Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt, An Epic Revolution - A View From Roosevelt Island

Image of Tahrir Square In Egypt From Al Jazeera

The World is a much bigger place than just Roosevelt Island, New York City and the United States. Roosevelt Island residents, our neighbors, have concerns and interests regarding events taking place all over the Globe. Right now, extraordinary things are happening in the Middle East and the world's attention is focused on Egypt where there is hope for the fall of a dictator to be replaced with democratic reform. What will happen in Egypt if and when President Mubarak is removed is unknown but the mere fact that this is occurring is remarkable.

Roosevelt Island resident Adib Mansour (you may know him as Bluebeard) was compelled to make a short film of the Egyptian people's revolt putting together a series of images from this past week. Mr. Mansour explains:
I saw a footage of an elderly man in tears, begging the TV crew to let the world know that he is unable to feed his family nor provide for them a future. Scenes of masses from all sects and towns/villages from Egypt pouring into the city to demand a change, peacefully!

A nation has risen! I had to express myself, and this film says it all!
Any righteous revolution needs help to keep the arms down, and the uprising peaceful!!

You Tube Video of Egypt, An Epic Revolution

 All of the images are stunning particularly the next to last one of the old woman kissing the soldier on the cheek. Let's hope for a peaceful transition of power with democratic reforms and respect for minority rights in Egypt. Wouldn't that be something!!!

Here's the latest news on the Egyptian protests from the NY Times and Al Jazeera.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Roosevelt Island's Innaugural Table Tennis (Ping Pong) Tournament Takes Place Tomorrow At Sportspark - Get Tips From Roosevelt Island's Table Tennis "Chief"

Would you like to watch or participate in a Roosevelt Island Ping Pong (Table Tennis) Tournament? If so, head on down to Sportspark (250 Main Street, next to the Tennis Bubble) on Saturday afternoon from 10 AM - 6 PM for the action. From RIOC:
A complete round robin system will be played in each category: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. The top twelve qualifers from each category will advance to the Finals of the 6th Annual Health and Fitness Day, scheduled for May 14th, 2011.

All qualifers on February 5th will be awarded certifcates for participation. Trophies will be awarded for top positions on Health and Fitness Day.

To register, send your Name, Phone Number, Address and Email to tournament director George Braithewaite at or fax to: 201-977-2577. The deadline for entries is February 2nd.

Please take advantage of free coaching sessions on Wednesdays as well as free play on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 pm to 9 pm!

For more information on Sportspark activities, contact Mike Smith at
According to the RIOC notice, the deadline for registration to play in the tournament was February 2. If you are interested in playing and have not registered, use the above contact info to find out if there are still spots available.

Today's NY Daily News had an article on our very own Roosevelt Island Table Tennis Tournament.
A world-renowned table tennis star is bringing his passion for the sport home to Roosevelt Island - just don't call it ping-pong.
USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer George (The Chief) Braithwaite, 75, is the driving force behind tomorrow's inaugural Roosevelt Island Table Tennis Tournament.
"In any sport, you could practice day in and day out for many years," he said. "But unless you compete, you are not really going to get the thrill of being able to match your skills against others."
Braithwaite, a retired United Nations statistics clerk, founded a club last April on Roosevelt Island, where he lives.
He now coaches more than 70 members who meet three times a week to hone their paddling skills....
More on Roosevelt Island ping pong from earlier posts and here's a You Tube Video profiling Roosevelt Island resident and Table Tennis Hall Of Famer George Braithwaite.

UPDATE 4:40 PM - Have been advised by RIOC that you can still register for the tournament by contacting Mr. Braithwaite. His contact info is above.

UPDATE 2/7 - I stopped by Sportspark on Saturday to watch a couple of the Table Tennis matches and played a little non-tournament ping pong myself.

Today, I received the following press release from RIOC on the 1st Annual Roosevelt Island Table Tennis Tournament:
... RIOC hosted their 1st Annual table tennis qualifying tournament at Sportspark.  Individual players competed in beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories in a round-robin style format.  Thirty-six winners are advancing to the finals, which will be held at the upcoming Health and Fitness Day in May.

Over 40 players, almost all of them regulars from RIOC’s Sportspark Ping-Pong program, participated in the tournament, lead by table tennis champion and Island resident George Braithwaite.

“My hope is that the tournament would establish a group that will train very seriously to compete in May, increase awareness for the program and other activities at Sportspark and promote health and fitness,” said George Braithwaite.

According to RIOC President Leslie Torres, “The table tennis program is very popular and the tournament seemed like a great way to continue to engage people.  It’s a great way to have fun and we are thrilled to have someone with George Braithwaite’s experience coaching Island residents.”

About 70 players participate in the ping-pong program at Sportspark on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights from 6pm – 9pm.  Classes, run by George Braithwaite are held on Wednesday nights.

“I love the game and the conditions at Sportspark are excellent,” said Rustem Vinnitsky, a program participant who has only missed one day of program in the past 2 years. 

To join the program or for more information, contact 212-832-4569.
Here are some scenes of the Roosevelt Island Table Tennis Tournament via You Tube.

Spider-Man Special Effects Artist Grant McCune Who Blew Up Roosevelt Island Tram Station Replica Dies - Watch How He Did It

 Image of Spiderman on the Roosevelt Island Tram from Roosevelt Island 360

Roosevelt Island 360 forwards link to Guardian obituary reporting on the death of Grant McCune, the Oscar winning special effects artist who created and blew up the Roosevelt Island Tram Station replica in the Spider-Man movie. From the Guardian:
... For Spider-Man (2002), he and his team built a scale model of the historic Roosevelt Island tram station in New York City, then blew it up....
Watch how the Roosevelt Island Tram Station, miniaturized and reduced to 1/8th scale of its size, was blown up for the Spiderman movie.

You Tube video of Roosevelt Island Tram Station Spiderman Explosion

More on Roosevelt Island movie making from earlier posts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New York City East River Ferry Service Coming This Summer But Not For You - Roosevelt Island Left Out Of East River Ferry Service Plan, Again

Image Of Ferry Route From NY Times

Curbed reported yesterday on a New York City subsidized East River Ferry Service to start this summer that will be operated not by NY Water Taxi but by NY Waterway. According to Curbed:
Big news out of the East River this morning, and we're not talking something that got fished out of it. The long-promised East River ferry service will launch in June with landings in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. The Times, Journal, Post, and probably every other newspaper in the hemisphere have coverage, so let's talk key details. The ferry will run on a commuter's schedule, operating between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. during the week, with stops every 20 minutes at peak times. Also during peak periods, Midtown ferry riders will have access to a free bus from the 34th Street pier headed west.

The stops: Long Island City, 34th Street, FiDi's Pier 11 (Wall Street), Greenpoint's India Street, North Fifth Street (finally putting the Pier in Northside Piers)...
The cost of a ride will be either $3 or $5.50 each way depending upon the destination. How much will it cost to get from Roosevelt Island by Ferry to Long Island City, Williamsburg  or any of the other stops on the East River Ferry route. The answer is exactly nothing because Roosevelt Island is not getting a ferry stop as part of this current plan.

I asked Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Director and Operations Committee Chair Jonathan Kalkin what the current status was for Roosevelt Island ferry service. Mr. Kalkin replied:
At the last RIOC Operations Committee meeting I put forth a proposal to examine the dock near the Tram for ferry service. It was approved. The next step is an evaluation of the dock and what it would take to make it a permanent dock where a ferry can land.

During the last  Metropolitan Waterfront  Alliance meeting I attended I spoke to a representative from EDC to see if money still exists to pay for the dock (we were allocated funds for a dock awhile back) and he stated it was still there. However, you can't get money unless you have something to build and a service in place so our next step is to assess the costs of the dock and have a plan in place in order to get funding.However, I was also notified at that same meeting that we don't need to be part of a pilot to dock our own ferry at our dock or other docks. All these ideas have to be examined.

I would have liked to have gotten these funds and assessed this sooner, but I believe I was the only RIOC board member to vote for temporary ferry service during the tram outage which was not only needed, but also would have given us a step ahead to receive funding and become part of the East River pilot. Some on the board didn't want to vote for it because it was a temporary ferry. The Tram was also considered temporary at first and because there was still money in place, we should have moved forward, however that resolution was voted down at the time.

The good news is we are moving forward now and this is a priority for the Operations Committee and I will keep it  on the agenda until we complete a full assessment. As you know I setup a meeting with a number of political representatives and the EPA a couple months ago regarding a Solar/Hybrid or a Green Ferry that runs with zero emissions at certain speeds and uses less fuel at higher speeds. We will also be examining that option in the long term. As this island grows in population we must examine these options to make sure people are getting the level of transportation they need. 
More on Roosevelt Island's unsuccessful quest for ferry service from these earlier posts.

Here's the East River Ferry Service announcement from the NYC Economic Development Corp:
The New York City Economic Development Corporation and City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today released details of the new, expanded East River ferry service that will launch this spring. Delivering on Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn’s vision for a sustainable City, the service will provide a new transportation option to residents of emerging Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, and will provide a link to some of the City’s most exciting recreation destinations.
The service will operate in both directions and make seven regular stops along the East River, with two additional summer stops:

 East 34th Street in Manhattan
Long Island City (Hunter’s Point South)
Greenpoint at India Street
North Williamsburg between N. Fifth and N. Sixth Streets
South Williamsburg at Schaefer Landing
Fulton Ferry Landing in DUMBO
Pier 11 (Wall Street) in Manhattan
Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn during summer weekends
Governors Island during seasonal Fridays
During summer weekends, additional service will operate from Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, connecting riders to the new Brooklyn Bridge Park.  During the operating season on Governors Island, ferry service will run on Fridays from both Pier 11 and Pier 6, complementing existing service.

“Many of New York City’s fastest growing neighborhoods, like Williamsburg and Long Island City, have tremendous waterfront access, and we want to capitalize on that by providing a new, sustainable transportation option for residents,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “By launching regular ferry service every 20 minutes, with stops in Midtown and Lower Manhattan and summertime stops at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island, we’ll create a transportation alternative while spurring private investment along the waterfront.”

“East River ferry service is set to make a big splash this spring in our already-burgeoning East River communities and their surrounding neighborhoods,” said Speaker Quinn. “The launch of this much anticipated mass transit option is particularly exciting as we continue to move large infrastructure projects forward in a responsible, efficient and sustainable way.”

“Using the waterway to connect New Yorkers to business districts as well as recreation destinations will encourage economic activity and growth on both sides of the East River,” said NYCEDC President Seth Pinsky. “This robust, regular service will be well-integrated with existing transportation options, providing a new sustainable and enjoyable way for commuters and tourists alike to get around the City.”

“Bravo to Mayor Bloomberg and his staff, Deputy Mayor Steel, Speaker Quinn—you can call her our ‘ferry godmother’—the EDC and everyone who played a role in bringing expanded NY Waterway service to Brooklyn and the outer boroughs of Manhattan and Queens. With stops in our flourishing neighborhoods of Greenpoint, North and South Williamsburg and DUMBO, as well as Pier 6 at Atlantic Avenue in the summer, Brooklyn is ‘ferry’ excited to welcome this new service, which is certain to bring economic development and tourism to our bustling waterfront,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

The service will operate year-round from approximately 7 AM to 8 PM on weekdays and from about 9 AM to 7 PM on weekends. During the weekday peak hours (approximately 7-9:30 AM and 4:30-7 PM), a boat will arrive at each stop approximately every 20 minutes. During off-peak hours, the service will be operated every 30 minutes during the summer and every 60 minutes during the winter.  New ferry landings are currently under construction at the North Williamsburg and Greenpoint sites to complete the infrastructure needed for starting the service this spring.

As part of the ferry service, a free dedicated bus service will leave from the 34th St. ferry landing during peak times and make stops along the 34th St. corridor, the Bryant Park area, Rockefeller Center, and the Grand Central area.  During off peak and weekend times, a connection the MTA M34 bus will be available at the ferry landing.  Ferries will accommodate bikes on board.

The service will be operated by BillyBey Ferry Company under the NY Waterway brand, through a contract with NYCEDC. NY Waterway is the largest private ferry operator in the country and currently transports nearly 30,000 riders daily in the New York harbor.

“We want to thank New York City for giving us the opportunity to provide East River commuters with the same unparalleled level of safety, reliability and convenience we have established for Hudson River commuters,” said BillyBey Ferry Company co-owner and CEO Paul Goodman.  “We look forward to working with city officials and developers on the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront to develop a world class ferry operation on the East River to serve the people of these waterfront neighborhoods.”

BillyBey co-owner and Chairman William Wachtel added, “New York City’s commitment to East River ferry service will enhance the quality of life for people moving to these exciting new neighborhoods and spur both economic development along the waterfront and greater use of an environmentally friendly form of mass transit.”

The fares paid by riders will be zone-based.  Within one zone, the fare will be $3, and within two zones, the fare will be $5.50. A one-zone trip means traversing one, two or three stops; and a two-zone trip means traversing more than three stops. For example, a trip from Greenpoint to 34th Street would be $3.  A trip from South Williamsburg to 34th Street would be $5.50. BillyBey will provide ticketing through a combination of on-board fare collection and the eventual installation of ticket machines at many of the waterfront landings. On-board fare collection will be used until the machines are operational.

This initiative is part of the Waterfront Vision and Enhancement Strategy (WAVES), a citywide initiative launched by Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, which will create a new sustainable blueprint for the City’s more than 500 miles of shoreline. WAVES has two core components: Vision 2020: The New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which will establish long-term goals for the next decade and beyond, and the New York City Waterfront Action Agenda, which will set forth priority initiatives to be implemented within three years. Together, the initiatives will provide a blueprint for the City’s waterfront and waterways, and focus on the following categories: open space and recreation, the working waterfront, housing and economic development, natural habitats, climate change adaptation and waterborne transportation.

Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island are two of the nine waterfront destinations that comprise NYHarborWay, an initiative of the Bloomberg Administration to make the New York Harbor a major recreational destination for New Yorkers and visitors. Increasing access to and connections among the major waterfront points is a central part of the initiative, and eventually will be connected by ferry or bike greenways. NYHarborWay, spearheaded by NYC & Company, will also develop a cohesive programming, marketing and communications platform which will drive visitation to the nine waterfront sites. In addition to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island, the NYHarborWay destinations are: Hudson River Park, The Battery, Ellis Island, Statue Liberty Island, Atlantic Basin, the East River Esplanade and Liberty State Park.
UPDATE 5:25 PM -Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Jessica Lappin adds:
As I’ve said numerous times before, I think that the Island is a natural location for ferry service. However, the EDC has said all along that Roosevelt Island would not be included in the initial phase of ferry service, but would come down the line.  I am continuing to work with them to push for that inclusion to happen sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Roosevelt Island's Version Of Wikileaks - RIRA Committee Reports Made Available Prior To Tonight's Monthly Meeting

Roosevelt Island's own version of Wikileaks - below are the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Committee Reports which had been the subject of January 2011 RIRA Censorship Resolution preventing their publication to the public prior to Monthly Meeting.

As you can see from reading these Committee reports, there is absolutely no reason why they cannot be made available to the public prior to the RIRA Monthly Meeting as they had been on this blog for the last two years. Hopefully, RIRA will repeal their Censorship resolution at their meeting later tonight.
Government Relations Committee Report

The Government Relations Committee met on 1/17 to provide background to members concerning the present state of governance on Roosevelt Island and how we got that way. The meeting brought the members of the committee, as well as members of The Maple Tree Group, the sub-committee, together.

Margie Smith, past Chair of GRC, gave the history of the community’s governing structure. Ashton Barfield, immediate past Chair of GRC identified the conditions that relate to the upcoming election, slated for November, 2012 which will fill expired RIOC Board terms for Resident Board Members.

Discussion took place concerning possible alternative governance options and brought to light the statement made recently by our new Governor regarding closing some of the Public Benefit Corporations maintained by the State. The matter is under consideration with no definitive stance.

Dave Evans volunteered to update the contact list of Government Officials and their staffs who represent or interact on Island affairs.

Margie’s information confirmed the role of Government Relations as the connection point between the Common Council and our elected representatives. The GRC should be contacted when any committee or Common Council Member needs to interact with someone who is in an official or elected capacity.
Submitted By: Joyce Mincheff


At the 1/12/11 meeting of ISC, we adopted 7 issues to work on:

o Red Bus schedule –Goal is to have a reliable and predictable bus schedule. (Frank Farance will be the lead ISC person for this issue).

o Main St. stores – Objective is to have more and better stores. (Max Long & Alex Fletcher are lead persons.)

o Public Library –Goal is to relocate library to a larger and better space (likely 504 Main St.) and upgrade services and collections. (Marilyn Atkins is lead person.)

o Strollers on Red Bus during rush hours – Change RIOC policy so strollers are allowed on bus at all times. (Frank Farance is lead person.)

o Parks – Monitor operations of new Southpoint Park (which opens in April or May). Correct/improve park regulations and procedures as necessary. (Matt Katz is lead person.)

o Night programs for senior youth – If the Social, Cultural & Educational Committee agrees to lead RIRAŹ¼s efforts on this issue, ISC will join the expected Task Force to work on this issue. (Erin Feeley-Nahem is lead lSC person.)

o Pedestrian safety barrier on Queens side of RI bridge – Goal is to have the Department of Transportation install a pedestrian safety barrier similar to the barrier on the RI side of the bridge. (Jim Bates is lead person.)

Recent developments In mid-January, after meeting with RIRA representatives, RIOC began a 15 minute Red Bus schedule in non-rush hours to see if this will give us the desired reliable and predictable bus schedule. So far, there’s not enough data to know if the plan is working. We’ll need about two months of operation to know if this new schedule is performing as RIOC expects.

Aaron Hamburger, Chair - ISC

Communications Committee Report
Meeting Date: January 24, 2011
Chairs: Ava Dawson & Vini Fortuna
In attendance: Ava Dawson, Vini Fortuna, Matt Katz, Sherie Helstien, John Paul, Frank Farance, Rick O’Connor, Ahmed Darwish, Barbara Allen, Lorena Fortuna and Joseph Terranella (arrived after voting)

Committee Internal Censorship

•    Resolution: Be it resolved that it is our standing policy to make public the minutes, reports and “work products” of this committee with the exception of sensitive information or unless otherwise specified.

o    Unanimous approval: 10-0-0 •    Resolution: Be it resolved that sensitive information will include specific e-mail addresses/contact information, passwords/access codes/credentials, internal urls security codes and proprietary information.

o    Unanimous approval: 10-0-0 •    As a courtesy to the committee, draft committee reports and minutes will be sent to the committee for comment at least 24 hours before being sent to the president for inclusion in the agenda package when possible.

Island Censorship
•    Tabled

Update on Publication of the RIRA Column
•    Matt and Dick have reached an agreement regarding the re-publication of the RIRA column. The RIRA column will be made available for publication on the RIRA website the Wednesday following WIRE distribution at 3pm. A specific credit line will be included in the re-publication. Additionally, past RIRA columns will be made available for publication on the RIRA website. The communications committee thanks Dick Lutz for allowing us to provide more island residents with access to this information.

The RIRA Website

•    The RIRA website, Facebook and Twitter were launched on 1/28/11! The website is available at with links to the Facebook and Twitter.

•    Calendar – Barbara, Vini, Matt and Sherie will have posting access to the calendar. Committee chairs will send their meeting times to the calendar address previously specified (please contact the above named for the address if necessary).

•    The communications committee will issue a press release to the WIRE and the Roosevelt Islander Blog when launched.

•    The committee is considering the creation of a forum or group function on the website and will discuss the implementation of such a function at our next meeting.

Subject: RIRA Planning Committee Report 
Date: 2011-01-28
From: Frank Farance

The RIRA Planning Committee met on Wednesday, 2011-01-12 for approximately 90 minutes. We adopted an initial work programme for the remainder of the 2010-2012 term that includes the following six items:

Topic #1: Blackwell Park Planning. Scope: In the prior RIRA session, we had collaborated with RIOC on a Master Plan. We need to provide continuity for RIOC so that community involvement is not lost. The Blackwell Park Subcommittee (of the RIRA Planning Committee) was handling this task. We have new/different members this RIRA session, so we need to make sure there is follow-up.

Topic #2: Long-Term Financial Planning/Budgeting for Roosevelt Island. Scope: In the 1990's there was a state subsidy of $1.6 million. As presented at the November meeting, the RIOC CFO has presented a bleak financial picture. We should be investigating the amount of revenue lost by the lack of State and City taxes returning to Roosevelt Island. By saying "lack", it doesn't mean zero, it means that we aren't getting our fair share. The purpose of this activity would be to research and calculate what our fair share might be, and then to make suggestions on how to acquire that kind of funding and/or services.

Topic #3: Amendments to Roosevelt Island's General Development Plan (GDP). Scope: There is an existing GDP, but more will need to be said about the present and near-future configuration of the Island. One might ask: Why worry about the GDP if most of the development (except Southtown 7-9) is complete? Answer: The GDP also identifies open spaces, parks, etc. and if the GDP becomes a weak document (because both sides, City and State, are ignoring it in residential development areas), then it becomes equally invalid on designation of park spaces and such. This activity would look towards providing revised wording (even though we aren't a party to the contract) and advocacy through the Mayor's office.

Topic #4: Working on an Island-wide evacuation plan. Scope: At present there is no Island-wide evacuation plan, but RIOC has plans for several kinds of emergencies (snow, cold, heat, power failure). Normally, the City's OEM (Office of Emergency Management) coordinates all of this, including ordering evacuations, i.e., the Mayor orders this, not RIOC. The lack of planning for Island-wide evacuations has been a concern of residents for many for years. We plan on working with RIOC, the Roosevelt Island CERT, and the City's OEM.

Topic #5: Main Street and Retail Planning. Scope: We recognize that the master-lease process is ongoing within RIOC, but there is a need for resident input on planning topics that are long- range, not merely short-term questions of providing specific services. We plan on coordinating and collaborating with the RIRA Island Services Committee to formulate RIRA planning positions.

Topic #6: Roosevelt Island Waterfront Planning. Scope: This work involves coordination with the NYC Department of Planning and their "Vision 2020" effort (a comprehensive waterfront plan).

NOTE: The RIRA Planning Committee is free to revise its work at upcoming meetings, based upon priorities and resources. The purpose of establishing a work programme is to announce our intentions for areas of study and recommendation.

SC&E Committee Meeting Notes
Thursday, January 18, 2011, 7pm-9pm

Present: Shinozaki, Katz, Polivy, Helstien, Greene, Darwish, (Nina) Kaul, Feely-Nahem, Reid Absent: Strong, Ferrera, Marcus

We reviewed several ideas that were discussed in our first meeting:

1.    EZGlide 350 Company:    S. Helstien contacted company and got pricings for various size and timings for the possible ice-skating idea.
We discussed more specifically, venue and funding: if outdoors, location and especially security would be major issues; there are three possible outdoor basketball courts (Capobianco, Blackwell or outdoor court behind Sportspark). Security is a real issue as we would have skates, the panels that create the skating surface, rubber matting for the lace-up area to keep secure and protected. If indoors, we might be able to use Sportspark the indoor basketball court. Security would then be no problem. No discussion has been had with RIOC yet. It was decided that we should first meet with Doryne Iseley of Roosevelt Landings to see if Urban America, the RL owners, would be interested in being a part of the funding of this endeavor and if Ms. Islely would be able to then help us get other building managements into the funding circle. We need to know how much each of the building/complex managements would be willing to put into the pot to make this happen. Then we can go to RIOC to talk about spaces they control. We were initially aiming for February, but we may not be able to make it happen that soon. Pricing details below.
Pricing is high: from $10,085 for 2 days (in Feb) up to $16,395 for 14 days. We have pricing in increments from 2 days, 7 days/$12,452, 10 days/$14,088, 14 days. They will offer incremental donations because we are a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.($1000, $1500, $1800, $2800). All pricings include the following:
80 EZ Glide 350 DoveTail panels, EZ Glide Enhancer, 200 pairs of Skates, 560 square feet of Rubber matting for the skate lace-up area, All surface preparation Accessories and Installation materials, Freight to and from venue
RIRA would charge for skate rentals; there is a W hotel in the city that has a skate rink made of this synthetic material. Skating is free, but skate rentals are $12 per pair. We will investigate this further.

2.    Shinozaki and Feely-Nahem, Public Safety Committee Chair, will meet with the Legacy High School President, to discuss RI teen youth issues. We would like to work with the school and their expertise with children to develop a plan Loitering is a problem and the kids need a place to “hang out” from 9pm – midnight. There has been agreement from a sub-committee of Island Services as well, to help and support this effort to find a place for these kids to congregate and socialize.

3.    Helstien and others discussed picking up the Bollywood party. Possible venues again discussed, along with food ideas. Helstien will call Tiffin take-out/restaurant, which advertises with The WIRE and does food delivery on the Island to see if they’re interested and what they might charge for catering. Feely- Nahem has some other food ideas as well.


1.    “Welcome Wagon” - L. Shinozaki – Approached the management of Manhattan Park and met with a positive response. Shinozaki will pursue this idea further for that complex. It was decided by the committee that the respective RIRA building reps need to be present for any of these building events. It was originally thought that any of the RIRA reps could be present at any of these WW’s and that may also be possible, but it was recognized as discussion progressed that it would be incumbent on the specific reps to be available during an event for their building, as this is how we link with the community that elected us. Helstien informed the committee that the RIRA website will soon be launched (no date available at the time of this meeting) and that we would like to have some print materials available for these WW sessions talking about the link.
The Committee supports unanimously going ahead with this project and will bring this information to the February Common Council meeting.

2.    “MarketAmerica” - Bob Darwish - We revisited this fundraising program. The link is: http:// The committee voted unanimously to proceed with this and will bring this information to the February Common Council meeting. It costs RIRA nothing, and it has the potential of bringing in some money to RIRA (people shop through this website and a percentage of the money spent comes back to RIRA). SC&E will propose that this program be included as a link on the website as well. This information would be included in print material for the Welcome Wagons. We want to see this site posted on the RIRA website, on Rick O’Conor’s blog site if possible and possibly in The WIRE.

The Committee supports unanimously going ahead with this project and will bring this information to the February Common Council meeting.

Respectfully submitted, Lynn Strong Shinozaki
Interesting to note that the Island Services Committee Report is already on the RIRA Website.

Hey Kids - Weekend Game Night At The Roosevelt Island Youth Center - Wii Dancing, Karaoke, Twister, Games, Hot Dogs, Drinks & More Fun

Charlie DeFino, the Executive Director of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program Inc., reports on last weekend's Winter Game Night at the Youth Center:

Winter Game Night at Youth Center

Big Success

After a cold week and lots of snow over 40 Roosevelt Island kids showed-up for Friday Game Night from 6pm to 10pm, They played Twister,


Wii dance games,

chess and scrabble. While many of our local youth have most of these games at home, I don’t think Mom is going to take kindly to your 39 friends running around the house.

In addition to the games, our kids had all the franks and drinks they could stand and then played some more.

Tomorrow we will be playing games and singing karaoke. So come on over and see what treats we have for you and your friends, everyone is invited!!!!! This program will be available on Friday and Saturday until the middle of March. Also our winter basketball leagues have begun and the schedules will be posted on this blog.

Here's some more pictures from the Roosevelt Island Youth Center's Game night. Why not try it out kids? Looks like fun.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Monthly Meeting Wednesday Februry 2 At Child School Gymnasium, Come Learn What Is Happening On Roosevelt Island - Censorship Motion Still At Issue

Image Of January 2011 RIRA Common Council Meeting

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) will be holding it's February 2011 Monthly meeting Wednesday night starting at 8 PM. The RIRA monthly meeting will take place at the Child School Gymnasium (566 Main Street) and not at the Good Shepherd Community Center. As always, prior to the start of each meeting there is a public session in which any resident can come and address the Common Council Delegates on any issue of concern.

Below is the Agenda for the January 2011 RIRA meeting.
February RIRA Aganda

In the past, I would have included the RIRA Committee Monthly Reports in this post but due to the RIRA Censorship motion passed at the January RIRA meeting, I cannot share them with the Roosevelt Island community prior to the monthly meeting.

Here's a video of the censorship motion's introduction and rationale at the January RIRA meeting.

You Tube Video Of RIRA Censorship Motion

RIRA Communciations Co-Chair Ava Dawson opposes the censorship motion and writes:
I believe that the censorship motion passed at the last common council meeting was a mistake, and greatly damages the legitimacy and transparency of RIRA. It makes us seem hypocritical in our demands for similar transparency from RIOC if we cannot make our information available to the public, especially when all island residents are technically members of RIRA. 

As co-chair of the communications committee, we have been working to establish a presence on the internet for RIRA (to be available soon), and have been working to make committee reports and RIRA documents available to the public on our website. I am worried about the censorship motion's potential effect on our efforts in this regard.

To comment on Rick's publication of the minutes: It is my belief that committee minutes and reports are public domain, and I feel that he was completely within his rights to publish these documents.  The fact that the documents contained unfavorable viewpoints and harsh wording reflects poorly on those who wrote them. It was not Rick's job to censor this information prior to publication, as he was not the original author of the documents. This responsibility lies in the hands of the elected committee chairs. The public has a right to know the opinions of its elected representatives and how they are reporting these opinions to the organization.

If you do not like the job that your committee heads are doing or you do not feel that you are being adequately represented, please come and voice this opinion at the next RIRA meeting or within the committee meetings themselves.

Please note that this is my personal opinion and does not reflect the sentiment of RIRA or the Communications Committee.
Ms. Dawson's comments were received prior to the RIRA website going live last week.

Former RIRA President and current Planning Committee Chair Frank Farance also opposes the RIRA Censorship motion and believes that the vote was procedurally invalid. According to Mr. Farance:
Subject: Request for Interpretation to void "censorship" vote result because it required a 2/3 vote
Date: 2011-01-28
From: Frank Farance

I request the RIRA Common Council to formally interpret its constitution, by-laws, and rules of order with respect to the apparent approval of a "censorship" motion at the January 5, 2011 RIRA Common Council meeting. Based upon the following reasoning, the RIRA Common Council did not follow its own procedures, which require a 2/3 vote for approval of such a motion; the motion was inconsistent with the present RIRA Constitution; and the motion implied a change to the present RIRA Constitution. Thus, the 17-12 vote on "censorship" did not meet the required approval criteria and did not follow the required procedure and, thus, is null and void.

The following is background information that led up to the vote and a motion I will make at Wednesday's RIRA Common Council meeting.

1. I request the following motion at the February 2 RIRA Common Council meeting:
Whereas the RIRA Common Council at its January 5, 2011 meeting adopted a motion by a vote of 17-12 on censorship, which included restrictive policies for distribution of documents;

Whereas RIRA Constitution Article III, Section 4, "Meetings" implies that all RIRA meetings are public when not in Executive Session ("However, the Council may be called into executive session by a Two-Thirds vote of the Council Members. Executive sessions are not open to the public and no votes may be taken at any executive session.") and the said censorship motion, by virtue of its controlling the flow of information, would imply non-public meetings of the RIRA Common Council and its committees;

Whereas RIRA Constitution Article IV, Section 3, "Secretary" states "It shall be the responsibility of the Secretary to take and report minutes of all meetings of the Common Council and the Town Meeting, to maintain the archives of RIRA, ..." and creating non- published reports would a change in the constitution by requiring the Secretary to keep two kinds of archives: one for publicly available documents that reached the 2/3 criteria of the said censorship motion, and another archive for non-public documents that did not achieve the 2/3 criteria of the said censorship motion;

Whereas RIRA Constitution mandates the use of the current edition of Roberts Rules of Order that requires a two-thirds vote to "Amend or Rescind constitution, bylaws, or rules of order" and the 17-12 tally did not achieve the two-thirds criteria;

Whereas RIRA Constitution Article X mandates a Constitutional Amendment process for such changes, and this amendment process had not been performed;

Therefore, RIRA did not operate according to its Constitution, Rules of Order, and Constitutional Amendment Process;

And Therefore, the January 5, 2011 censorship motion is null and void.

2. At the January 5, 2011 RIRA Common Council meeting, the Common Council reacted to two poorly drafted committee reports. One report from the RIRA Housing Committee contained bigoted and divisive language. The other report from the RIRA Public Safety Committee contained unsubstantiated criticism of an NYPD police officer and baseless criticism of an Island youth services organization (which seems out of scope of the RIRA Public Safety Committee).

3. In my experience as a RIRA Common Council member for 15 years, I don't recall seeing a committee report as inflammatory as the Housing Report. I don't recall seeing a committee report having such baseless claims as the recent Public Safety Report.

4. These unsubstantiated complaints against the NYPD officer were communicated to supervisors at the 114th Precinct, which might cause the loss of the Island's sole NYPD presence.

5. The reports were forwarded to the broad Roosevelt Island community through various people, including the RIRA President.

6. After distribution, it was discovered that the reports contained embarrassing information (the misguided thinking of the RIRA Housing Committee Chair) and inappropriate identifying information (the NYPD officer's name was revealed, which might compromise his work). In one case, the information was posted on one of the Island's blogs, Rick O'Conor's "Roosevelt Islander". Several RIRA Common Council members contacted Mr. O'Conor to have the documents taken down. Mr. O'Conor said that he obtained the information through the normal channels (the RIRA President, as he did for years previously).

7. I and others asked Mr. O'Conor to redact the officer's name in the report, which he did. It is important to note that (1) redacting the name of the officer was appropriate because it was later discovered that the accusations in the reports were unsubstantiated (not known at the time of distribution or posting), (2) the reports were intended for the public (all Common Council reports have been posted publicly previously).

8. It is unfortunate that the Main Street WIRE weighed in on this topic and it was wrong on several counts. It blames the problem on irresponsible journalism when in fact the WIRE has the same policies of publication. For example, the WIRE reported the PSD officer's name in the May 30, 2009 faulty arrest of a parent at a Little League game (just like the Roosevelt Island blog did for the RIRA Public Safety Committee report). This dustup is most likely aggravated by the WIRE now perceiving the Roosevelt Islander blog as a competitor. An ugly competition it's been with the WIRE encouraging RIOC and RIRA officials to prohibit their biweekly status reports from being published in any place other than the WIRE (e.g., not on Rick's blog). The WIRE's position is that publishing in more than place would transmogrify the status reports into a mere press release that it says it doesn't publish, but recently the WIRE publishes PSD's press releases verbatim, i.e., a publishing policy no different than Roosevelt Islander blog on the RIRA report.

9. We are a country of a free press, which means that public officials (e.g., members of Congress) who make embarrassing remarks (e.g., statements that reveal their bigotry) are unable to censor their publication. I think Rick O'Conor had it right: it is newsworthy, to all Island residents to report that the RIRA Housing Committee Chair has such bigoted views. Likewise, it is important understand the low quality of reporting that we the RIRA Common Council are receiving from the RIRA Public Safety Committee Chair, whose reporting includes unsubstantiated complaints (gratuitous bashing) against our only NYPD presence (which we will now likely lose) and against Island youth service organizations (her committee suggests RIOC Board members initiate punitive audits).

10. By shedding light on these actions, we can hold the persons and their organizations accountable. In other words, we gauge RIRA by its own reactions towards these kinds of things. RIRA has performed poorly: rather than the primary focus on better committee reports, the RIRA discussion focused on censoring reports (unless a 2/3 majority approves their release). The RIRA discussion was about an artificial worry about "sensitive information" being published, i.e., the misguided belief that NYPD's officer's name should not have been published because it was "sensitive information". The real problem was the unsubstantiated complaints and gratuitous bashing in the RIRA Public Safety Committee Report. In other words, had the complaints in the report been substantiated, it would have been acceptable to publish the officer's name (no different than the WIRE's publication of the PSD officer's name in 2009).

11. RIRA is a public organization and it is disappointing that all four RIRA executive officers (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) voted in favor of this censorship motion. Residents of Roosevelt Island are members of RIRA and have a right to attend and participate in every meeting, i.e., essentially all our business is conducted in public and is fair game for reporting by members themselves or the public attending the meeting. For RIRA Common Council members, the remedy to poor verbal and written statements is *to speak and write better, not to censor*.

12. Although RIRA is a public organization, there are times when matters (hopefully few of them) must be held in private and the RIRA Constitution permits this via Executive Session. However, participation in such a private meeting is not the same as deciding what information can be distributed. For the past 15 years, I have encountered "sensitive information" in only three areas: (1) the personal contact information for the RIRA Common Council members, (2) the access codes and credentials of operations (bank accounts, web sites, etc.), and (3) the proprietary information we were entrusted to hold by external organizations (e.g., Howard Polivy, Matt Katz, and I signed non-disclosure agreements with RIOC to review their emergency planning). The RIRA Common Council and RIRA committees should have a policy on which kinds of information they believe are sensitive and they cannot include information that is essential to the transparency, governance, and Island-wide participation of RIRA, i.e., minutes and committee reports can never be considered sensitive information.

Reelabilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival Showing On Roosevelt Island February 4-7 - Movies Are Wretches & Jabberers, Warrior Champions & Brain Damadj'd Take 11

Click On Image To Enlarge

The Third Annual Reelabilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival will take place later this week from February 4-7. According to the Reel Abilities web site:
ReelAbilities: NY disabilities film festival is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.
The festival presents award winning films in various locations throughout the NY metropolitan area, as well as discussions and other engaging programs which bring together the community to explore, discuss and celebrate the diversity of our shared human experience.
Three films from the festival will be shown on Roosevelt Island. They are:
Wretches & Jabberers

Two men with autism–an accomplished artist and an activist–embark on a global quest to change attitudes about autism and intelligence. Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland, dissecting, challenging, and reshaping public conceptions along the way.
Wretches & Jabberers will partner with the Autism Society and Area 23a to theatrically release the film nationally in April 2011 to commemorate National Autism Awareness Month.
7 PM Friday February 4 at PS/IS 217 (645 Main Street)

Warrior Champions

Four Iraq War veterans turn the nightmares of war into Olympic dreams. After losing limbs and suffering paralysis fighting for their country in Iraq, they have set out to do what many thought impossible… but will they make the cut?
7 PM Saturday February 5 at Coler Goldwater Hospital (1 Main Street)
Brain Damadj'd... Take 11(Video Clip)
Ten years ago, Paul Nadler was a creative maverick: an extreme sportsman, award-winning TV director, and a veritable Casanova to boot. When a car accident leaves him with a traumatic brain injury he sets out to reaffirm he is still is all of these things.
***This film includes brief nudity
6:30 PM Monday February 7 at Coler Goldwater Hospital (1 Main Street)

Monday, January 31, 2011

What's Happening With Roosevelt Island's Empty Main Street Stores? Will They Ever Be Filled - Just One Little Ice Cream Shop?

Main Street Image From Jones Lang LaSalle

 Roosevelt Island residents have long been fed up with the empty storefronts along Main Street. Commenting on Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Leslie Torres recent column, one reader noted:
Nothing about the empty stores on Main Street. No surprise there.
followed by Trevre who remarked:
I am really astonished that in the year I have lived here, the retail options have actually shrunk. I don't understand what is so difficult, advertise the spaces, negotiate a lease for each one, business will come for the right price (which would be more than the big fat zero they have been getting for the last god knows how many months). It doesn't matter what RIOCs excuse is on this one, they haven't delivered, they've screwed up, and someone should take responsibility to make it right. Madam President must have thought we all have just forgotten about this gigantic island issue and decided if she didn't mention it, all of the sheep on the island wouldn't ask any questions. Or maybe she just doesn't know how to get the word out, so here are some examples so you can see how the rest of New York City does it. Its amazing how RIOC can accomplish so many things but fail in such a basic area.
Another reader responds to Trevre:
In all fairness, Roosevelt Island is not like any other place in NYC. It is managed by the state and there is a lot of red tape to overcome, especially when it comes to leasing the retail spaces. The landlord of those stores is the RIOC and not the owners of the buildings they are in. That makes things a lot more complicated.

All that said, I agree that it should be a piece of cake to fill the store fronts. There is plenty of interest from on and off island merchants. I disagree that this has anything to do with parking. The only people that will frequent these stores will be islanders and the occasional tourist.

Now I have to say, though, that I do not care much about those store fronts. If they end up to be like the existing stores I have very little interest to use them. I am used to do most of my errands off-island anyway. The stores are not going to change my habits much. Since I have children, though, I'd like to see a donut/ice cream shop. Something like a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin-Robbins thing that you can find all over New York.
RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin, chair of RIOC's Real Estate Committee, who initiated the Main Street Retail Master Leaseholder proposal provides the current status on the Main Street Retail situation:
I am happy and excited to announce that the Master Lease RFP for Main Street Retail is in final preparation to create a final proposal for full board approval. Since this is a RIOC RFP it has to follow the Public Authority guidelines for a disposition of property. These are the same guidelines that would take normally only one store several months or even a year or more to be rented. However, this will be done once through this Master Lease process and then we can actually have stores rented easily and quickly without the burden of going through this long process ever again.
This reader does not think that a retail Master Leaseholder is necessary to rent the Main Street Stores and writes:
Dunkin Donuts had expressed interest in coming here but only in the space occupied by the art gallery (the only establishment on the island that reflects the fact that it is in New York City and not the third world.

Parking spaces are not needed. How many stores in Manhattan provide parking spaces? RI is ONE SUBWAY STOP from midtown Manhattan. It is shocking to me how many people still do not realize that RI has a subway stop. While I agree that island stores would be used primarily by residents, and are what are most necessary, if there were other stores interesting enough to attract others, they would come. We don't need a master plan or bulk retailer; we need a RIOC President who is willing to go to Albany and get an exception made to the regulations that are preventing our storefronts from being rented. The circumstances that prompted the regulations do not apply to Roosevelt Island and an exception could be made, if only someone would do the work.
I think getting a private sector real estate developer, such as Southtown developer Hudson/Related Companies, as the Roosevelt Island Master Leaseholder is a great idea, depending of course upon the specific terms of the deal. Once and for all, let's just get the government/RIOC out of the business of retail store leasing and put a professional real estate company in charge.

Here's more on the Main Street Master Leaseholder from earlier posts, audiocasts of RIOC committee meetings dealing with the Master Leaseholder proposal and Roosevelt Island Main Street Retail Study.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Has A New Website - RIRA Communciations Committee Votes Not To Censor Their Meetings, Government Relations Committee Votes To Censor Information Available To The Public

Image Of January 2011 RIRA Common Council Meeting

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) has a new website. According to Vini Fortuna, co-chair of RIRA's Communications Committee:
The RIRA Communications Committee has the pleasure to announce that we now have a website! You should be able to find information about RIRA, updates from the president, calendar of events, ongoing projects, and much more! Not only that, but you can now also follow us on Facebook and Twitter!...
RIRA's next monthly meeting will be held 8 PM on Wednesday, February 2 at the Legacy High School  gymnasium (566 Man Street).

Good job by the RIRA Communications Committee led by Co-Chairs Ava Dawson and Vini Fortuna in accomplishing one of their goals.

During a committee meeting last week, the Communications Committee also voted to repudiate (my characterization) the RIRA Censorship resolution passed during the January 2011 Common Council Meeting by continuing the long standing practice of allowing their Committee Reports and Committee discussions to be publicly reported on unlike the RIRA Government Relations Committee which voted to keep some of their discussions held during a January public meetings secret from the Roosevelt Islands public.

I don't know yet whether other RIRA Committees have decided to keep their meeting discussions and reports secret from the public.