Friday, July 23, 2010

Special Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Board Of Directors Meeting For August 4 To Appoint New RIOC President - Will Only 1 Candidate Be Considered?

Just received this message that a special meeting of the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors will take place on August 4, 2010 5:30 PM at the Good Shepherd Community Center. On the Agenda for new business will be the appointment of a new RIOC President/CEO. The only candidate listed on the Agenda for consideration to be appointed RIOC President/CEO is Leslie Torres.
Rioc Board Meeting to Approve New President

According to the NY State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) web site, Leslie Torres is the Deputy Commissioner for Office of Rent Administration. During testimony before the NY State Senate in 2007, former DHCR Commissioner Van Amerongen described Leslie Torres as follows:

... I would like to introduce you to our newly-appointed Deputy Commissioner for Rent Administration, Leslie Torres, who is here with me today. Prior to joining DHCR, Ms. Torres was the Assistant Commissioner for Enforcement at the New York City Department of Buildings. There she managed enforcement units responsible for bringing NYC properties into compliance with the Building Code. Prior to that Leslie was the head of the NYC Loft Board, so she is very familiar with having to balance the interests of landlords and tenants...
What happened to the idea of considering multiple candidates for the position of RIOC President/CEO? Is Assembly Member Micah Kellner's legislation, though not yet signed by the Governor, regarding RIOC governance that:
gives the public a role in the process of hiring the RIOC President—requiring the Board of Directors to consider at least three candidates for the job and to hold hearings allowing members of the public as well as Board members to interview the candidates.
to be ignored in the selection of the new RIOC President/CEO.

If it is the case that only one candidate is being considered, not a good way to start off the post Steve Shane RIOC administration.

Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Condo & Rental Development In The News - Did You Know We Are Suburban?

An article in today's Wall Street Journal's New York edition on Roosevelt Island's new Riverwalk development describes the type of life people considering a move to Roosevelt Island are looking for, at least according to Southtown's Riverwalk Developer:
... "Our motto used to be: Manhattan's Newest Village," says David Kramer, a principal at Hudson. "But we realized people considering living here didn't want urban. They wanted open space, water views, something more peaceful."...
How are sales and rentals going at the new Riverwalk building? According to the article:
...Related says more than 70% of the 123 condo units have been sold, although some are still on the market for less than what they were originally offered. A new 242-unit rental building is nearly full, and developers are phasing out earlier concessions like a month of free rent....

... Nevertheless the developers, which have the right to construct three more buildings on the island to bring their total projects there to nine, haven't yet determined when they will proceed...

... A two-bedroom, for instance, initially offered in 2008 for $955,000 was delisted in April 2009, according to Three months later it was listed at $800,000, and is still available for about that price today. Rents for a one-bedroom unit in the other new building average $2,690 a month...
There could be big financial and budgetary problem for Roosevelt Island if Hudson/Related developers don't follow through on their development of Riverwalk buildings 7, 8 and 9, as hoped by some residents:
... she hopes Related and Hudson never construct the final three buildings across Main Street. "Then I might move," she says ruefully. "It would start to feel too crowded, too much like across the river in Manhattan."
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) a state Public Benefit Corporation which manages, runs and funds all that goes on at Roosevelt Island, without money from the State or City for it's operating budget, is counting on projected revenue from these projects to finance future necessary capital projects.

As reported in this February 4, 2010 post on RIOC Budget meeting:
Where the recession could hurt RIOC is in the capital budget because so much of that budget is based upon revenue coming from Hudson/Related completing Southtown with the construction of Riverwalk Buildings 7-9. If that does not happen then there could be big trouble for RIOC capital projects.
Regarding Southtown Buildings 7 - 9, RIOC's proposed FY 2010-11 budget states (Page 9) reports:
Southtown 7, 8, and 9:
In 2006, the Southtown developers exersized an option at a cost of $2,000,000 to extend the Construction Commencement Date for all buildings of Southtown 5–9 from no later than December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2012. Management believes that given current market conditions there is a possibility that the development of Southtown 7, 8, and 9 may not happen, negatively affecting projected cash reserves. Below is the effect on projected cash reserves, if the development of Southtown 7, 8, and 9 were not to go forward. It is management's belief that if Southtown 7, 8, and 9 were to not proceed in the time period, there would be other subsequent development opportunities after the economic downturn cycle reverses its course.
So if Riverwalk Buildings 7 -9 don't get built, RIOC will have to do some scrambling and find some other way to raise capital budget funds.

Curbed, commenting on the Wall Street Journal article adds:
When it comes to Roosevelt Island, New Yorkers fall into three categories: 1) Those who live on Roosevelt Island. 2) Those who have briefly fantasized about life on Roosevelt Island, visions of saved down payment dollars swimming in their brains, before immediately snapping out of it and vowing never to think such thoughts ever again. 3) Roosevelt whatnow? It is for this latter category that journalists often take up the cause of trying to explain this mysterious two-mile strip of land floating in the East River, technically part of Manhattan and best known for its bland apartment towers and creepy hospital ruins. Today it's the Wall Street Journal having a go, and the buzzword is one that sticks in the craw of many city dwellers: Roosevelt Island is downright suburban...

Pedicab Bicycle Rickswhaws Come To Roosevelt Island - But Only For A Short While

As I was walking by the Roosevelt Island F Train Subway Station last night, I was pleasantly surprised to discover what looked like a new transportation option for tired Roosevelt Island commuters on their way home or Riverwalk residents on their way north. Would Pedicab bicycle rickshaws be a new alternative to the Red Bus and walking?

What a great way to get around Roosevelt Island. I thought whoever came up with this idea was a genius!

My enthusiasm increased when told by the very nice pedicab driver that the ride was free but I quickly realized that this was too good to be true.

And it was. Turns out the pedicabs were there to take real estate brokers and agents to a Manhattan Park event.

It's still a great idea.

Cowabunga Dude - Roosevelt Island Outdoor Movie Series Presents Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles At Firefighters Field On Saturday July 24 - Awesome!

The Roosevelt Island Outdoor Movie Series continues on Saturday, July 24 with the showing of our favorite half shelf heroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Firefighters Field beginning at approximately 8:30 PM.

Image of Zoolander Outdoor Movie Showing Last Sunday At Firefighters Field

The theme of this year's outdoor movie showings are films that were shot on Roosevelt Island. What is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles connection to Roosevelt Island? According to Tucher Photo:
... Island Hospital on the island, presently known as Roosevelt Island and located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, was designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. in the Second Empire style (the first public building in the style in the United States). It was opened in 1860. It has a notorious reputation and a varied past, and has seen its share of demolition and renovation. It has been used by various tenants in its many structures, and has even been used as a set for one scene in the movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with Island Hospital displayed prominently in the background),...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roosevelt Island Tram Station Design Improvements Subject Of July 26 Operations Committee Meeting - Community Presentation On August 2

Image of Roosevelt Island Tram Manhattan Station Conceptual Design From BL Companies

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors Operations Committee will be meeting on July 26 to discuss the Roosevelt Island Tram Station Design improvements.

Image of former Roosevelt Island Tram Manhattan Station From BL Companies

According to RIOC:
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that a meeting of the Operations Advisory Committee of the RIOC Board of Directors will be held on Monday, July 26, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. at the RIOC administrative office, 591 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, New York.

The agenda for the meeting will be:

1. Presentation on the Tram Station Design Improvements.
During the May RIOC Board of Directors Meeting, a discussion was held regarding Tram Station improvements. According to the minutes (Page 5) of the May RIOC Board Meeting:
... Mr. Shane provided a brief background of the Aerial Tramway Modernization Project. He reminded the Board that this project, with an overall cost of $25 million, is being funded with $10 million from RIOC and $15 million from New York State. Mr. Shane noted that the overall project is running on schedule and that the current budget balance for station improvements is approximately $3,470,000. He further noted that RIOC proposes to hire BL Companies, originally retained as a subcontractor by POMA, to perform the station design work on a sole source basis because of their previous involvement in the Project. Mr. Shane then invited Ms. Wilpon of BL Companies to present her firm’s design concepts.

Ms. Wilpon discussed the scope of work, explained the designs and provided a description of the materials to be used for station improvements. She further discussed the issues of station lighting and passenger protection from the weather elements. In response to Ms. Christian’s question, Ms. Wilpon noted that accessibility of the stations would remain the same, though some repairs would be made to the elevators. She explained that the current budget does not allow for the installation of new elevators. Mr. Shane further noted that the stations will be ADA-compliant.

Mr. Kraut noted that, in his opinion, the current budget for this project is not sufficient. He suggested that RIOC should wait until more money and time may be allocated for a better station design and construction....
(Note that the Tram Modernization Project is no longer running on schedule but projected to be back in service by late September/early October 2010)

At one time a Green Roof/Siding was being considered for the Roosevelt Island side Tram Station.

It will be interesting to see what the new design for the Tram Stations look like and how they will function for the various special needs users on Roosevelt Island, the elderly, disabled etc. Also, what will the Manhattan Tram station neighbors think of the new design? Last year, they were not very happy with the design presented to them and wanted their own green roof for the Manhattan Station.

More on Roosevelt Island Tram Station designs from earlier posts.

There will also be a Community Presentation on the Proposed Tram Station Design. According to RIOC:
Please be advised there will be a special community presentation of the proposed Tram Station Design on Monday, August 2nd, 5:30 PM at the Good Shepherd Community Center. Representatives will be present to answer questions.
For more information, please click on the link:

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group

The architect Renzo Piano was originally contemplated to design the Tram Station. As reported in the 2/4/09 Main Street WIRE's RIOC Column:
...Preliminary sketches of Renzo Piano's design were presented by Mr. Piano himself on January 20. When further developed, the plans will be shared with the community. We expressed our concerns to Mr. Piano that function be the principal guide, to be accomplished within budget and on time....
But that did not work out.

UPDATE 7/23 - Several readers have suggested that the Tram Community Presentation on August 2 be moved to another location because of the stifling heat at the Good Shepherd Community Center caused by lack of air conditioning. I asked RIOC VP of Planning and Governmental Affairs Rosina Abramson if the site could be changed and she is looking into it. Will let you know what happens.

UPDATE 7/27 - Audio webcast of the Operations Committee meeting is now available.

Scenes From Roosevelt Island Bicycle Safety Day - 360 Free Bike Helmets Distributed By Public Safety Dep't, Safe Kids NYC & DOT

RI Public Safety Director Guerra & Helmet Recipients At Bike Safety Day

Last Tuesday was Roosevelt Island Bicycle Safety Day. Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department Director Keith Guerra sends the following report and images:
On Tuesday, July 20th, the Public Safety Department Co-Sponsored its 2nd Annual Bicycle Helmet Day with SafeKids NYC. Volunteers from DOT assisted with the fitting and distribution of 360 Free Bike Helmets on a beautiful Summer day. PSD Officers were on hand to meet and greet the residents and provided refreshments to all the patient people who waited in line. Cheryl Johnson from DOT was quoted as saying, "This was the 1st time that we actually ran out of helmets." This event is such a hit with the Roosevelt Island Community that the Public Safety Department vows to have one every year. So please, wear your helmets while riding and encourage the kids to wear theirs as well.

Excellent program - please remember to Bike Safely.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Roosevelt Island Neighborhood Institution Directory Placed In Subway Station - Contact the RI Historical Society If You Are Eligible Destination

Roosevelt Island Subway Station Neighborhood Directory

Received the following information from Janet Falk, a volunteer with the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. From Ms. Falk:
NEW Neighborhood Institutions Directory in Roosevelt Island Subway Station

Once upon a time, visitors who arrived on Roosevelt Island by subway found no directional signage for sites and attractions here.

Through the MTA New York City Transit Neighborhood Institutions Directory Program, the latest addition to the Roosevelt Island subway station addresses this gap. The Neighborhood Institutions Directory lists several destinations of interest, and others will be added. The program is designed to help people find destinations that are within walking distance of the subway. Eligible institutions are hospitals, schools, tourist destinations, nonprofit organizations, police and municipal services. Administrators of these institutions submit an application to MTA NYC Transit; and, upon approval and payment of a one-time fee of $200, a plaque is produced and installed.

"Many residents and visitors have noted the lack of directional signage at the subway station and at the tram plaza. The Neighborhood Institutions Directory represents a significant improvement that we hope will be followed by signage at the tram," said Judith Berdy, president of The Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS).

Janet Falk, a volunteer with the Society, arranged a meeting with Judith Berdy and Cynthia Ramos, deputy director of Client Services at MTA NYC Transit. Upon inspection, it was agreed that MTA approval would be sought to include a Neighborhood Institutions Directory board as one of the five panels of the Customer Information Center in the Roosevelt Island subway station. The RIHS contacted the groups that seemed most likely to benefit from a listing in the Directory and submitted a request for the Roosevelt Island Visitor Center Kiosk. PS/IS 217 and RIOC also signed up. Goldwater and Coler Hospitals, and The Child School are considering participation in the program.

Because of their status as landmarks, The Smallpox Hospital, Strecker Memorial Laboratory, The Blackwell House, The Chapel of the Good Shepherd and The Lighthouse are also eligible for listing in the directory, as are the parks -- Southpoint Park, Blackwell Park, Firefighter's Field, Capobianco Field and Octagon Park. The New York Public Library and Gallery RIVAA may also be eligible, according to Cynthia Ramos, Deputy Director, Client Services, Marketing & Service Information at the MTA.

The Directory can accommodate at least 10 plaques, so there's room for some of these destinations to be listed. If your nonprofit group is eligible and you wish to participate in the Neighborhood Institutions Directory Program, please contact the RIHS at or 212-688-4836, for more information and the MTA NYC Transit brochure, which includes an application.
Good job by Ms. Falk and Ms. Berdy in working with the MTA to get this accomplished!

Roosevelt Island Little League Season Over, Job Well Done, Next Year's Baseball Academy Starting In November - Check Out Summer Baskeball League

Image of Roosevelt Island Little League Team Warming Up From Don Smith

A reader of this post asks:
What ever happened to the two Roosevelt Island baseball teams in the little league tournament?
Special Correspondent Charlie De Fino, Executive Director of the Roosevelt Island Youth Center reports on how our Little League teams did this summer.
Little League Season Over

Last Friday in 90 degree heat our Junior team (13-14) lost to West Side 11-7 in a game we were leading 2-1 in the fourth inning behind very strong pitching, a couple of misplayed balls opened the gates for 6 unearned runs and that was too much for us to recover from. We have to remember this is our first time in over 10 years that we have entered the tournament and we entered it with 3 teams in separate divisions, many more established leagues choose to focus on one division and try to win, we choose the experience.

So our 9 & 10 group went 2 & 2 and one of the teams we lost to won their division and went on to win a sectional game against Throggs Neck, our 11 & 12 were clearly overmatched in talent but not spirit and lost two games including one in which they came back from a 8 run deficit to tie the game and were inches away from winning it but as fait would have it we lost.

This is not the end, we will begin our Baseball academy for pitchers and catchers in November and get ready for next year, with a few free agent additions ( a family with at least 3 good players moves to the island) and some additional volunteers to help coach we will be in the hunt.

For those Basketball fans our Summer league in collaboration with RIOC is now being held Mon, Tues and Wed (6:30PM and 7:45PM at Blackwell park, come by and see some good games. For a schedule call the Youth Program at 212-935-3645 between 9AM and 9PM for information.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Former Roosevelt Island Operating Corp President Steve Shane Talks To The NY Times About His Removal By RIOC Board - They Defied Governor He Says!

Image of Former RIOC President/CEO Shane at June RIOC Board Meeting from Main Street WIRE

Remember the Breaking News from the June 28 Roosevelt Island Board of Directors Meeting in which RIOC President/CEO Steve Shane was unexpectedly removed from his position? Since that time neither Mr. Shane nor the RIOC Board has publicly commented on what transpired but that has now changed. The NY Times City Room Blog published a story today with a Survivor or Big Brother ish title of "How Corporation Chief Was Voted Off Roosevelt I" and Mr. Shane provides his version of why he is no longer President of RIOC. According to the NY Times City Room blog:

... “It’s an interesting moment in the island’s history — the board defied the governor,” Mr. Shane said in an interview. “The board got a taste of power and didn’t want to give it up. They wanted to flex their muscles, and I was pushed out the door with no cause.”...

... “I was told they had a majority to terminate me and that I should resign and clear out my office and not create a big public fight over it,” said Mr. Shane, who received a yearly salary of $150,000 for the full-time position. “I was told they wanted me to go quietly. I tried to find the support I needed to fight it, but I couldn’t.”...
In my opinion, the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors did the right thing and the only thing they could under the circumstances. Mr. Shane worked for and under the Board - they did not work for him.

In the past, the Roosevelt Island Board of Directors was more often than not a mere rubber stamp for the wishes of the current President. This current Board is different, independent and composed of members very knowledgeable about the issues facing Roosevelt Island. Mr. Shane is also very knowledgeable about Roosevelt Island issues (unlike recent RIOC Presidents), but in day to day practice, I believe he could not abide by an independent Board of Directors that advocated policies he disagreed with. The Board of Directors had no other choice than to remove Mr. Shane because Mr. Shane continued to publicly oppose policies that the Board had approved and he would not stop being defiant.

Whether you agree or not with the Board's decisions on the Main Street Retail Master Leaseholder, Mitchell Lama Privatizations or any other Roosevelt Island issue, it is their decision to make, not the RIOC President's decision. Once a final policy decision is made by the Board, it is the RIOC President's job to implement it, not publicly oppose it. If a RIOC President thinks the decision is so terribly wrong, after appealing to all appropriate administrative channels, the proper recourse would be to resign and then publicly oppose it. Perhaps Mr. Shane can explain why he did not do this?

As RIOC Director David Kraut says to the NY Times:
... “You have a board that’s flexing its muscles,” Mr. Kraut said. “Steve was the best president this board ever had, and the conditions that led to his resign are unfortunate. He rubbed people the wrong way because he thought he was the smartest guy in the room. He thought he was always right, and he often was, but that’s not best way to get people on your side. Whether that helped lead to his resignation, I don’t know.”...
No business or government entity can operate effectively when the CEO/President is defiantly opposing the policies of it's Board of Directors openly and in public. Mr. Shane, who I acknowledge was a far better RIOC CEO/President than any of his most recent predecessors, paid the price for refusing to acknowledge that the RIOC Board was in charge of Roosevelt Island policy issues, not Steve Shane.

It is also highly unlikely Mr. Shane is correct in saying that the Board defied the Governor or that Mr. Shane was removed without the approval of the Governor since DHCR Commissioner Brian Lawlor, himself appointed by the Governor, was present at the June 28 Board Meeting in which Mr. Shane was removed.

The RIOC Board of Directors, including Mr. Lawlor, could help clear up precisely why Mr. Shane was removed if they would speak publicly about what occurred. When I have asked them repeatedly to do so, they have declined saying they this is a personnel matter and they are prohibited by law to comment on the matter. Perhaps now that Mr. Shane has gone public, the RIOC Board of Directors will share with the Roosevelt Island community the reasons for their actions.

The NY Times article also quotes Mr. Kraut saying that the Board Members have been told that Deputy DHCR Housing Commissioner Leslie Torres may be appointed the new RIOC President.

A webcast of the June RIOC Board meeting is available here. It is usually removed a month after the meeting so if interested, watch it soon.

Top Of Roosevelt Island Tram Tower 1 In Manhattan Removed - New Tram Service Scheduled To Resume Service By End Of September

Topless Roosevelt Island Tram Tower #1

As noted in last Friday's post:
The big crane is in place so work will begin this weekend to replace the Top of the Roosevelt Island Tram Tower 1 in Manhattan this weekend...
The Tower Top was removed today. The Tower Side Arms are still waiting to be taken down.

Topless Roosevelt Island Tram Tower #1

Last look at the old Roosevelt Island Tram Tower Top from last Friday.

According to Rosina Abramson, Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Vice President of Planning and Governmental Affairs:
IF present conditions continue and there are no further unanticipated delays due to permitting, etc. we hope to be able to open one side of the Tram to service by the end of September and the other the first week in October...
More information on Roosevelt Island Tram Modernization Project available from earlier posts.

UPDATE 10:40 PM - Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy sends in these photos of the Tram Tower Arm being taken down from Tower 1.

More pictures from Ms. Berdy of the Tram Arm coming down from the Tower.

Roosevelt Island's Gallery RIVAA Presents Island Of Art - Take A Video Tour

Island Of Art Image From Gallery RIVAA

Have you ever dropped in to view the art presented at Roosevelt Island's Gallery RIVAA? The current exhibition is titled The Island Of Art and will be showing through August 22. The Gallery is open Wednesday and Friday from 6 - 9 PM and Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM - 5 PM

You Tube Video of Gallery RIVAA's Island Of Art Exhibition

Monday, July 19, 2010

Roosevelt Island Bicycle Safety Day Tuesday, July 20 - Free Bike Helmets Available

You Tube Video Of Bike Helmet Safety Tips

Received the following message from the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department:
On Tuesday July 20th from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department is Co-Sponsoring with SafeKids, NYC the Second Annual Bicycle Safety Day at the Good Shepherd Community Center. We will be giving out Bicycle Helmets to anyone wishing to receive one. If under the age of 18, they must be accompanied by a parent to receive a helmet. Last year 244 helmets were given out to the community.

Saturday Morning Pick Up Softball Group Soaked By Roosevelt Island Firefighter's Field Water Sprinklers - Problem Solved With Night Sprinklers

I received the following message last Monday from Jason, a Roosevelt Island resident and organizer of the Saturday morning Roosevelt Island Softball pick up game at Firefighter's Field:
We were playing softball on Saturday, as usual. At 9:00 AM, one East-West row sprinklers were running, on the far side of the field from the diamond. Usually, we can share the Firefighters Field with soccer players but they were pushed too close to us in the earlier morning by the sprinklers so we got to a late start. Every so often (15-20 minutes?), the sprinklers switched to a closer row. By 10:15, shallow right field was being sprayed. By 10:45, mid-game, the infield was under assault.

I saw a pair of RIOC red-shirts changing trash bags and I approached them. They told me that the sprinklers are now on a timer and will be on at the same time every week. They agreed that it is ridiculous to water the field at a time of day when the field is most likely to be used. They told me that they could do nothing because the sprinklers are controlled by "Maintenance" and that this department doesn't work on weekends so there was nobody to call for an immediate resolution.

... I hope that the quick and easy-to-implement solution is for RIOC to change the timer. I'm no expert but what's wrong with the middle of the night?

(Note: The times are not precise).
I passed Jason's request to change the Firefighter's Field automatic sprinkler time to Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. (RIOC) Vice President of Operations Fernando Martinez. Mr. Martinez indicated that he would look into the matter with RIOC's Maintenance Department and reported back:
Firefighter's Field has 14 zones. Each zone is on for about 15 to 30 minutes. Basically, it will take 3.5 to 7 hours to water the entire field. We have adjusted the timer to start at mid-night in order to complete the watering of the field by no later than 7am.
I checked back with the Softball group this past Saturday and learned that the sprinklers did not go off during their morning game.

Good job by RIOC, Mr. Martinez and RIOC's maintenance staff in responding quickly to a resident's problem and resolving it to everyone's satisfaction.

More information on the Roosevelt Island Saturday morning pick up game available at their Meetup Group site. Players of all skill levels are welcome.