Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day After Thankgiving New York City Black Friday Shopping Extravaganza - Roosevelt Island Resident Gets Deals At Macy's and Toys R Us

Did you do any day after Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping yesterday? According to USA Today, this Roosevelt Island resident did:

... More than 9,000 people were outside the flagship Macy's store in New York's Herald Square at its midnight opening. "I came here for the deals," said Sidiki Traore, 59, from Roosevelt Island, N.Y., who bought three shirts for $50. He also went to Toys R Us for its 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night opening, buying three toys for $106 for his 4-year-old son....
Here's what it was like before and after the doors opened for shopping at Macy's on Black Friday 2011.

You Tube Video of Black Friday 2011 Shopping At Macy's

Next big shopping event is Cyber Monday.

Also, don't forget today is Small Business Saturday. Try and shop local on Roosevelt Island.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Con Ed Conducting Emergency Road Work On Roosevelt Island From Southpoint Park To Front Of Goldwater Hospital - Q102 Bus Rerouted Untll Further Notice

Received the following advisory from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) earlier today:

We have just been notified by Con Edison that they are conducting emergency road work from Southpoint Park (100 Main St) to the front of Goldwater Hospital (200 Main St). Therefore, the Q102 bus will be re-routed to pick up and drop off passengers in front of the Tram (300 Main St) until further notice.


Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group

Small Business Saturday - Check Out Gifts At The Roosevelt Island Historical Society Visitors Center Kiosk Tomorrow - NYC Buildings Blocks For Neighborhood Retail Initiative Encourages Buying Local

You Tube Video of Small Business Saturday

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday.
The 2nd annual Small Business Saturday® is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

On November 26, we're asking millions of people to shop small at their favorite local stores and help fuel the economy. When we all shop small, it will be huge.
According to new Main Street Master Leaseholder Hudson/Related Principal David Kramer, Roosevelt Island residents do not spend very much money with our local stores. Mr Kramer reported that 85 cents of every dollar Roosevelt Island residents currently spend is off Island.  Mr. Kramer believes that a new revitalized Main Street with retailers offering products and services that Roosevelt Islanders wish to purchase will result in more of our dollars being spent locally.

Perhaps a new initiative from the NYC Small Business Service will assist new and existing Roosevelt Island businesses and help revitalize our Main Street Retail Corridor. According to this October 31 press release:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced a series of new initiatives, called Building Blocks for Neighborhood Retail, to support neighborhood retail corridors and create jobs. The program will support the City’s economic growth by promoting local retail districts and assisting businesses within them. The initiatives are the result of a comprehensive review of retail corridor conditions by a Neighborhood Retail Working Group comprised of the Department of Small Business Services, the Department of City Planning, the Economic Development Corporation, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn made the announcement at an event launching the second annual American Express “Small Business Saturday.” The event took place at men’s clothing store Rothman’s in Union Square, where the Mayor was also joined by American Express CEO Ken Chenault and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our City’s economy and our neighborhood retail corridors are the driving force behind job creation and economic growth,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “Building Blocks for Neighborhood Retail will provide local neighborhood retail districts with the tools they need to jump-start local economic activity, attract new retailers and reach a whole new range of consumers.”...
The Roosevelt Island Historical Society wants you to remember them on Small Business Saturday:
Image From RIHS and Richard Bachmann





The entire NYC Small Business Building Blocks For Neighborhood Retail Initiative Press Release is here.

UPDATE 5 PM - RIHS merchandise includes miniature Roosevelt Island Tram replicas

 Image from Judy Berdy

and Tram T-shirts.
  Image from Judy Berdy

More examples of RIHS Visitor Center Kiosk merchandise here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from Roosevelt Island - Meet You at Alice's Restaurant And Take A Look At Old Time Macy's Parade Floats

Happy Thanksgiving Day wishes to everyone out there in Roosevelt Island land and elswhere. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Since Thanksgiving is a day all about about Tradition, here is my traditional Thanksgiving Day post - if something can be a tradition having started just in 2007.

In addition to family, great food, the Macy's Parade, Miracle on 34th Street, March of the Wooden Soldiers and football, listening to Arlo Guthrie's rendition of Alice's Restaurant on WNEW-FM was, for me, a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition. A former DJ from the station remembers Thanksgiving and Arlo Guthrie this way on the blog All Mixed Up Radio.
Every year a couple of days before Thanksgiving, it starts. It's slow at first, and then turns into a non-stop avalanche of phone calls. And no matter how many times a station runs promo announcements telling people exactly when it will be played, the calls still come.

"What time are you playing 'Alice's Restaurant?'"
Some of the lyrics:
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room, seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't have to take out their garbage for a long time.
You Tube link to short 2 minute video version above is here.
For those of you who want to go back in time and see the full 18 minute version of Alice's Restaurant, You Tube link is here.

Something new for this year. Take a look at some of these Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats from 1927 thru 1968 via Buzzfeed.

 Image of 1927 Felix the Cat Macy's Thanksgiving Float From Buzzfeed

Image of 1935 The Marx Brothers Macy'sThanksgiving Float from Buzzfeed

 Image of 1940 The Tin Man Macy's Thanksgiving Float From Buzzfeed

More Macy's Thanksgiving Day Floats from Buzzfeed here.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Owes The NY State Bond Debt Used To Build Roosevelt Island, Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) or Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) - Not Us Says RIOC

Image of Bond Debt From Painependant

A previous guest post by former Roosevelt Island Residents Association President (RIRA) and current Planning Committee Chair Frank Farance raised an issue of the long term financial stability of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC): According to Mr. Farance's November 9 Post:
... there are some topics of real and long- term consequence that affect all residents. One topic is the long-term finances of the Island. Roosevelt Island was built in the 1970's with hundreds of millions in bonds. I've heard that as much as $400 million is due, of which RIOC's "profits" will pay it down....
Mr. Farance follows up on previous post with:

In the prior issue of the WIRE and on the Roosevelt Islander Blog, my letter suggested as much as a $400 million liability for RIOC. I was wrong. I've looked into the supporting paperwork and it appears that almost a BILLION dollars are due to UDC (Urban Development Corporation, now named Empire State Development Corporation - ESDC). According to the Revenue Allocation Agreement of August 3, 1988:
  • ... WHEREAS, in order to develop the Premises [Roosevelt Island] in according with such lease, UDC borrowed funds to finance construction of public facilities including without limitation, roads, sidewalks, sewer system, AVAC, water lines, schools, promenades, recreational facilities, a tram, parking garages, other parking facilities and other public facilities;
  • WHEREAS, in addition, other funds have been advanced to cover deficits arising from the operation and maintenance of the Premises;
  • WHEREAS, under chapter 899 of the New York Laws of 1984 (the "RIOC Act") UDC is required to assign the Master Lease to RIOC;
  • WHEREAS, the RIOC Act provides, in pertinent part, among other things, that all revenues derived from the contracts, leases, agreements or instruments assigned to or assumed by RIOC pursuant to Section 6 Subdivision 2 of the RIOC Act be applied first to the payment of obligations assigned to or assumed by RIOC, as more fully provided herein;
  • WHEREAS, the RIOC Act further provides the UDC and RIOC shall enter into such agreements and take such actions to permit UDC to recover the investment it has made in the Premises; ...
As of March 31, 1987 the Accrued Operating Deficit was $54,894,528 and the Public Facilities Debt was $117,462,448 (see PDF page 18 of the August 3, 1988 Revenue Allocation Agreement). In addition, another approximately $50 million operating deficit has accrued since the agreement. With an agreed upon interest rate of 5.74% per annum, the total due this fiscal year is $857 million. The annual interest is about $50 million (over $4 million a month), which dwarfs RIOC's $20 million in annual revenues. RIOC Board members frame this in wishful thinking (I Hope The State Doesn't Ask For Its Money), but this is a BILLION dollar Oops!, and it is off RIOC's balance sheet.

I'm sure we'd wish for ESDC to forgive the debt, but our billion dollar liability is their billion dollar asset and I'm not hopeful that ESDC (the State's flagship entity for economic development) is willing to take a couple black eyes when it might affect their ability to issue bonds (read: in ESDC vs. RIOC, I'm guessing RIOC loses).

As a former RIRA President, I complained loudly about the inadequacy of RIOC's 5-year budget and RIOC started providing 15-year projections, which had revealed significant risks and liabilities. Again, I ask RIOC Board members to disclose the true finances of RIOC and to explain their financial plans.

[Attached documents: #1 August 3, 1988 Revenue Allocation Agreement, which references the other three documents of July 21, 1988: #2 Assignment and Assumption Agreement, #3 Phase I Subleases and Revenue, #4 Other Agreements. Important Note: There are other records, I am awaiting a response from RIOC.]
In addition to being published in this Blog, Mr. Farance's statement was also published as a Letter to the Editor in the November 19 Main Street WIRE. Prior to publishing Mr. Farance's guest post, I asked RIOC:
Frank Farance has submitted the following article regarding the finances of Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. Mr. Farance asserts, based upon his review of certain documents described in his article, that almost a billion dollars are owed to the State of NY.

Is Mr. Farance correct? If not, can you clarify what is the current state of debt owed, if any, by RIOC to NY State or any of it's Agencies.

I understand this is a very important issue and am checking with you before publishing Mr. Farance's article. I plan to publish it on Friday. A comment from RIOC regarding the accuracy of Mr. Farance's article would be very helpful. If you do not wish to comment, please let me know that as well.
I received this reply from Howard Polivy, RIOC Board Member and Chair of RIOC's Audit Committee yesterday (Monday) afternoon:
There are some very basic misunderstandings in Mr. Farance’s recent letter to the Wire. Let’s start at the beginning. The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) was conceived in 1968 primarily to build state-subsidized housing projects. UDC is now doing business as Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

The bond debt belongs with ESDC, not RIOC. By statute, RIOC cannot take on any debt. That’s why it’s quite properly not shown on our books. However, since the WIRE buildings were built with the UDC financing, it’s only reasonable and fair that any revenues derived from them would be split between RIOC and ESDC. Therefore, the RIOC Act requires a formal revenue allocation agreement exist that addresses how RIOC revenues should be split with ESDC. Part of that agreement requires that RIOC pass through PILOT payments (Payment in lieu of taxes) and gives ESDC a portion of the ground rent collected. RIOC has been doing that for the past 24+ years. Other income could/should theoretically be shared with ESDC but only after all other capital improvement payments have been deducted against operating incomes. When deducting all capital expenditures there are no expected excess funds to be shared through to 2068.

RIOC's annual budget and financial statements properly restrict themselves to its own direct receipts, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

So, bottom line, there’s no big groundswell of debt piling up ready to swallow up the Island. The board is not crossing its fingers and hoping the State won’t notice that RIOC owes them money. The board and RIOC staff is now, and has for the last 24+ years, been responsibly living up to its agreement with NY State.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NYPD Performing Practice Drills With Harbor Unit On Roosevelt Island Tram Wednesday November 23 - Service Will Not Be Interrupted

Received the following advisory from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC):
Please be advised the NYPD, along with the Harbor Unit, will be practicing on one Tram cabin on Wednesday, November 23rd, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Please note regular Tram service will not be interrupted during this time frame.


Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group
Image Of Previous NYPD Tram Rescue Drill

More information on Roosevelt Island Tram rescue drill by NYPD and FDNY from previous posts.

Roosevelt Island Gristedes May Become Red Apple Supermarket Says Owner John Catsimatidis

Crains NY Business reported yesterday on possible New York City Mayoral candidate, billionaire oil man, real estate developer and Gristedes supermarket owner John Catsimatidis:

... In his supermarket business, Mr. Catsimatidis is trying to get his timing back. Gristedes' $250 million in revenues represents only about 5% of Red Apple Group's sales, yet it is the business he's known for, and where he made his first million at age 25.

In the past decade, those traditional supermarkets have been hit with competition from Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Fresh Direct and other progressive grocers, which, he says, have a competitive advantage because they are nonunion.

Gristedes is struggling to break even and continues to shrink. “It's obvious we shouldn't be in this business anymore,” he said. “I do it for my employees, not for myself.”

To compete with the new consumer favorites, last month he resurrected the supermarket brand that launched his career in the grocery business. The last Red Apple disappeared from the city landscape about 20 years ago, but now The Andrea apartment building has one. Red Apple is known for its no-frills and low-cost merchandise.

Bringing back Red Apple is a smart strategic move, according to supermarket consultant Burt Flickinger. “It's one of the great names in the supermarket business and will still connect with consumers as standing for value at a time when prices are higher in New York City,” Mr. Flickinger said.

Mr. Catsimatidis said he plans to open more Red Apples in New York and is considering replacing some of his faltering Gristedes stores with the brand. Gristedes operates only in Manhattan...
Click here for the entire Crains article.

I asked Mr. Catsimatidis:
An article in today's Crains NY Business indicated that you are considering replacing some Gristedes stores with a resurrected Red Apple Brand supermarket.

Does that rebranding apply to the Roosevelt Island Gristedes and are there any other changes being planned for the Roosevelt Island Gristedes?
Mr. Catsimatidis replied:
Its Being considered changing it to a Red Apple
As referenced in the Crains article, the new Red Apple supermarket opened late October in Fort Greene Brooklyn according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Image Of Brooklyn Red Apple Opening From Brownstoner (Mr. Catsimatidis with scissors)

At the October 20 Main Street Retail Town Hall Meeting, Hudson Related Master Leaseholder Principal David Kramer expressed his agreement with many Roosevelt Island residents who expressed dissatisfaction with the Roosevelt Island Gristedes and promised to insure that Gristedes complies with the terms of their lease.

You Tube Video of Main Street Retail Town Hall Meeting

An earlier post which Mr. Catsimatidis responded to elicited these comments from readers on the Roosevelt Island Gristedes. From Westviewer
... We'll never get rid of Gristede's, even though that would be the one thing more than any other that would immediately improve living here.  Does anyone shop there except out of dire necessity?
Plenty of people, actually. I think Gristedes has become a lot better over the last 2-3 years.
Barton Fink:
the store has improved and has any and everything one needs. I wish those that are basing their comments on 4 years ago would shut up. Slander is slander.
Westviewer again:
It is a little better in some areas; worse in others, but still inadequate. 
Barton Fink again:
Gristides the store has never been an issue, it was the management that ran it into the ground 3 and 4 years ago..anyone who has gone in as of the last year, would see all the shelves have been cleared and restocked and everything has been cleaned and up to date. Threre is a new manager and I wish everyone would stop badmouthing the only big nice store we have on the island...before the hurricane, I think everyone was glad it was here. 
... do you think you could clean up the Gristedes on RI? Maybe remove all of the dust covering the beer, too. Also, do you think you could stop charging 13 bucks for a 6pack of Sam Adams? I mean really, that is pretty bad gouging.
and finally Westviewer:
It's not the service -- its the quality and prices.   For example -- what happened to Murray's chicken?   Too good for Gristede's?   Why is  Kerrygold Irish butter $2.79 a half-pound at Trader Joe's and $3.89 at Gristede's?  I'm sure TJ's isn't losing any money on it. 
During a conversation I had with Mr. Catsimatidis, he strongly advised anyone who has complaints with the service at Roosevelt Island Gristedes to report them to this email address.
Give it a try and see what happens.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roosevelt Island Motorgate Parking Garage Gets Some Improvements - Waterproofing, Straight Parking Line Stripes, More Motorcycle Spaces and Greater Safety

Image of Confusing Motorgate Garage Parking Stripes

 A previous post from August 24 reported:
There are a lot of cars at Motorgate that park outside the parking lines and as a result take up more than one space. Some cars park in the small car areas that are very big and this makes it difficult to get around the turns. Most of the parking lot lines are old, not clear or bright so a solution might be to paint these with a bright reflective paint. Also the rules should be enforced or penalty system agreed to make sure people parking follow the rules.
Starting today, the parking line stripe problem at the Motorgate Garage should be significantly better, at least on the Third Level.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) has been conducting a project to waterproof the Motorgate Garage. With surplus funds available from the waterproofing project, RIOC was able to remove the diagonal, crisscrossing and overlapping parking lines and replace them with, for the most part, uniform and straight parking lines on the third parking level. The process involves shotblasting the concrete floors to clean the oils and dirt, applying a sealant to create a clean waterproof surface and then painting the straight parking lines.

RIOC intends to make the parking spaces on other levels straight as well but they do not yet have the funds allocated for the work.

RIOC also increased the number of motorcycle spaces available on the third level as well as made certain safety improvements to the third floor.

Last Friday, RIOC Vice President of Operations Fernando Martinez took me on a tour of the Motorgate Garage and explains the changes made.

You Tube Video of Motorgate Parking Garage Improvements

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remember Improv Everywhere's Roosevelt Island MP3 Experiment? Creator Charlie Todd Gives TED TALK Explaining Public Space Antics

Improv Everywhere are the folks behind No Pants Subway Ride and Frozen Grand Central Terminal as well as the 2009 MP3 Experiment on Roosevelt Island.

Improv Everywhere's creator Charlie Todd gave this TED Talk recently explaining what Improv Everywhere is all about.

You Tube Video of Improv Everywhere TEDTalks

Charlie Todd has this to say about Roosevelt Island:
We had a fantastic time on Roosevelt Island.  I was personally thrilled when Roosevelt Live asked us to stage an event on the island.  I've been a fan of RI for years, and getting to stage a massive event at South Point was an incredible opportunity.  We were really excited to be able to show our participants such a unique and often over-looked spot....
He also organized the Accoustic BBQ at Southpoint Park with Vampire Weekend among others.

Southern BS Visitors Review Their Trip To Roosevelt Island - They Like It Alot

Visitors often come to explore Roosevelt Island. Some share their thoughts about the experience. Southern BS recently paid us a visit and made it to Lighthouse Park. They had a good time. Here's what happened.

You Tube Video of BS Visits Roosevelt Island

More thoughts from other visitors at these previous posts.