Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Are These People Standing On Top Of The Roosevelt Island Tram Hangar High Above the East River?

What are those people doing on top of the Roosevelt Island Tram Hanger looking out over the East River? Is this some new Thrillseekers Observation Deck for those seeking great New York City views and think that the Empire State Building Observation Deck is too touristy and lame? That climb from the cabin up the ladder to the Tower Top must be a real doozy.

It turns out that the NYPD was conducting Roosevelt Island Tram Safety drills. Spencer McCormick reports:
Yesterday biking across the Queensboro I noticed NYPD practicing evacuating folk out of the tram.
Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy shares these Roosevelt Island Tram Cabin rescue drill photos taken last October

and previous Tram rescue drills from Roosevelt Island and Portland Oregon, including video, from earlier posts are here.

Fire At Manhattan Park's 2-4 River Road On Roosevelt Island Reported This Morning

Image of FDNY On Roof Of 2-4 River Road, Roosevelt Island From Trevre Andrews

Received reports of a fire at 2-4 River Road just after 10 AM from Roosevelt Island resident Trevre Andrews. Mr. Andrews sends in these two videos showing smoke rising from the building and the FDNY on the roof. (Enlarge the video for a better view)

Also, Rjhiphop tweeted:
There is a fire on Roosevelt Island...
I have asked RIOC and the Public Safety Department for more details and will post when received.

UPDATE 3:25 PM - Roosevelt Island Public Safety Director Keith Guerra explains what happened:
There was no fire at that location.  There were 2 aided cases back-to-back.  That was the reason for all the Fire Trucks.  Remember that EMS in New York City is run out of FDNY, so they feel the need to respond sometimes.
I replied:
Thanks for the explanation though I do have pictures and video of FDNY on the roof of the buildings in fire gear.
Director Guerra adds:
Nice pictures, but again there was no fire.  What occurred was a smoke condition in the laundry room's duct vent system, which went all the way up a line to the roof.  The Firefighters were just venting the smoke out of the system.  Manhattan Park Management & Supers were on the scene.  The 2 aided victims were transported to Mt. Sanai to be evaluated for smoke inhalation.

Roosevelt Island's Gallery RIVAA Celebrating 10 Year Anniversary With VERNISSAGE 10 Exhibition, Opening Reception Saturday March 5 - What Happens To Gallery RIVAA If Master Leaseholder Takes Over?

Vernissage 10 Image From Gallery RIVAA

Received the following message from the folks at Roosevelt Island's Gallery RIVAA
To Friends of Gallery RIVAA

"We are very proud to announce that Gallery RIVAA is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with the Roosevelt Island Visual Artist members’ exhibition, “VERNISSAGE 10”. VERNISSAGE has become a tradition for our gallery and, has been the most important annual show at the RIVAA Gallery.

According to the dictionary, the meaning of the word Vernissage (n.) is: A private showing, preview, or opening of an exhibition. Vernissage has its roots in the old practice of setting aside a date before an exhibition’s opening for artists to varnish and put finishing touches to their paintings – a tradition that reportedly dates to at least 1809, when it was instituted by England’s Royal Academy of Arts. English speakers originally referred to this day as “varnishing day”, but sometime, around 1912, they also began using the French term “vernissage” (literally “varnishing”.)

“VERNISSAGE 10” marks ten years of partnership and service to the Roosevelt Island community. We are thrilled to celebrate with you our existence, contribution to the arts and culture, and your continuous presence and generous support. Please join us at the opening reception of this momentous exhibition.

The opening reception is on Saturday March 5th from 6-9pm at Gallery RIVAA, 527 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, NY 10044.
Image From Gallery RIVAA

It will be interesting to find out what happens to Gallery RIVAA's space if a private sector Master Leaseholder takes over Roosevelt Island's Main Street. Gallery RIVAA occupies a prime spot on Main Street and does not pay any rent. Can that continue with a private sector Master Leaseholder - should it?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Happened At Last NIght's Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) March Meeting? Public Purpose Funds Report Approved, Internships With Manhattan DA, Ice Skating & Youth Music Program Planned And More

Synthetic Ice Rink Image From Ez Glide

Last night's March Roosevelt Island Resident's Association (RIRA) meeting was relatively uneventful.

During the opening Public Session component of the meeting Yvie Pryzbyla, the Chief of Staff to Roosevelt Island's State Senator Jose Serrano,

 Image Of Ms. Pryzbyla At March RIRA Meeting

introduced herself to the Common Council reporting that Senator Serrano's Roosevelt Island constituent office hours have moved to the first Wednesday of every month from 4 - 7 PM. Ms Pryzbla also offered to provide any assistance Senator Serrano's office can to Roosevelt Island residents though noting that due to NY State budget cuts there probably will not be any funds available from Senator Serrano's office for Roosevelt Island organizations this year.

Following Ms Pryzbla, Linda Jones-Janneh,

 Image Of Ms Jones- Janneh at March RIRA Meeting

Community Affairs Officer for the Manhattan District Attorney's office spoke to the Common Council. Ms Janneh reported that internships are available for High School students that include a $100 a month stipend.

The primary order of business for RIRA this month was the work of the Public Purpose Funds Committee.  As reported earlier, the RIRA Common Council approved the report of the Public Purpose Funds Committee and sent their recommendations on to RIOC.

Below are the RIRA Committee reports submitted to the March RIRA Common Council Meeting other than the Public Purpose Funds Committee report which is here.

The Skate Roosevelt Island concept below refers to a skating event using synthetic ice being considered by RIRA. More information on this idea is available from January SC& E  Committee report included here.
Social Cultural & Education Committee
SC&E Committee Meeting Notes February 8, 2011
Present: Shinozaki, Katz, Helstien, Darwish, Marcus

Skate Roosevelt Island:
We discussed next steps and our plan for moving ahead. Shinozaki and Helstien met with Doryne Isley of Roosevelt Landings who loved the idea. We all agreed that venues most likely to be used are within RIOC’s purview. Ms. Isley said she would support ours or RIOC’s efforts to get other building managements into the funding circle. Because RIOC will, by necessity, need to drive this project we hope that they will get the other building managements/complexes to participate, Shinozaki and Helstien will be meeting with RIOC CEO, Leslie Torres, Thursday, 2/23, to discuss possible venues and insurance issues. We were initially aiming for this event to take place in February, but we have now moved to April during the Spring school break.

In terms of fundraising, RIRA wants the fees for skate rentals as well as a percentage from any organization that should provide food and drink. Skating would be is free, but skate rentals would be $12 per pair.

Teen/Youth Issues

Shinozaki, Strong, and Katz met with the Legacy High School President, Sal Ferrara, to discuss RI teen youth issues. We had done some research on the best ways to work with youths and teens and we discussed that two tried and true ways to get them involved was with music and athletic programs. We discussed a couple of possible programs. First, we started fact finding for a music program, working name “GarageBand.” We see this as a long term comprehensive program, involving or including the Youth Center. We need committee members to work on this committee and people to reach out to their industry contacts for mentors in the music industry. We will be looking for contemporary musicians for this project. The second program we discussed was for an evening basketball program. We need to know if RIOC will open up Sports Park for this. Our fall back option would be use the Child School. But we will first present the concept to RIOC. We will also be setting up a sub-committee for this with the working name “Bounce”. We see this as an urgent issue as loitering is a problem. The kids need a place to “hang out” from 9pm – midnight.

“Networkbreakfast” – is the working title for the Welcome Wagon Project where we will be reaching out to the community with committee members. Our goal is to have at least one person from every building represented on the committee. We have asked for fact finding on donations of Krispy Cream and Starbucks and the results will be discussed at our next committee meeting.

Internet Fundraising - we will address the issues brought up in our last RIRA meeting and follow up with Jeff Escobar. We want to review any conflict of interest issues, which were of concern in the last RIRA meeting. We also want to discuss any other passive fundraising sources as a part of this plan moving forward. We will review what it takes to have this as part of our RIRA website and if there are any issues with setting it up. We hope to move forward on this and precluding any issues move forward to presenting a motion to RIRA.

We again talked about Roosevelt Island as the “GO TO Place” and some of the ideas we had had in our earlier meeting to have something going on every few weeks on the island. We talked briefly about:

A Cherry Blossom Festival Celebrating the beautiful cherry trees on Roosevelt Island and also celebrating Japanese Culture.

An Asian New Year Parade with Dragon etc. celebrating Asian Culture.

A Kite festival in the spring celebrating Middle East Culture.

The last thing discussed was to set up informal gatherings to create an opportunity for RIOC board members to interact with RIRA members. We plan to move forward to create several of these events.

L. Shinozaki, S. Helstien : Set up Committee for “Skate Roosevelt Island” Set up meetings with RIOC. Continue to fact check and evaluate feasibility.

L. Shinozaki : “Networkbreakfast” reach out for committee members for each building. Move toward setting up first meeting. Follow up with Starbucks for donation. Helen will follow up with Krispy Cream for donation. Need to develop a letter for the management buildings detailing our intent.

B. Darwish : Move forward with meetings to review issues raised at RIRA meeting. Propose motion for passive fundraising using Market America and others.

L. Shinozaki : Set up Committee for “Bounce”; reach out to RIOC for Sports Park as venue. High Priority.

L. Shinozaki: Set up Committee for “GarageBand”; we are asking as a favor from our members to reach out to music industry people they may know and Roosevelt Islanders to see if they will donate time to teach groups of children or be available for one on one mentoring.
Respectfully submitted, Lynn Strong Shinozaki


The Committee didnʼt meet in February. However, here are updates on some of the issues weʼre working on.

Red Bus Schedule – RIOC started the new 15 minute bus schedule in mid- February. Thereʼs not enough data collected yet to tell whether this schedule is achieving itʼs goals. RIRA (President, Chairs of ISC & Planning) will meet with RIOC later in March to review the data and determine if changes need to be made.

Main St. Stores - Weʼre still waiting for RIOC to award the contract for a Master Leaser. We understand RIOC is in final negotiations with the key bidder or bidders. We now expect the contract will be awarded at the April RIOC Board meeting. (Thereʼs no March meeting).

Night Programs For Youth - The Social Cultural & Education Committee has agreed to lead RIRAʼs efforts on this issue. Erin Freely-Nahem will be ISCʼs representative on the joint team.

Pedestrian Safety Barrier On RI Bridge - Weʼve decided to by-pass RIOC on this issue. Instead, we will work directly with the Dept. of Transportation (owner and operator of the bridge) to try and resolve this problem.

Aaron Hamburger, Chair - ISC

To: Roosevelt Island Residents Association – Common Council

From: Constitution and Bylaws Ad Hoc Committee

Subject: Committee Report - - February 17, 2011 Meeting

Members Present: Matthew Katz, Frank Farance, Joyce Mincheff, Helen Chirivah, Dave Evans

The Constitution and Bylaws Committee met on February 17 to continue its review of the RIRA-Common Council's primary documents that govern operations and activities. The objective remains to identify any aspects of the Constitution and Bylaws that could require improvement. The Committee will then submit its recommendations to the appropriate fora for their consent consistent with established procedures. Having already conducted an initial/brief overview of the Bylaws, the Constitution was the focus of this meeting at which there was time for a partial overview. Our next meeting is envisioned for early March.

Respectfully, Dave Evans, Chair
The meeting also ended before 10 PM.

We Are New York English As A Second Language Program Has Available Spots For Roosevelt Island Program - Tell A Friend Or Neighbor

Image From Roosevelt Island Youth Program Inc. and We Are New York 

Here's an update on the English As A Second Language Program being offered by the Roosevelt Island Youth Program Beacon @ PS/IS217 and We Are New York
On Tuesday March 1st, 2011 the Roosevelt Island Youth Program Inc. started providing ESL classes in conjunction with the New York City Mayor's Office, ten people attended the first session speaking over six different languages. The ideal class size would be at least twenty students and we hope that we will see at least that number in future classes, classes meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Roosevelt Island Youth Center at 506 Main Street starting at 10AM to 12 Noon. Please tell a friend about this exciting opportunity being offered to all.
We Are New York ESL Class Image From Roosevelt Island Youth Program

If you have a friend or neighbor that might benefit from this program, please let them know about it.

More people might be able to attend this program if it was offered during the evening and not regular working hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

RIRA Housing Committee Chairperson Responds To Criticism Of January Report - Intent Was To Highlight Differences Between Roosevelt Island's More Affluent Southtown And Mixed Income Northtown

Image Of RIRA Southtown Resident Aaron Hamburger Defending Southtown

The Housing Committee report submitted to the January 2011 Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) was quite controversial resulting in part to the prohibition/censorship of RIRA Reports being published on this blog prior to RIRA Monthly meetings, the withdrawal of that report to RIRA and a defense of Southtown (including video) from it's area RIRA representative Aaron Hamburger. Before this evening's March RIRA meeting, Housing Committee Chair Helen Chirivas, the author of the controversial Housing Committee Report wanted an opportunity to present her side of the issue. From Ms. Chirivas:
Although the issue is from last month, could you please put my entire report into the blog archive which recorded Aaron’s attack on my report? He of course completely misinterpreted what I was trying to say: I never said Southtown residents brag about their wealth etc, I simply said the buildings telegraph the message that because they contain expensive apartments and condos, they are only accessible to those with money. Ordinarily I wouldn’t care if a building telegraphs this or any other message – but on Roosevelt Island, which is supposed to be a “mixed income, racially diverse waterfront community situated in the East River of New York City” an island which in theory at least was to be developed under the terms set forth by the GDP, the message of exclusivity and wealth had to be noted in a frankly shocking manner to make the point that Related – or another developer if not Related – must build 7, 8, and 9 as affordable housing as was originally planned! Otherwise, it seems to me, Southtown remains an enclave, and cannot be considered an extension of RI as it was originally planned, as a mixed-income community. I tried to force people to look at the differences as they exist today between Southtown and Northtown by writing that section in as shocking, forthright, or attention-grabbing manner as possible. If it has gotten people to think about the ramifications of how each “half” of RI was developed, then my purpose was accomplished.

Interestingly, no-one on the Housing Committee (including Matt) said anything negative about the report when I relayed it them before Matt re-transmitted it to the CC. I was therefore shocked by the Housing committee members that attended the 1/5 RIRA CC meeting + Matt caving into Aaron at the CC meeting of 1/5. They had all read the report beforehand and never indicated there was anything wrong with it. When I asked Matt about this about-face afterwards, he claimed via email to never have read the report before transmitting it the CC. (!) Either he read the report and agreed with it (which is what his comments by email to me thanking me for the report indicate) or he really didn’t read the report – which invites questions about Matt’s diligence as RIRA President.

In fact, I thought, as a Committee Chair “rookie” writing a “maiden” report, I would certainly get feedback from at the very least Matt, on that report. I was surprised the portion about the Southtown building telegraphing arrogant messages to the often poorer people of the rest of RI didn’t grab Matt’s attention or generate comments. I could only conclude that he agreed with the report. 
Ms Chirvas adds:
... this was the first report from a first-time Cttee Chair, and in submitting the report to the Housing Cttee + Matt + Ellen I pretty much expected a reaction/comments or pointers/constructive criticism from them, before Matt re-transmitted it to the entire CC.  Not only did I not get a negative reaction/comments from the Cttee, Matt + Ellen, I received positive emails from Matt & Lisa; the rest of the Cttee members never replied back.  Matt then relayed the report on to the entire CC. 

Also, most importantly, it was never explained to me that reports/minutes must be voted on & OK'd by the Committee before they are submitted to Matt for consideration by the CC.  In fact, I don't think there ever was an instruction to that effect so I simply wrote a report and forwarded it to Matt, Ellen & the Housing Cttee. Now it's been explained to me that any reports/minutes must first be considered by the Cttee in an actual Cttee meeting. Actually I thought by emailing the report to the Cttee Members + Matt + Ellen, it would give them a chance to consider/approve the report, which is what I had thought happened.  As I wrote above, Matt (& Lisa) at least appeared to approve it. Matt didn't indicate there was anything wrong with it.  Then he relayed it on to the entire CC, so I can only conclude he thought it was OK. 

My current status on RIRA CC is certainly up in the air.  Matt has been requested to remove me from RIRA. I expect there will be a motion (probably from Joyce) at the upcoming CC meeting to remove me which may very well pass, in which case the entire episode will be a moot point. I am expecting some supporters of my position (i.e. working to find a way to fix loopholes in protection for Sec 8 Eastwood tenants so they may keep their apts if their income eventually exceeds Sec 8 income guidelines) to attend and make statements during the public comment portion of the meeting.  I'm not sure if RIRA Treasurer Russ Fields, who is my spouse, and has been upset about the entire controversy since the Jan CC mtg, may quit in solidarity with me if I am removed, but I would certainly be surprised if he did not. At that point, RIRA would need to immediately find an accountant -- even one from outside the Island -- to fill the spot of Treasurer as it is a position that must be filled by an accountant according to I beleive NYS corporate law. Interestingly Sherie (Matt's wife) has never contacted Russ - a long-time volunteer Wire distributor - to help distribute issues of the Wire since the controversy broke in Jan.  I guess she thinks it's in poor taste to ask Russ to distribute a publication that has run stories since Jan that have certainly been a source of anger for him.  Or maybe this is part of the process of freezing Russ (and me) out of Island affairs etc. in anticipation of Matt/CC formally removing me next week.

Maybe the report + my comments appearing on your blog will clarify what I was trying to do etc. I never got a chance to defend the report before the CC because of health problems I did not attend the last 2 CC meetings. I will be at the upcoming CC meeting; however, the issue of the actual report may not be revisited and instead the "remedy" CC members may wish is my removal.
Ms. Chirivas January Housing Committee Report to the RIRA Common Council is after the jump.


January 2011: RIRA Housing Committee Report

By Helen Chirivas

The Committee met on 12/6/10 and the attendees included Lorraine Williams, Lisa Knox, Russell Fields, Matthew Katz, Sal Morabito, and Committee Chairwoman Helen Chirivas.

Our Committee met to consider the three questions on the Agenda:
  1. Section 8 tenants in Eastwood that eventually exceed the Section 8 income guidelines are not then automatically transferred to the LAP Program; this violates the exit agreement whereby all of the tenants of Eastwood were to be protected upon exit from Mitchell Lama.
  2. Southtown is not in compliance with the guidelines set forth in the General Development Plan, as it was not developed inclusively and does not provide low-income or affordable housing, a vital component of the General Development Plan, which is still in effect.    Unfortunately, the lack of affordable housing at Southtown and the sense that Southtown is an enclave has exacerbated social tension and resentment on RI. Whereas RI was previously an oasis where the socioeconomic mix provided opportunities for building bridges and friendships across the ethnic, economic, social spectrum, we now have the phenomenon of a nearly complete lack of contact between the populations of Southtown and Northtown, leading to community conflict and the tarnishing of its reputation as an inclusive, caring place to live. The divisions of NYC, which were previously absent on RI, have now arrived on RI. Day and night, the million-dollar apartments of Southtown telegraph the message to the people of Northtown: We have money, you don’t; we do not need to know you much less lay eyes on you; Northtown residents don’t count because they can’t afford million-dollar apartments; Southtown is where the money is; that’s why Southtown residents never set foot in Northtown and definitely do not care to interact in any way with Northtown residents. Buildings 7, 8, 9 should be developed as truly affordable Rent Stabilized housing open to tenants with fixed incomes, moderate incomes, and those receiving Section 8 subsidies– this would help rebalance the socioeconomic mix on RI.
  3. The RIRA Housing Committee would be happy to assist and support efforts in any of the complexes on RI; however, we can only assist at the request of the building associations. If a building or complex does not have a building committee or association, the Housing Committee has no-one with whom to coordinate efforts within a particular building.    Landlord intimidation may be a factor preventing tenants from organizing building committees in some buildings.
The attendees had a thorough discussion about the lingering issue of the Section 8 tenants of Eastwood, who, because of economic circumstances such as families doubling up due to rampant unemployment, children becoming adults, managing to get jobs but still not being in the position to move out because of high rents, or Section 8 tenants slowly getting pay increases through the years so that eventually their income may exceed the Section 8 guidelines, and many more possible situations whereby a household may no longer qualify for the Section 8 subsidy, these families are suddenly exposed to the excessive market rate rents being charged by Urban American, and because of this unjust economic circumstance, are usually then forced to face the harm of having to give up their apartments. This represents an unfair displacement since the other tenants that were in place at the time the building exited Mitchell-Lama in 2005, those that did not qualify for Section 8 subsidies are permanently protected from excessive market rate rents by having been placed in the LAP Program. Yet all Eastwood tenants at the time of exit from Mitchell Lama were promised they would be forever protected from market rate rents. The Committee agreed there is unfairness with the above scenario – the loophole whereby the landlord can prey on Section 8 tenants that may wind up even slightly exceeding the Section 8 income guidelines by suddenly imposing excessive rents on those tenants -- and considered how the situation can be corrected.

First, we must find out how many Section 8 tenants are vulnerable to displacement as outlined above. We agreed that many Section 8 tenants, those on fixed incomes for example retirees or disabled, would likely not exceed the income guidelines, but that many other Section 8 tenants, those whose children have grown up and gone to work but cannot afford to leave home, or other families that may have taken in a grown child or relative that may be down on their luck but eventually may earn some income, may be affected. It is possible that this data may be available from the DHCR so that we could have an idea of the size of the problem.    If in the end it turns out that the number of households in danger of displacement is in the range of 300-400, then the issue is a major problem with the risk of displacement affecting hundreds of residents. We would like to have this data before proceeding with next steps such as having meetings with RIOC, Urban American, elected representatives, etc., to plead that the
exit agreement and the agreement worked out with the tenants and the new owner upon exit could be amended to extend LAP protection to Section 8 tenants that may eventually exceed the Section 8 income guidelines. We need to find a way to keep people in their homes especially in these times of high unemployment and high rents.

We recognize that the Tenants Association of Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings is currently fighting the landlord over electrical sub metering, that is, electrical sub metering the way the landlord wishes to carry it out –making electrical bills a lucrative source of income as well as providing another way to evict tenants that may be unable to pay grossly inflated electrical bills, by considering the non-payment of inflated electrical bills as equivalent to the non-payment of rent, and extending to the landlord the power to evict tenants even if the tenant can afford to pay the rent but cannot afford the unjustly inflated electrical bill. As the Tenants Association is currently focused on this problem which threatens the future of all Eastwood tenants, the issue of Section 8 tenants exceeding income guidelines and not being transferred into the LAP Program, may not be immediately addressed. Also, the above possible steps can only be carried out under the auspices of, and as an effort by, the Eastwood tenants and their organization. We discussed that it is vital for Section 8 tenants of Eastwood to become active and involved in the Tenants Association. If requested by the Tenants Association the Housing Committee is happy to lend support and help with these issues.

We discussed the problem of Southtown not providing affordable housing. Related has said the hospital housing is affordable housing. This claim is ludicrous not only because hospital housing not open to the general public, but even within the hospital community itself, this housing is only made available
to certain exclusive employee categories such as doctors, nurses, post-docs etc. These segments of the hospital community, with the exception of post-docs, do not earn low or moderate incomes. The hospital buildings cannot be described as affordable housing and do not satisfy the requirement to provide publicly accessible affordable housing. Related would go a long way toward correcting this imbalance by constructing buildings 7, 8, and 9 and insuring that these buildings are Rent Stabilized and open to Section 8 tenants as well. It appears that Related would like to “protect” its investment – the enclave of Southtown -- by conveniently “forgetting” to build the moderate income buildings – RIOC and the State Government should hold Related’s feet to the fire and force them to build these buildings. State Government must act in the interest of all of the people of the State of New York, not just the high-income people.

We discussed the problem of Manhattan Park not having a Tenants Association so that there is no counter-weight to oppose landlord actions that harm tenants such as inflating the price of the sub metered electricity. Manhattan Park tenants must first organize themselves and form a Tenants Association. The Housing Committee would then be happy to assist a Manhattan Park Tenants Association once it is organized.

Will Swimmer Attempt East River Crossing From Roosevelt Island To Long Island City Today?

 Image Of East River Between Roosevelt Island and Long Island City

 I understand that the lack of a recent NYC winter snowstorm and cold weather have made people, including me think of spring, but is it really the time to think about going for an outdoor swim ... in the East River... from Roosevelt Island across to Long Island City?

Apparently, for one person today may be the perfect day to brave the strong East River currents. According to this Tweet earlier this morning:
Later today, I will be attempting to swim from Roosevelt Island to LIC. Stay Tuned...
Will be staying tuned to learn if the attempted East River swim was made.

As reported previously, last summer someone swam across the East River from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan.
It is certainly not the same thing as swimming across the English Channel, but sometime last Sunday a man swam the West Channel From the East Side of Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.
It's really not a good idea to do this considering how dangerous the currents can be around in the East River surrounding Roosevelt Island. More on swimming the East River here.

Here's How RIRA Recommends Spending $100,000 In Public Purpose Funds For Roosevelt Island Organizations - Come To RIRA Meeting Tonight To Find Out More

Bag Of Money Image From Trade Show Shopping

The Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) will be meeting 8 PM tonight at the Good Shepherd Community Center (543 Main Street). The Agenda for the meeting is here. 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.

Among the items on the Agenda will be RIRA's recommendations to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) for the allocation of $100,000 in Public Purpose Funds. RIRA's Public Purpose Funds Sub-Committee will be presenting their report to the full RIRA Council and if approved their recommendations will be sent to RIOC for Board approval and distribution of funds to the allotted organizations.

I attended two of the Public Purpose Funds Sub-Committee meetings. One meeting involved the interviewing of two applicant organizations for funding. The second meeting was the actual discussion by Committee members of their reasons for and final recommendations to RIRA of allocating Public Purpose Funds to the applicant organizations. I must say that I was pleased and impressed with the diligence, thoughtfulness and hard work displayed by the Public Purpose Funds Sub-Committee in reviewing the applications and arriving at their final recommendations.

Image Of RIRA Public Purpose Funds Subcommittee Meeting

As a condition of attending the second meeting, I was asked not to publish any information regarding the actual amount of Public Purpose Funds that the committee recommended be allocated to the various groups prior to the March RIRA meeting. I agreed to that condition with the exception that if I received the information from other sources, I was free to publish how the Committee recommended these funds be distributed and the Committee agreed to that exception.

That condition has been met. Below is a chart showing RIRA's Public Purpose Funds Sub-Committee recommendations for 2011 allocations and a summary of their reasons. Click on the Chart image to enlarge.
Summary of 2011 RIRA Public Purpose Fund Recommendations

Island Kids

Amount requested:    $25,000 Recommended allocation:    $20,000
The Island Kids program continues to be managed effectively and to offer a well-received program. The request is for scholarships for the summer camp that the program runs. With an income eligibility test to receive a camp scholarship, the program benefits low and moderate income residents. Last year, the number of applicants for full and partial scholarships exceeded the funds available. This year, the participation in the program is expected to grow. The committee recommends the same allocation as last year, however.


Amount requested:    $26,558 Recommended allocation:    $20,000
This program will offset the loss of the school's Art program to public school budget cuts. Although the funds for this program were eliminated, the mandate in the curriculum for art instruction remains. Given competing priorities for PPF allocations, the amount the committee recommends represents one fewer teaching artist than the applicants requested.


Amount requested:    $34,610 Recommended allocation    $5,000
This program has received mixed reviews from the parties involved with it. It has been popular with the children involved, but has not been able to expand funding from outside sources. The main concern from the committee for the upcoming year is whether the program would be able to operate effectively in light of renovation taking place at PS/IS 217—it's main programmatic targets in the past. The committee intends that it's allocation promote some continuity in the program as it expands to other target audiences, with the hope that other funding can be found to leverage future PPF allocations.


Amount requested:    $19,500 Recommended allocation    $7,500
The RICLA performs a valuable function in supplementing the advertising funds of Island organizations and assisting such organizations in obtaining grants. The committee members wish to further this objective. The committee is concerned, however, about the effectiveness of these efforts to date. The recommended allocation is for the advertising matching and grant-writing programs only.


Amount requested:    $20,000 Recommended allocation    $20,000
The RISA request is for a different purpose than were previous requests. The current request is to fund a popular activities program for Island seniors. The committee members view the request as a modest one compared to the benefit of the program. The recommendation is to allocate the full amount that the applicante requested.


Amount requested:    $9,105 Recommended allocation    $9,000
The request from RIDA, while modest, may produce the highest benefit-cost comparison of all the programs that the committee considered. The current request goes for the operation of the van that was funded by a past PPF grant and thus leverages that allocation in a beneficial and meaningful way.

R&R Concerts

Amount requested:    $9,600 Recommended allocation    $9,000
This applicant has shown the initiative to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) organization, which status will help it raise outside funding in the future. That initiative, combined with the history of the applicant's programs on the Island are likely to enable the applicant to expand it's program here.


Amount requested:    $20,000 Recommended allocation    $9,500
The committee recognizes this applicant's achievements in acquiring and renovating the kiosk that is it's main venue of operation. The portion of the request for an intern archivist is also promotes a worthy goal. The committee members believe, however, that the direct benefit to Island residents is lower than that of other applicants. The amount that the committee recommends reflects that belief.
In some cases, the Public Purpose Committee members had widely different views as to how much money a particular organization should be allocated. The final recommendations were arrived at by averaging each Committee Member's recommendations per group and then making slight adjustments to insure that the total amount of funds to be distributed did not exceed $100,000.

On balance, I think the Committee did an excellent job prioritizing the various interests represented by the groups seeking funding and allocating most of the funds for Seniors, the Disabled and Kids.

UPDATE 2/3 - The RIRA Common Council approved the Public Purpose Funds Sub-Committee report during last night's meeting and will send their recommendations on to RIOC.

Roosevelt Island Christmas Trees Still Not Removed From Outside Of Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood - Does The Building Management Have A Problem With The Timely Removal Of Trash?

Image of Christmas Tree Trash Outside Window of Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood

How long is it reasonable to expect trash to remain outside of Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood without being removed? A resident of Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood looks out apartment window today and reports:
A view outside my window of Eastwood - 580. Yes, it's been under snow for a while but it's been over a week or more now that the snow has melted and the trees remain!

It's March already - think it's time to clear away the Christmas trees, Dontcha think????
The management at Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood seem to have a problem with the timely removal of trash. Remember the uncovered dumpster filled with trash behind the building on the East Channel reported previously?

Uncovered Dumpster On East Promenade

These are the type of Roosevelt Island problems that should be reported to the Roosevelt Island See Click Fix system. It's very easy to do and will establish a record of Roosevelt Island issues including a method of measuring RIOC's response, if any, to the issue. Try it out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Roosevelt Island Subway Fruit Stand Has Returned To Southtown Today- Spring Can't Be Too Far Away Now

 Southtown Fruit Stand Has Returned Today!

Forget about whether any Groundhog can predict the start of spring. On Roosevelt Island, the first sign of spring 2011 is the return of the Subway Fruit Stand in Southtown which has been absent for the Winter. 

I am pleased to report that as I was exiting the subway minutes ago, I saw that the Fruit Stand is back in business. The next sign will be the outdoor tables at Riverwalk Bar & Grill, Fuji East, Nonno's, Starbucks and Trellis.

Hope I am not jinxing anything and we end up with a big March Snowstorm.

Roosevelt Island Constituent Office Hours With NY State Senator Jose Serrano's Office Wednesday March 2, RIRA Monthly Meeting March 2 & Assembly Member Kellner Constituent Office Hours Thursday March 3

State Senator Jose Serrano's office will be holding Roosevelt Island constituent service hours at RIOC Headquarters (591 Main Street) this Wednesday, March 2 from 4 PM until 7 PM. Senator Serrano had previously held his Roosevelt Island Monthly Constituent Office Hours on the first Tuesday of every month but has changed the date to the first Wednesday of the month prior to the Monthly Roosevelt Island Residents Association Meeting (RIRA).

If you have any questions to ask Senator Serrano's staff or are in need of any assistance that may require the help of your elected representative stop on by RIOC HQ. Also, bring photocopies of any paperwork related to your situation so that the Serrano staff can effectively and efficiently address the issue.

RIRA will be meeting 8 PM Wednesday, March 2  at the Good Shepherd Community Center. The Agenda for the meeting is here. Among the topics will be RIRA's recommendations to RIOC for the allocation of $100,000 in Public Purpose Funds.

Assembly Member Micah Kellner's office will be holding their Roosevelt Island constituent service hours the next day, Thursday March 3 from 3PM to 7 PM at RIOC Headquarters - 591 Main Street.

Monday, February 28, 2011

RIOC Changes 3 Year Old Policy On Release Of Daily Public Safety Report Information To Roosevelt Island Community- Senior Staff Needs To Review First, Why?

Image of Redacted Report From Ann Arbor Chronicle For Illustrative Purposes Only

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Public Safety Department has been including me on an email distribution list of it's Daily Public Safety Reports since January 2008 when I asked former RIOC President Steve Shane to do so and he agreed. Since that time I have been periodically posting these reports on this blog's main page and including the reports for the previous 7 days on the blog's sidebar.

Last week the Roosevelt Island Daily Public Safety Reports stopped arriving in my email folder. I sent an email to Public Safety Director Keith Guerra about this but received no response. Last Friday, I ran into RIOC's Press Spokesperson at Starbucks, told her that I was not receiving the Public Safety Reports and asked her if she could look into the matter, which she agreed to do. Earlier today, I received this message from the RIOC Press Spokesperson:
I check{ed} on the email alerts you asked about.  It appears you got on an internal RIOC distribution list that was meant for senior RIOC employee only.  Your name has now been removed from that list.  You can still get information here :
Hope that helps,
I responded and copied RIOC President Leslie Torres, VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez as well as the RIOC Directors:
Why has my name been taken off the Daily Public Safety Report list? I have been receiving these daily public safety reports and posting on blog for over a year with the knowledge and permission of Senior RIOC staff since Steve Shane was RIOC President. It was not a mistake that I was on that list.

What has changed in RIOC policy between last week when I received the information and now?
RIOC's Press Spokesperson replied:
Your name was taken off the Daily Public Safety Report email list because this is an internal RIOC email for senior staff.  You can still get access to this information on RIOC's website at, so you can still post the information on the blog.
I replied:
That this is an internal RIOC email list does not answer the question as to why I was taken off the list since I was on the list since January 2008 with the knowledge and permission of RIOC senior staff. What has changed from the prior three years, including last week, to this week that requires my removal from this list.

The RIOC Incident Report web page that you link to is not a sufficient method of informing the Roosevelt Island public because it only lists the report for a single day and then is removed. If I happen to miss that particular day there is no way for me to access the information. Also, there are days when the Public Safety Incident Information is not put up on the site.

By including me in the emails, as has been the practice for over a year, I am able to provide the Roosevelt Island public with important Public Safety information on a timely, effective and efficient basis.

What, if anything, is now different with the content on the email list? I don't understand the rationale for removing me from a source of information that has served the Roosevelt Island public well for over three years.

Why would RIOC want that stopped?
RIOC's Press Spokesperson answered:
 I understand that you are unhappy about being taken of the list, but the Daily Public Safety Report email presents the first time senior staff at RIOC have to opportunity to see and discuss this information.  They need an opportunity to review this information before it goes public.
RIOC is willing to create an archive of incident reports, if that helps you.
This makes no sense at all and contributes to the perception that RIOC is hiding/filtering Public Safety information from the Roosevelt Island community. Why does the Senior Staff now need to review and discuss the daily Public Safety Reports prior to it's release when they had not been doing it for the last three years?

What is going on?

I was just about to press the publish button on this post when RIOC VP Of Operations Fernando Martinez spotted me at Starbucks and sat down for a conversation on this subject. Mr. Martinez emphasized that the purpose of having Senior RIOC staff review the Daily Public Safety Reports prior to releasing it to the community was so that he would know what is going on and be able to respond if questioned about a particular incident. Mr. Martinez promised that the Daily Public Safety Reports would not be censored and still be made available that same day - only a little later in the day on RIOC's web site where I can take the reports and publish on this blog.

After speaking with Mr. Martinez I understand his position better but still think there is no reason to add another layer of RIOC review prior to releasing the information to the public. If a resident asks him a question that he does not know the answer to, all he has to say is that I will get back to you on that when I have the answer as has been done for the last three years.

UPDATE 3/1 - I spoke with RIOC President Leslie Torres earlier today who promised to send me a separate email with the daily Public Safety Report after she or other RIOC senior staff members review it.

UPDATE 3/2 - Received today's Public Safety Report in separate email from RIOC and posted on sidebar, If this procedure is continued, should work out fine. It included same information as went to RIOC senior staff.

Uncle Jim Brings Wheelchair Basketball To Roosevelt Island's Sportspark - Enabled People With A Disability Who Can Do Everything Other People Do But Just A Little Bit Different

 Roosevelt Island Wheelchair Basketball Image From Damiano Beltrami of Huffington Post

The Huffington Post reported today on our very own "Uncle" Jim Bates, the President of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA), and his efforts to bring Wheelchair Basketball to Roosevelt Island's Sportspark facility.

The Huffington Post reports:
Jim Bates, president of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, is stretching the shoe-string budget of his small, nonprofit organization to create a wheelchair basketball team on Roosevelt Island, where several hundred disabled people live.

"These guys deserve to show their skills, and they need competition to get better," said Bates, a determined and proactive 67-year-old Vietnam era veteran, who goes by the nickname of Uncle Jim. "Am I going to be the coach? Well, why not?"...
As Mr. Bates says in the video below, disabled people:
... can do everything other people can do - just a little bit different.

More on Roosevelt Island Wheelchair Basketball from this previous post.
Every Saturday from 10AM to 1PM Sportspark Gym at 250 Main St will be open to all Wheelchair Basketball players.

For more information contact unclejim at 212 731-2547

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pretty Cool Daddy-O, Roosevelt Island Kids From 1980 Perform West Side Story At The Youth Center - Where Have All The Years Gone?

 Image From 2010 Roosevelt Island Reunion

Previous posts have reported on the adult reunions of 1970's-80's era kids who grew up on Roosevelt Island. Since you've seen what the original Roosevelt Island kids now look like at the reunions, here's a blast from the past's Wayback Machine showing some of them as they were over 30 years ago as teenagers in a Roosevelt Island Youth Center performance of West Side Story.

This 1980 Roosevelt Island Youth Center performance of West Side Story was put up on You Tube by one of the Roosevelt Island kids - Christopher Scott Knell of Fine Line Studios. According to Christopher:
The "Original" Kids from Roosevelt Island perform "West Side Story" at the Youth Center on Roosevelt Island in 1980.

The whole show is here for the first time...

There's about 10 minutes missing towards the beginning because some un-named individual recorded over the original VHS tape with The Who on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert or some such late night concert show.

But now it's finally edited and fixed up a bit.

Thanks to Dana D. for getting me the original.

Hope ya'll enjoy it,
Here's more on Roosevelt Island from the 1980's.

Pretty Cool Daddy-O.

Roosevelt Island Piano Teacher And Student Play Recital For Patients At Coler Goldwater Hospital

Image From Crunchy Apples

Blogger Crunchy Apples's daughter takes piano lessons with Roosevelt Island piano teacher Rachel Blanchard and loves it. Her daughter recently played at a recital with Ms Blanchard for patients at Coler Goldwater Hospital. Crunchy Apples was very proud of her daughter and writes:
... After, the kids handed out treats to the residents who had varying levels of disabilities. I was really proud of Elyse for being super kind to them and not being nervous. I can remember being so frustrated as a kid and plain old angry as an older teenager when people would stare at my sister, but now I realize that if you're not around people with disabilities you just might not understand....

Image From Crunchy Apples

Nice story. Crunchy Apples whole post is here.