hours by directing them to the East Channel road.

One Council Member was concerned about what he sees as a long walk from the proposed new East Channel bus stop to the subway in the rain and wanted RIOC to build a canopy along the Riverwalk Commons to keep riders dry in this event. A fellow Council Member suggested an umbrella would solve that problem.

Mr. Martinez made an excellent presentation whether you agree with the proposal or not. He and the current RIOC administration should be acknowledged for involving the Roosevelt Island community through our elected representatives at RIRA in this planning process.

View From Roosevelt Island Tram Is Wall Street Journal & Gawker Picture Of The Day - Tram Shutdown & Modernization Still Scheduled To Begin March 2010

Image From Mario Tama/Getty Images Via Wall Street Journal

Roosevelt Island wins more recognition from the outside world. This view from the Roosevelt Island Tram was yesterday's Picture Of The Day for the Wall Street Journal and Gawker.
BACK ON TOP: People rode the Roosevelt Island Tramway as it passed over Manhattan Tuesday in New York. For the first time since 1990, New York City reclaimed the title of America’s favorite tourist destination last year, drawing an estimated 45.3 million visitors.
More on the Tram. I inquired of RIOC President Steve Shane the following:
I have been told that RIOC is considering postponing the scheduled March 2010 Roosevelt Island Tram Modernization project's shutdown until the summer. Any truth to this?
Mr. Shane replied:
Absolutely none.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council Meeting Tonight - Come Find Out What Is Going On

Image of December 2009 RIRA Meeting

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Common Council will be meeting tonight. The RIRA Common Council is composed of residents elected from each of the Roosevelt Island buildings. If you are interested in learning what's going on here on Roosevelt Island - Come On Down!

Prior to the start of the meeting there is an opportunity for the public to present any issues of concern to the Council. Below is the Agenda for tonight's meeting.


Date: Wednesday, January , 2010
Time: 8:00 P.M. - Finish
Place: Good Shepherd Community Center, 543 Main Street
1. Public Session (8:00)
- Discussion of trees

2. Roll Call (8:30)
X 3. Approval of Agenda (8:35)
4. Approval of Minutes (8:40)
X - December 2 minutes
5. Treasurer’s Report (8:45)
- Report provided
6. President's Report (8:50)
7. Committee Reports (9:00)
Housing - J. Micheff & L. Strong-Shinozaki
Social, Cultural and Educational Services - N. Leopold
Island Services - A. Hamburger
Planning - M. Katz
Communications - E. Erickson
Government Relations - M. Smith
Public Safety - E. Feely-Nahem

8. Old Business (9:45)

9. New Business (10:00)

10. Adjourn
X Agenda items requiring action
Town Hall Meeting for December RIOC Board Meeting: Wednesday, January 13, 2009, 8-9:30PM
Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 (Mailing Deadline: January 29, 2010)
Future Meetings: March 3, April 7, May 5, June 2, Septmber 15, October 6, November 3

UPDATE 4:55 PM - RIRA President Frank Farance adds:
Here's some points that we might consider somewhere in tonight's agenda.

1. Fernando Martinez of RIOC will make a presentation on why they think Main Street should be one way. At last month's meeting, I explained their ideas and several of you had concerns, so I asked RIOC if they would present at the January meeting. Mr. Martinez will be first in the public session. The presentation and discussion should be about 20-30 minutes. Considering we have a very light agenda otherwise, I think we have room for Mr. Martinez' presentation.

2. Regaring the MTA discussion, although I could discuss this in the President's report, I would like to address this under the Planning Committee agenda item. I think we need to determine RIRA's next steps, including a written response to the MTA.

3. Matt Katz will report on the RI Bridge.

4. Rachel Reid Chung asks: I was hoping you could add to new business a discussion regarding a resolution from RIRA regarding placing a fence of some sort to segragate the swings from the rest of the toddler playground in southtown. I had mentioned the danger to Rosina Abramson a while back and she sent me an email saying she would like a recommendation from RIRA before proceeding. I have never proposed a resolution before but I guess I will try to write one and have it ready for the meeting. Shall I send it to you before the meeting? [Yes, Rachel, please bring proposed wording.]

5. Steve Marcus asks: Frank - Please leave time to get names for a Pub Purp Committee. We need to start meeting in a few weeks.

6. Island House and Westview will have annual board of directors elections. They might need volunteers as election monitors.

7. I'm not sure where this belongs, but is RIRA supportive of the master lease idea from RIOC? I think this deserves some disucssion. Can e discuss this in Planning or Island Services.

8. Matt pointed out a couple corrections in the agenda. I'll bring copies tonight.

Update On DHCR/RIOC Chairperson VanAmerongen Resignation To Join Affordable Housing Law Firm - Government/Private Sector Revolving Door Or Not?

Revolving Door Image From CREW

An update to this post linking to a NY Observer article regarding the resignation of NY State DHCR Commissioner and RIOC Board Chairperson Deborah VanAmerongen. According to the article, Ms. VanAmerongen is resigning as DHCR Commissioner to take a position with the Affordable Housing Group of the Nixon Peabody Law Firm.
... Ms. VanAmerongen is jumping to the private sector ship, joining a firm that has an active affordable housing group and one that does significant work with Ms. VanAmerongen's agency, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, including deals this year.

... A spokeswoman for the DHCR said Ms. VanAmerongen recused herself from decisions with the potential for conflict of interest.

Steve Wallace, a partner who heads Nixon Peabody's affordable housing group, said Ms. VanAmerongen, who is not an attorney, will be a "strategic policy adviser," offering guidance on affordable housing issues in New York and nationally. The firm represents developers and lenders, among others in the affordable housing industry...
Several readers of the post were critical of Ms. VanAmerongen and expressed concern over potential conflicts between her former position at DHCR and new private sector job including this:
VanAmerongen should disclose her business dealings with Nixon Peabody as commissioner. How well has this firm done during her tenure?
However, another reader supported Ms VanAmerongen:
You guys have all the answers, but don't know squat. At least Ms. VanAmerongen made her meetings with the RIOC Board of Directors. Her predecesor and the person who comes next .... No Shows. You'll see. All of you want to throw stones and nit-pick.

I worked with her and she has integrity. Good for her that she's moved on to a higher paying job. Public Service is a thankless job. If any of you could do it, you'd all jump to make more money for you & your families too.
I inquired of RIOC President Steve Shane:
As you know, DHCR Commissioner/ RIOC Board Chairperson VanAmerongen resigned these positions to join the Affordable Housing Practice Group at the Nixon Peabody Law Firm.

Does Nixon Peabody represent RIOC currently, previously, or are they bidding for future work?

Also, are they (Nixon Peabody) representing any other parties involved in past, current or future Roosevelt Island issues including but not limited to the potential privatizations of Island House, Rivercross and Westview.

Thank you.
Mr. Shane replied:
Nixon Peabody does no work for RIOC, is not bidding on any and any suggested relationship to the Commissioner's new relationship post State employment is entirely without foundation.
Later that day Mr. Shane elaborated:
In reviewing my e mail to you as to Nixon Peabody, the information therein is absolutely correct.

However, notwithstanding that they have not done any work for RIOC nor are they bidding on any, they are, as a large, well established law firm with a long and well deserved reputation for expertise in the area, inter alia, of affordable housing. In response to prior solicitations, Nixon Peabody is on the pre-approved panel of law firms who could be considered for employment by RIOC for matters as they might arise.

RIOC maintains such panels of architects, engineers, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, etc. with appropriate sub-panels) to respond to immediate needs without having to go through a more lengthy process in formal public bidding. We do then have a less formal bidding process among the panel members, having already familiarized ourselves with the individual qualifications of the panel members to meet the needs of the individual situation. Every so often, we refresh the panels by putting out an RFQ and bringing a recommendation to the Board for a reconstituted panel.
I replied:
Thank you for the additional infomation.

It appears that Nixon Peabody was involved in representing the Tenant organization at Island House during privatization efforts in 2005. I don't know if NP is still involved in this process.

Also, my inquiry was not meant to imply any impropriety, just fact checking.
The NY Times reported yesterday on Governor David Patterson's call for ethics reform in NY State's executive and legislative branch.
In a conference call on Tuesday, aides to Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday briefed reporters on the governor’s proposal for ethics reforms that, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching such overhaul in state history...
The article does not reference any policy having to do with State Officials leaving their positions to join private sector businesses in the industry that they regulated during their time in government. However, the New York State Commission On Public Integrity describes the current "Revolving Door Policy" in New York:
... The revolving door statute is designed to keep former State employees from using their former government connections to benefit themselves, their clients or the business for which they work after leaving State government. It does this (1) by restricting for two years the contacts they can have with the agency where they worked and (2) by restricting the work they can do on matters on which they worked while in State service. The first restriction is known as "the two year bar" and the second as "the lifetime bar."...
You can follow Governor Patterson's Ethics reform proposals at NYU's Brennan Center For Justice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Roosevelt Island Jobs Available For School Bus Driver and Orthodontist - But Is It Safe Yet?

Image of Otto, the Simpson's school Bus Driver from Wired

Looking for a job here on Roosevelt Island? Check out these two recent listing from Craigslist:
Driver wanted for Children's After School program on Roosevelt Island. Must have CDL Class C with P endorsement and clean driving record. Must get along well with children. Monday - Friday. Total about 30 hours.
Click here to apply.

Looking for orthodontist part time in a private dental office on Roosevelt Island. If you are interested, please send resume .
Click here to apply.

Marathon Man Dental Scene From Alt Film Guide

Here's a You Tube Video of that great Marathon Man dental scene with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. Is it safe yet?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Roosevelt Island Then (1968 Welfare Island) And Now (2010) In Pictures - Come See More Of Welfare Island At Exhibit Celebrating RI's 40th Anniversary

Wheelchair in Welfare Island Doorway Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

With the start of the year 2010, let's look back at what Roosevelt Island was like in 1968 when it was an undeveloped Welfare Island serving the ill, impoverished and elderly as compared to the present day courtesy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) and Google Maps.

From RIHS:
The Welfare Island Bridge went directly to the West Road. There was no Main Street. To the south are the Cancer and Neurological Hospitals.
Image of 1968 Welfare Island Bridge From (RIHS)

From Google Maps, the current Roosevelt Island Bridge.

View Larger Map

From RIHS:
South view of area that now includes PS/IS 217 and Westview
Image of Area That Now Includes PS/IS 217 and Westview From RIHS

From Google Maps the current 360 degree view of PS/IS 217 and Westview.

There's More!

View Larger Map

From RIHS:
A forlorn and empty Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Next to it is the Good Samaritan German Lutheran Church. The buildings surrounding them were part of the City Home, a home for elderly, sickly and impoverished.
Image of 1968 Good Shepherd Chapel From RIHS

From Google Maps, the current 360 degree view of Main Street and Good Shepherd Chapel.

View Larger Map

More images from 1968 Welfare (now Roosevelt Island) including Blackwell House, Goldwater and the Smallpox Hospitals available at RIHS.

Also, RIHS and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. (RIOC) are sponsoring a photo exhibit celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Roosevelt Island.

Octagon Staircase Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

According to RIHS:
An exhibition of thirty-two photos is the first in a series of events that will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1969 agreement between the City of New York and the State of New York for the redevelopment of Welfare Island, as Roosevelt island was formerly called. The kick-off event, co-sponsored by The Roosevelt Island Historical Society and The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation of the State of New York, features photos taken before construction of a residential community on the Island had begun.

Despite their forbidding air of abandonment, the massive castle-like buildings of Welfare Island fascinated Suzanne Vlamis, compelling her to photograph these grotesquely beautiful structures. The photos of the old hospitals, asylum, labs and churches, taken by an adventurous young woman, were exhibited in 1972. Welfare Island: A Spirit of Place Past, includes these photos, as well as others never exhibited before. The show is at the Octagon Gallery, 888 Main Street on Roosevelt Island, from December 20 to January 31. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 9, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

"When I discovered a newspaper article that reviewed an exhibition of photographs of Welfare Island, the former name of Roosevelt Island, I knew I had to locate the photos and share them with today's audience,” said Judith Berdy, President of The Roosevelt Island Historical Society, which organized the exhibition and is co-sponsor with The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

“Suzanne Vlamis managed to capture the life of the island at a unique juncture; five of its seven active city institutions had closed, and it had yet to be designated as the home of an innovative experiment in housing and community-building,” added Stephen Shane, Chief Executive Officer of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

According to Vlamis, "I found an eerie beauty there. I was compelled to capture those places that were grotesquely beautiful: the massive, bulky hulks of buildings, the elegant castles, the stone and the light."

Suzanne Vlamis documented the architectural remains of the abandoned sites over a period of three years, from 1969 to 1971, often without knowing the names of the buildings, since there were few identifying signs. Her companions were her cousin Theo, who had worked at a nearby luncheonette, or a boyfriend/bodyguard, whom she coaxed into accompanying her over the Queensboro Bridge, through Queens and across the 36th Avenue Bridge. As she wandered about the island, she might see thieves stripping the copper from the buildings, or face a dog eager to nip at her ankles as she rode by on her bicycle.

"Welfare Island is where people were sent. Many lives were saved and nurtured, and others expired," said Vlamis. The photographs that she took forty years ago testify to this small island's boundless capacity for healing and constitute a pause before the start of a new, residential era.

Other anniversary events scheduled throughout 2010 will include presentations about the history of the architecture and the parks of Roosevelt Island, as well as the integration of hospital residents into the community, plus a free summer outdoor movie series of major motion pictures that were filmed on Roosevelt Island, among other events and projects.

Strecker Laboratory Image By Suzanne Vlamis ©

Best Wishes For A Happy & Healthy New Year In 2010 - Busy New Year's Eve For Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department

You Tube Video of Central Park 2010 New Years Fireworks Celebration

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year in 2010.

Looks like New Years Eve was a busy time for the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department. Here's what kept them busy:
12/31/09-7:00 AM to 1/1/10-7:00 AM

Disorderly Conduct- Subject arrested by PSD.

Missing Person- Adult female upset because mother had her leave a party. Female threatened to kill herself. Female arrived home in a cab. PSD and NYPD responded. Female refused EMS. NYPD did not file a report.

Aided/EDP- Youth with emotional problems screaming in dwelling. PSD and EMS responded. Youth transported to the hospital by EMS.

Harassment- Between two residents over money. PSD responded. No injuries. NYPD refused.

Grand Larceny of an Auto (Off Island)-Resident reported that his vehicle was stolen at 36th Ave location between 11th and 12 th street. PSD and NYPD responded. Search made with negative results. NYPD filed a report.

Aided- An ill person was taken to the hospital by EMS.

Harassment- Resident opened door after hearing person knock. There were four female subjects. One threw water at the resident. All fled. PSD responded and conducted a search with negative results.
NYPD refused.

Menacing/Harassment- Male resident stated that six male youth followed him and made threats. he walked onto the street and youths ceased. PSD responded and conducted a search with negative results. NYPD refused.

Arrest/Trespass/Criminal Possession of Marijuana- PSD Officer assisted NYPD with arrest.

Trespass/Unlawful Possession of Marijuana- Two Subjects arrested by PSD.

Graffiti- In a hallway of a building. Search made with negative results. UA notified. NYPD refused.

Found Property- A bag with children's books. Bag was secured in PSD. Later the owner retrieved the property.

Escape from Police Custody (off Island in Queens)-PSD and NYPD conducted a search for subject with negative results.

Aided- A child was crying and ill. He refused to take medication. NYPD spoke to both parent and child. Parent administered medication to child.
Correction: Oops -Some confusion as to whether these events happened on New Year's Eve or day. They occurred on New Year's Day.