Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Wishes For A Happy And Healthy New Year From Roosevelt Island - Goodbye 2013, Welcome 2014 With Peace, Love And Understanding

Best Wishes to all for a Happy And Healthy New Year in 2014.

You Tube Video of Bottle Band Auld Lang Syne Performance

There's no better way to party out the past year then with a traditional last song from Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes together with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band .
We're havin' a party
Everybody's swinging
Dancing to the music
On the radio
So listen, Mr. DJ
Keep those records playing
'Cause I'm having such a good time
Dancing with my baby
You Tube Video of Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen Having a Party in 1978 - Lyrics are by Sam Cooke.
Here's hoping for some 2014 Peace, Love and Understanding from Elvis Costello.

Roosevelt Island And Upper East Side NY State Assembly Member Micah Kellner Sanctioned For Sexually Harassing Staff Members - Details In Letter From Speaker Sheldon Silver

Reported last July 24 that Roosevelt Island/Upper East Side NY State Assembly Member Micah Kellner (who was running for NY City Council at the time and lost)

 was accused of sexual harassment by a junior member of his Assembly staff. At the time Mr. Kellner responded to the charges by saying:
Over four years ago, for a few weeks while I was still single, I exchanged instant messages with a female member of my staff that were flirtatious. It was inappropriate. I was wrong and it was stupid. When I was told that my staffer felt the messages were unprofessional, I immediately stopped and regretted placing her in that position. I was sorry then and I am sorry now.
The NY Times reported yesterday:
A state assemblyman from the Upper East Side of Manhattan was sanctioned on Monday after an ethics investigation found that he had sexually harassed staff members.

The assemblyman, Micah Z. Kellner, a Democrat, was stripped of his position as chairman of the Committee on Libraries and Education Technology and will be forbidden to hold leadership positions in the future. He will also be barred from having interns and will have the size of his staff reduced over time, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, said...
According to the NY Daily News Daily Politics:
... In banning Kellner from any future leadership posts and freezing his staff allocations - effectively reducing Kellner’s staff through attrition - Silver went beyond the punishment recommendations made by the ethics committee.

In a letter to Kellner, Silver said his behavior was “intolerable” and “inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which members of the Assembly should be held.”...
Capital New York adds:
... "The findings of the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee concerning the conduct of Assemblymember Kellner are deeply disturbing and I am immediately implementing all of its recommendations," Silver said in a statement. "Let me be clear – this type of behavior is not to be tolerated."

A review by the Ethics Committee, which has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, substantiated the complaints and said Kellner's conduct was “unbecoming of a member of the Assembly and reflects poorly on the entire body.”...
Capital New York provides the full letter sent from Assembly Speaker Speaker Silver to Mr. Kellner admonishing Mr. Kellner for his actions.

I asked Mr. Kellner for a comment and will update if received.

The NY Daily News also asked Mr. Kellner for a comment and report:
Reached on cell phone Monday night, Kellner declined to comment, saying he and his lawyer were still reviewing the ethics committee report.
UPDATE 7:10 PM - A spokesman for Assembly Member Kellner replied:
Assembly Member Kellner does not accept the Ethics Committee’s and Speaker Silver's findings. The letter sent by the Committee was factually inaccurate and the investigation was flawed. Assembly Member Kellner will appeal the ruling in accordance with the Assembly’s 2009-2010 Assembly Sexual Harassment Policy, Article VI, mandating that a hearing officer be designated to conduct a public hearing concerning these findings. At a hearing, sworn testimony must be taken from all witnesses permitting the fundamental right to cross examine the accuser and the evidence that exists. Perhaps then the real facts surrounding this matter will be heard.
NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued the following statement:
The latest reports of sexual harassment in the Assembly should be the last straw.

This pattern of behavior is repugnant by every standard and directly contradicts the policies the Assembly has advanced for the last 20 years.

Assemblymember Micah Kellner's conduct, confirmed by the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee's investigation, has no place in New York State government. It is time for him to immediately deny these allegations or resign. Likewise, Assemblymember Dennis Gabryszak must immediately deny the allegations against him or resign. If they do not resign, the Assembly must send a clear message that they do not tolerate this abuse of women and should seriously consider moving to expel them if they seek to return this coming session.

Enough is enough. It’s a new year; let’s start with a clean slate.

Roosevelt Island Resident Seeking Your Help In Recovering Stolen Bicycle

Roosevelt Island resident Rossana Ceruzzi had her bicycle stolen last Saturday evening and is seeking help in its recovery.

According to Ms. Ceruzzi:

It's a Raleigh C40/ Red / bicycle with a basket on the front.

Image of Ms. Ceruzzi's Stolen Bicycle

It was parked for 5 minutes last Saturday night between the two entrance doors of the Roosevelt Island Duane Reade store where there are two cameras one of them at eye level.

A report has been filed with the NYPD and the Duane Reade tech will send a copy of the footage (reviewed by an officer) to both PSD and NYPD.
If you see Ms. Ceruzzi'a bicycle or have any knowledge of its theft, please contact the Roosevelt Island Public Safety Department at (212) 832-4545.

Hopefully, Ms Ceruzzi will be as fortunate as this Roosevelt Island bicycle owner who had a stolen bike recovered.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Limo Driver Nearly Crashes Car Into Roosevelt Island Riverwalk Building Lobby Sunday Morning

A limo nearly crashed into the Roosevelt Island 425 Main Street Riverwalk building lobby yesterday morning. A Roosevelt Island resident shares this photo

and reports:
a photo of the drunken limo driver who took out a few pylons and just missed 425 Main Street front door.
According to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) 24 Hour Public Safety Blotter:
12/29/13 - 0749 - 425 Main St. - Vehicle Accident - PSD/NYPD responded. NYPD arrested subject
Fortunately, there were no injuries.

Union Protest Against Use of Non Union Labor At Roosevelt Island Hudson Related Southtown Construction Site - Scabby The Inflatable Rat Joins Protest, Resident Arrested Today For Menacing Protester With Knife

Roosevelt Island resident Karen LichtBraun asked earlier today:

What is up with the strike at the construction site? They have a large plastic rat on the side of the road
Image of Scabby The Inflatable Rat at Roosevelt Island Construction Protest from Karen LichtBraun

There have been ongoing union demonstrations protesting use of non-union labor for construction of Hudson Related's Southtown Riverwalk Building 7 recently.

Last Friday, the union brought over Scabby the Inflatable Rat to join the protest.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Public Safety 24 Hour Blotter reported
12/27/13 - 1100 - 475 Main St - Union Demonstration - PSD respond - Report taken.
No arrests were made at the demonstration on Friday.

An arrest was made at the union demonstration today. Apparently, a Roosevelt Island resident was disturbed by the noise coming from the union demonstration this morning and threatened a protester with a knife. According to a NYPD Press Spokesperson, the Roosevelt Island resident was arrested for "menacing".

Also, Ed McWilliams, a representative from NYC Carpenters union sent the following letter to RIOC President Charlene Indelicato:

Dear Ms Indelicato,

It has come to our attention that RNC INDUSTRIES LLC may be currently seeking to perform work on one or more of your projects. Please be informed that the New York City District Council of Carpenters has a labor dispute with RNC INDUSTRIES LLC because they do not meet area labor standards. RNC INDUSTRIES LLC does not pay the area standard wages to all their employees including providing or fully paying for health benefits and pension.

The New York City District Council of Carpenters has made a solid commitment of personnel and resources to protect and preserve area standard wages, including providing or making payments for family health care and a dignified retirement for all area carpentry craft workers. Therefore, we are asking that you use your managerial discretion to not allow these non area standard contractors to perform any work on any of your projects unless and until they generally meet area labor standards for all their carpentry craft work.

We want you to be aware that our new and aggressive public information campaign against RNC INDUSTRIES LLC will unfortunately impact all parties associated with projects where they are employed. That campaign will include highly visible lawful banner displays and distribution of handbills at the jobsite and premises of property owners, developers, general contractors, and other firms involved with projects involving a non area standard contractor. We certainly prefer to work cooperatively with all involved parties rather than to have an adversarial relationship with them but cannot sit idly by while these entities condone and/or support the non-area standards contractor.

If you agree to comply with the request we have made in this letter, or if our information about a non area standard contractor being involved with any of your projects is incorrect, please call the undersigned immediately... Doing so will provide the greatest protection against your firm becoming publicly involved in this dispute through misunderstanding or error.
Will ask Ms. Indelicato for a response and post an update if received.

Also, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) has invited the Carpenters Union representative, Mr. McWilliams, to speak at the January meeting of the Common Council.  At least one RIRA member has objected to inviting the union representative to the monthly RIRA meeting  but suggested that if the union member is invited, so should a representative from the building contractor/developer.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE 12/31 - RIOC President Indelicato responds:
RIOC does not not dispute anyones right to free speech, however, any such demonstrations must be done in an orderly and legal manner which will not infringe on the rights of others in the community.

We at RIOC hope that 2014 will be a year of cooperation, growth and prosperity for Roosevelt Island.

Wedding On The Roosevelt Island Tram Yesterday - Congrats To The Lucky Couple

Despite the nasty rainy weather yesterday, the Twitterverse reports that the Roosevelt Island Tram hosted a wedding on Sunday.

Congrats and Best Wishes to the lucky couple.

A marriage officiant describes another Roosevelt Island Tram wedding:
I married two fantastic women on the Roosevelt Island Tram. I had fun. They had fun. And the view? Better than Empire State Building. And better than Top of the Rock. I swear-- the views are fabulous, and you really can just take the Tram back-and-forth. (At the cost of a metro card, it's also infinitely cheaper the Empire or TOR.)...
and here is a wedding proposal I witnessed on the Tram in 2012.

Roosevelt Island is for lovers.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Roosevelt Island Bar Owner Chased Down By Local German Shepherd - Everyone's A Food Critic

A tipster shares Twitter link to videos showing Riverwalk Bar & Grill Owner Jonathan Hoo being chased down Riverwalk Commons next to the Roosevelt Island F Train station by a German Shepherd.

Fortunately, neither bar owner nor dog were injured.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How Long Can It Last? Roosevelt Island F Train Subway Service To And From Manhattan Again This Weekend, That's Five In A Row

Are you starting to get used to Roosevelt Island F Train service to and from Manhattan on weekends? How long can this last? Well, for at least one more week.

According to the MTA Weekender Page there will be Roosevelt Island F Train service

to and from Manhattan this weekend. That makes it five in a row.

Hope it continues in 2014.

Roosevelt Island Winter Sunset As Tram Crosses East River

How lucky are we

to experience this every day!

UPDATE 9:30 PM - Mitch Elinson shares the same view at night

Even the camera on my phone loves this view.
Wow - just gorgeous.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa's On His Way To Roosevelt Island Ho Ho Ho - Merry Christmas, A Wonderful Festivus And Chinese Food For The Rest Of Us

Reports are coming in of Santa Claus sightings from all around the world. You can even track him with the aid of Google's Santa Tracker and a Santa Tracker from NORAD.

Santa will arrive on Roosevelt Island in a couple of hours. When he does, it may be on his specially designed, Reindeer powered, Roosevelt Island Tram sled using one of the old Tram cabins.

Roosevelt Island Reindeer Driven Tram Card From Marty Atkins (more info here)

Hope you've taken Bruce Springsteen's advice and were good this year.

If you're interested in the history of Santa, here you go:

and then there's Festivus

and Chinese food for the rest of us.

Don't forget to leave some cookies out for Santa tonight. MERRY CHRISTMAS - Ho HO Ho!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Please Donate To Roosevelt Island FDR Hope Memorial Sculpture Depicting President Franklin D Roosevelt Sitting In His Wheelchair - Help Show The Disabled Are Enabled

You Tube Video of FDR Hope Memorial Rehearsal Mock Up Interview

Are you looking for a last minute Christmas present idea or to make a contribution to a worthy Roosevelt Island cause? If so, please consider making a donation to the FDR Hope Memorial.

FDR Hope Memorial Chair and Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) President Jim Bates explains:

RIDA adds:
The FDR Hope Memorial

We are enabled.

Help us build the first memorial to FDR that focuses on his disability. We need to build this monument because people with disability, while loved, are pitied because it's believed they cannot achieve anything substantial or independently. We need to dispel this belief which can even afflict people who are disabled themselves.

We are a group of people who live or work on Roosevelt Island in New York City — some of us are disabled, some are doctors, therapists, and others involved with the disabled. We have come together under the auspices of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association to create a monument to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is a hero to our community: a man who, despite being crippled by polio, became a four-term president of the United States.

We have reached the following milestones and now ask for your support which we need to bring this project to fruition.
  • We have been awarded a site for our monument in Southpoint Park as you approach Four Freedoms Park.
  • We have raised $263,000 from Four Freedoms Park, New York City and New York State.
  • We have commissioned artist Meredith Bergmann and approved a design based on half-height figures.
  • The artist is now working on the full-size figures which will be cast in bronze; the finished monument will be beautiful and inspiring.
  • You will be helping us erect a monument not just to what one man has done but to what all of us --enabled not disabled-- can do.
Why Portray FDR as disabled?

FDR hid that he had polio because he didn't want his disability to limit himself or his aspirations to change the world. We live today, in part thanks to him, in a different kind of society, and portraying his disability honors him today in a way in which it couldn't in the 1930s.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America. FDR served four terms and presided over the war that shocked the world: World War II. FDR had polio - a life-threatening and physically mauling disability.

The message of his life is that regardless of the struggle, the disadvantage, the disability, you can do great things. Through our memory of his life the disabled are enabled. The purpose of this memorial is to remind and inspire all, especially those with disability: You can do great things. You are enabled and free to pursue your dreams. The purpose of this call for support is to make this memorial on Roosevelt Island a reality and raise a beacon of hope and truth for years to come. Please give.

How You Can Help

We need to get to $300,000. We are asking for gifts of any size: $10, $20, $100, $350,or even ten thousand. But even it it's a dollar, and you add your name to the list of people who support this project, your support will be invaluable. You will inspire us, and show other people we approach for help that our dream has won the support of many people...
Click here for more information and to make a donation.

More information on the FDR Hope Memorial at previous post.

Smoke On The Water - Epic Fog On East River Covers Roosevelt Island Today Reports Twitterverse

Did you see the fog covering Roosevelt Island this morning? The Twitterverse did and reports:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Enjoy The Outdoor Christmas Light Shows From Dyker Heights Brooklyn And The Empire State Building - The Season's Upon Us It's That Time Of Year Sing The Dropkick Murphys

One of the best things about the Christmas season are the brightly colored outdoor lights displays. We have a little bit of outdoor Christmas lights here on Roosevelt Island, but not alot. We could do much better, maybe next year.

One place that does a great job of outdoor Christmas Lights is the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights. The Bensonshurst Bean show us how its done.

Are you in the mood for some more Dyker Heights Christmas Lights? The Bensonhurst Bean has it for you.

We do have a great view of the Empire State Building Christmas Light Show from Roosevelt Island. Here's a close up view with music.

As the Dropkick Murphy's sing, The Season's Upon Us, It's That Time Of Year.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

Roosevelt Island Hope Church Christmas Candle Lighting Service & Community Dinner 4:30 PM December 22 At Good Shepherd

Roosevelt Island resident Drew Hyun reports that the Hope Church Roosevelt Island will be conducting a Christmas candle lighting and community dinner on December 22 at the Good Shepherd Chapel (4:30 PM).

More information on the Hope Church Roosevelt Island available at their web site.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Spring Like Weekend Weather Brings Saturday Local Law 11 Facade Work For Roosevelt Island Manhattan Park Buildings - Management Apologizes To Residents For Any Inconvenience And Informs No Parking On River Road During Work

A Manhattan Park resident shares this announcement received late this afternoon from the Manhattan Park Management:
Dear Residents:

Due to the inclement weather this week, we have not been able to proceed with the Local Law 11 construction.

We are expecting "spring like" temperatures this weekend, and will be able to take this opportunity to proceed in bringing this project closer to completion.

In order to expedite this, the construction crew will be working this Saturday, December 21, 2013.

Also please note, Parking on River Road will not be permitted during this period.

We understand the inconvenience, and we do apologize, however we must take advantage of the weather conditions in order to complete this project.

Once again we apologize for any and all inconveniences you may have encountered during this period.

Manhattan Park Management
 NYC Local Law 11 concerns:
... inspection of the exterior walls of buildings greater than six stories in height....

Q102 Bus Accident This Evening At Roosevelt Island's Blackwell Turnaround - No Injuries Reported But Boulder Stuck Underneath Bus

A MTA Q102 Bus heading south on Roosevelt Island's Main Street was involved in an accident as it was attempting to drive around the Blackwell turnaround this evening at approximately 4:30 PM. The back wheel of the bus is up on the sidewalk curb with a large boulder stuck underneath the bus.

According to this Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) advisory received just before 5 PM:
NYPD/FDNY activity at location, southbound lane obstructed, northbound lane partially obstructed due to accident, traffic moving slowly.

A Roosevelt Island resident shares this picture

and reports:
At the turnaround at the end of main street flagpole Mta bus with woman trapped on stuck wheelchair lift. Lots of island security hanging around.
The wheelchair passenger was safety taken off the bus.

No report yet on the reason for the Q102 bus accident at the Blackwell Turnaround nor of any injuries.

UPDATE 12/23 - Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Interim Public Safety Director Jack McManus explains what happened:
Driver error.

The driver was intending to bear left at the fork and missed the turn. He the proceeded to attempt to make the tight left turn around the triangle and it was too tight. The left side of the bus mounted the triangle, dislodged the boulder which got stuck between the bottom of the bus and the pavement and pulled over on the right hand side of the road when he realized the boulder was stuck underneath the undercarriage of the bus. No reported injuries.

Roosevelt Island F Train Subway Service To And From Manhattan Again This Weekend, That's Four In A Row

Pinch me to make sure that I am not dreaming.

According to the MTA Weekender Page there will be Roosevelt Island F Train service

to and from Manhattan this weekend. That makes it four in a row.

How long can this good news last?

Roosevelt Island Home Town Boy And Global Travel Blogger Greg Goodman Get's Lost In Korea On National Geographic Reality Travel TV Show

Greg Goodman grew up on Roosevelt Island to become a successful photographer and global travel blogger at Adventures Of A Goodman.

According to Mr. Goodman:
I was raised on RI and although I haven't lived there in quite a few years, it will always be my home. I'm also an unofficial international Roosevelt Island ambassador, as I tell people all about our little sliver of heaven every chance I get in every country I visit. A photo I took of the old tram is even on my business card... which is perfect to give people after describing RI.
Greg is the star of a National Geographic Channel TV Show, Get Lost In Korea.

Image of Greg Leaving For Korea From Adventures Of A Goodman

Here's a preview.

You can watch the whole Get Lost In Korea show here.

Check out some of Greg's Roosevelt Island photos too.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Transfers 12 Acres of Roosevelt Island to Cornell NYC Tech Today - Cornell Will Pay RIOC $400,000 Annually For 55 Years, NY State Will Pay RIOC Approximately $22 -24 Million By December 31 2018

Rendering Of Roosevelt Island Cornell NYC Tech Campus

This notion seemed far fetched and utterly ridiculous, if not impossible, back in February 2011:
Will Roosevelt Island Become Silicon Island? Stanford, MIT, Cornell & Other Top Universities Express Interest In Proposed New York City State Of The Art Applied Sciences School - And It May Be Right Here At Coler Goldwater Site
Well, almost three years later the notion proved to be entirely doable.

Rendering Of Roosevelt Island Cornell NYC Tech Campus

Earlier today, exactly two years to the day in 2011 when Cornell University was selected to build the NYC Applied Sciences & Engineering School and following the withdrawal of Stanford University from the competition as well as many, many many community meetings, I watched NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cornell University President David Skorton sign a 99 year lease for the new Roosevelt Island Cornell- Technion Engineering School campus on the site of the former Goldwater Hospital.
Here's a look at what Cornell is bringing to Roosevelt Island by 2017.

As previously reported Cornell will also be paying the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) $400,000 annually for the next 55 years. Also, NY State will contribute payments to RIOC of approximately $22 - $24 million no later than December 31, 2018.

Here's the Cornell NYC Tech lease signing Press Conference

and Press Release from Mayor Bloomberg's office.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Cornell University President David J. Skorton, and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology President Peretz Lavie today formally executed a 99-year lease between the City of New York and Cornell Tech, which will pave the way for construction of the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, exactly two years after Cornell and academic partner Technion were named the first winners of the City’s Applied Sciences NYC competition. Cornell Tech is a revolutionary model for graduate-level technology education and is establishing itself as a world-leading institution, conferring graduate degrees and conducting research that drives technology, innovation, commercialization and the creation and retention of businesses and jobs in New York City. The land transfer will allow for groundbreaking on the campus to begin in January, with the first classrooms on Roosevelt Island set to open in 2017. Cornell Tech students began classes this fall in space donated by Google at their Chelsea headquarters on Eighth Avenue. Construction of the entire 2 million square foot build-out, which will span 12 acres on Roosevelt Island and house approximately 2,000 students and nearly 280 faculty and researchers, will be completed by 2043. New details and renderings for the first phase of the full campus were also released today, revealing how the physical campus will be designed to support Cornell Tech’s focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration between academia and industry. Mayor Bloomberg and President Skorton signed the lease documents at a City Hall ceremony to finalize the official land transfer to Cornell Tech, where they were joined by President Lavie, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball, U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, Council Member and Borough President-Elect Gale Brewer, Council Member Jessica Lappin, Cornell Tech Vice President Cathy Dove, Cornell Board Chair Robert Harrison, Cornell Provost Kent Fuchs, Cornell Tech Dean Daniel Hutenlocher, Forest City Ratner Companies President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin, and Hudson Companies Principal David Kramer.

“Our goal has been to make New York City the global capital of technological innovation, and this new campus on Roosevelt Island is a central part of our strategy for achieving it,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “It is one of the most ambitious and forward-looking economic development projects any city has ever undertaken, and it’s going to help add thousands of new jobs to our economy in the decades ahead.”

“The State was proud to work closely with the Mayor’s Office, RIOC and Cornell because we strongly believe that the path to New York State’s continued economic growth will largely be defined by partnerships that start with our State’s academic institutions,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “This project leverages two of the world’s most notable institutions in a way that will help foster technological innovation within New York State, while creating jobs and spurring business investment.”

“Cornell Tech is the proof that government and universities can work together to innovate and support economic growth, and we will be forever grateful for Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in making this campus possible,” said Cornell University President David J. Skorton. “The Roosevelt Island campus is being built for the future, to be the place that generates the next big ideas, the new companies and extraordinary talent that will change New York and the world.”

“Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, New York City is fast becoming a leading global center of innovation,” said Technion President Peretz Lavie. “Through the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute, our international partnership with Cornell Tech, we look forward to helping to further the city's future as the technology capital of the world.”

Applied Sciences NYC was launched by Mayor Bloomberg in 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the considerable recent growth and even larger opportunity for future growth in technology-related jobs and businesses in New York City, and builds on the Bloomberg Administration’s record of creating a more diversified economy for the City’s future. In July 2011, NYCEDC issued an RFP seeking a university, institution or consortium to develop and operate a new or expanded campus in the City in exchange for City capital, access to City-owned land and the full support and partnership of the Bloomberg Administration, and subsequently received seven responses from 17 world-class institutions from around the globe. Cornell Tech was the first of four Applied Sciences projects to be announced by the City in an effort to strengthen New York City’s global competiveness – including its growing technology sector – and ensure that the City establishes itself as a worldwide hub of science, research, innovation and urban solutions for the digital age and the information economy. Cornell Tech was selected for this initiative based on its innovative model for graduate technology education and its emphasis on the intersections between academia and industry and forward-thinking areas of study. When completed, the new Roosevelt Island campus alone will nearly double the number of full-time, graduate engineering students enrolled in leading New York City Master’s and Ph.D. programs.

The four Applied Sciences NYC projects that have been announced by the Mayor include:

· Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island

· The Center for Urban Science and Progress in Downtown Brooklyn, operated by an international consortium led by New York University

· The Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering at Columbia University

· Carnegie Mellon University’s Integrative Media Program at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Collectively, the four Applied Sciences NYC projects are expected to generate more than $33.2 billion in nominal economic activity, over 48,000 permanent and construction jobs, and approximately 1,000 spin-off companies by 2046, fulfilling the initiative’s goal of dramatically transforming the City’s economy for the 21st century. These institutions are already strengthening the City’s position as a hub of science, research, innovation and world-class urban solutions in a global economy driven by technological fluency and innovation.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s Applied Sciences initiative will transform the City’s economy, doubling the number of engineering faculty and graduate students in New York City. These are the skills we need to compete in the knowledge and information economy of the 21st Century,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel. “The closing of the Cornell Tech lease is a major step toward that goal and I congratulate Presidents Skorton and Lavie on this critical moment in the arc of Cornell and the Technion’s history.”

“Over only two years, thanks to an unprecedented model of collaboration across City and State government, top academic institutions, and the private sector, we have transformed Applied Sciences NYC from a visionary idea into a physical reality that is already reshaping our City,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball. “Since selecting Cornell and the Technion as our first winners, in partnership with the Health and Hospitals Corporation we have built and opened a new hospital in Harlem that is currently serving former Coler-Goldwater patients; secured all necessary approvals for the Roosevelt Island campus; selected three additional Applied Sciences winners; and launched classes. Thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership, this initiative will create jobs, businesses, and technologies, resulting in transformative economic activity that will help secure the City’s future.”

“Cornell Tech is extremely grateful for the unwavering support of the Roosevelt Island community throughout the public review process and we are committed to being great neighbors during construction and beyond,” said Cornell Tech Vice President Cathy S. Dove. “We are also fortunate to have such extraordinary development partners in Forest City Ratner and Hudson/Related to help us make this vision a reality.”

“We are thrilled to be working with Cornell and so many great partners to help create a truly extraordinary new place on Roosevelt Island,” said Forest City Ratner Companies President and CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin. “Under Mayor Bloomberg’s watch the City’s tech sector has grown enormously and we are well poised as a company and as a project to continue with that growth at Cornell Tech.”

“With Mayor Bloomberg’s vision guiding the way, Cornell Tech will be at the leading edge of the next generation in tech and applied sciences,” said David Kramer, partner of The Hudson Companies. “We look forward to bringing out-of-the-box thinking to a best-in-class building on the forefront of design and sustainability.”

“I am pleased to join Mayor Bloomberg for this monumental step toward making the Cornell Tech campus a reality. I have strongly supported bringing Cornell Tech to Roosevelt Island from the very beginning of this process,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney. “The campus holds great promise for Roosevelt Island and for New York City, attracting future leaders in the technology and engineering industry. Many of the amenities included in the plans will be open and available to the public, including areas of park space. I commend Cornell for its transparency during the planning process and commitment to being a good neighbor to Island residents.”

“Cornell Tech will generate opportunities and innovations for generations to come, and today we take a step closer to our city's future,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin.

“I applaud Mayor Bloomberg, Cornell Tech, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation on their historic lease signing to build a new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island,” said Manhattan Borough President-Elect Gale A. Brewer. “This partnership will play a key role in the growth of New York City’s tech sector in the coming years, and will attract new development to Roosevelt Island. I look forward to working with all parties to ensure the success of this venture.”

Academic uses of the campus are anticipated to include classrooms, laboratories, teaming areas, and lecture halls, as well as start-up incubator/accelerator space to encourage entrepreneurship. The remainder of the space in the campus will be devoted to corporate co-location space designed to facilitate the interaction between academia and industry, residential uses, an executive education center, and ancillary uses, such as retail in support of the faculty, staff and students on the campus, as well as the creation of new open space.

While planning is underway for the opening of the permanent campus in 2017, Cornell Tech is already operating in temporary space in Manhattan. The campus master plan, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill with James Corner Field Operations, includes a number of innovative features and facilities across a river-to-river campus with expansive views, a series of green, public spaces, and a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor areas. Cornell Tech will combine cutting edge technologies to create one of the most environmentally friendly and energy-efficient campuses in the world, not only employing, but developing new environmental technology.

A sustainable and innovative academic building will be designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne of Morphosis Architects and, in a significant departure from traditional academic facilities, take its cue from the tech world by offering open-plan space and extensive collaborative workspaces. The phase one academic building, if completed today, would be the largest net-zero energy building in eastern United States, with all of its power generated on campus.

A corporate co-location building, designed by Weiss/Manfredi and developed by Forest City Ratner Companies, will bring together corporate innovators, world-class researchers and energetic start-ups under one roof, a concrete reflection of the campus’ mission of fusing academia and industry to encourage innovation for the public good. Cornell Tech will be an anchor tenant. Renderings of this building and the academic building were released today, and are available at tech.cornell.edu/press/.

Ensuring that the campus is active 24/7, a residential building, designed by Handel Architects and developed by Hudson and Related Companies, will be built to provide convenient and affordable campus housing for students, faculty and staff. It will rely on passive sustainable design features to reduce energy usage and further advance the campus’ sustainability goals.

Plans are also under underway for an Executive Education Center and Hotel, which will help ensure that Cornell Tech is a magnet in New York City for innovation by providing conference, executive program and academic workshop space along with a hotel and destination restaurant.

The 12-acre footprint of the Cornell Tech campus includes the site of the former Goldwater Specialty Hospital and Nursing Facility, which has been replaced by the new state-of-the art, 365-bed, $300 million Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital in Harlem, built by NYCEDC, which is operated by the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation and provides world-class medical care for New Yorkers in need of highly specialized, complex treatment. Former Goldwater patients were relocated to the new hospital last month. The campus footprint also includes property formerly controlled by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. Cornell Tech has spent the past year working with the Roosevelt Island community on plans to minimize the impact of construction on residents, including deployment of the largest barging program in New York City to remove demolition materials from the site.

Cornell Tech classes began earlier this year in space donated by Google in Chelsea. The school now includes masters and Ph.D. students, world-class faculty and established collaborations with dozens of industry-leading organizations contributing to graduate study in areas such as Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Information Science, Operations Research and Business. Cornell Tech also launched its commitment to partnership with New York City’s public school students earlier this year, working with numerous organizations to bring tech education to a diverse audience. A director of K-12 education for Cornell Tech will be announced early in 2014.

Beginning in January, the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech will welcome a number of postdoctoral students to the current campus. Later in 2014, the Jacobs Institute will launch a master’s degree program in Connective Media designed to educate the entrepreneurial engineers and technologists needed in the media sector to steward the continuing digital transformation of the industry. Students in this two-year program will receive degrees from both Technion and Cornell. Also in 2014, Cornell Tech will launch a Johnson MBA that will combine business, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in a fast-paced, hands-on learning environment.

Cornell Tech will host entrepreneurs-in-residence, organize business competitions, provide legal support for startups, reach out to existing companies to form research partnerships and sponsor research, and establish a pre-seed financing program to support promising research. In addition, the campus will structure its on-site tech transfer office to facilitate startup formation and technology licensing. Cornell Tech will also invest $150 million that will be solely devoted to start-up businesses in the City.

In keeping with the focus on community involvement contained in the RFP, the Cornell Tech proposal outlined a number of areas in which the universities will touch the lives of New Yorkers -- the type of involvement to which both schools have been committed for many years in their primary campus communities. Plans for community involvement in New York City include the creation of education enhancement programs that will impact a minimum of 10,000 New York City students and 200 New York City teachers per year. Cornell Tech also intends to work closely with PS/IS 217 on Roosevelt Island to enrich their curricula and participate in STEM-oriented programming. They will also work to meet the goals of the City’s HireNYC employment program and develop partnerships for job placement and training. In furtherance of its community outreach goals, Cornell Tech will offer significant programming on and off its campus designed to engage with residents of Roosevelt Island and the larger City. Cornell’s campus plan will further create new public open space on the campus.
Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FDR Four Freedoms Park Explains Why It Was Closed For Snow Last Saturday Disappointing Roosevelt Island Visitor - Will Try To Keep Park Open Whenever Possible This Winter Even If Southpoint Park Closed They Say

Roosevelt Island got a little bit of snow last Saturday when resident Trevre Andrews tried to enter the FDR Four Freedoms Park (FDR Park) but was:

very disappointed 
to be greeted by a closed gate

Image From Trevre Andrews

and signage that said the Park was closed

Image From Trevre Andrews

due to weather (the sign actually said the park was "close").

I asked Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Charlene Indelicato and the RIOC Directors:
On Saturday during the snow storm, a Roosevelt Island resident sent me the two attached pictures showing the FDR Four Freedoms Park closed during the day.

The resident was very disappointed in not being able to enter the park during the snowstorm.

According to the sign on the closed gate to the FDR Park, the Park was closed due to the weather.

No other NYC parks were closed during the snowstorm including Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park.

Why was FDR Park closed?

Does RIOC have any policy or requirement regarding the times that the FDR Park is open to the public?
Ms. Indelicato responded that the FDR Park was not within the jurisdiction of RIOC. Not sure if that is completely accurate but will explore the issue later.

I also asked representatives of the FDR Park why the park was closed on Saturday during the snow. Suzy Brown, Director of The FDR Park Visitor Experience, responded:
Although we hope to keep the Park open as much as possible this winter, we will always have to close the Park if weather conditions cause visitor safety concerns. Since the Memorial was constructed out of a very particular type of granite and is situated in a very specific location surrounded by water, we cannot simply follow the closure advisories of NYC Parks or NYS Parks.

We are able to clear the Park of snow, but since we can't use salt on the granite we have to be very careful if we feel that icy conditions are developing. Saturday was a particularly challenging day and very specific weather challenges were faced by many different locations throughout the City.

 The 9/11 Memorial had to close early in the afternoon on Saturday, and the High Line was unable to open until after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. Our onsite staff felt that it was safest to close on Saturday. I apologize that we did not send out a notification, and that we had to use a makeshift sign. However, as I mentioned in my email, going forward we will be sure to send out email notifications about closings as soon as we have made the decision.

I am happy to report that we have also made arrangements with RIOC to keep our Park open whenever possible, regardless of whether or not Southpoint Park is closed. Unfortunately, there were many days last year when we had cleared our Park and were ready to open but Southpoint Park was not cleared and was kept shut, restricting access to our Park. This winter, even if Southpoint Park remains closed due to heavy snowfall, if we are able to clear the Four Freedoms Park sufficiently, our staff will then clear a path in Southpoint Park from the back East gate allowing pedestrian access into our back East gate until RIOC staff is able to clear all of Southpoint Park and open the front gate and Southpoint Park fully to the public.
Ms. Brown added:
Please note that the Four Freedoms Park will be closed on Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25th. Regular winter hours of 9:00 to 5:00 (closed Tuesday) will resume on Thursday, December 26th.

Going forward, the Four Freedoms Park will send e-mail notices to this contact list if the Park is closed or opening late due to inclement weather. Notification will be posted on the website and through social media and, whenever possible, signage will be posted at the Park.
Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy is concerned about the FDR Park workers. According to Ms. Berdy:
It is most unfortunate that the humanitarian legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt is not being executed by the administration of the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial Park.

In recent weeks, as well as last winter, the park staff sit huddled in a tiny unheated vehicle while on duty. There is no shelter for them as they stand at the windblown south end of the Island, speak with visitors and maintain the austere and pristine granite of the site.

The park is never closed due to inclement weather. Countless visitors to the park remark on the situation of the staff when they enter the RIHS Visitor Center.

It is well known that architect Louis Kahn died before completing his plan for the memorial. He may have intended to provide (seating and shade for the public and even) shelter for the park staff. Certainly, there is plenty of space on park property to provide an enclosed heated shelter for the comfort of staff and visitors.

The callous indifference of the influential and wealthy members of the FDR Four Freedoms Park speaks louder than the desire to maintain the architect's unknown intent.

Just in case the park administration says they are a poor not for profit, here is a listing of their Board:

John Dyson, Chairman of Millbrook Capital Management, Inc.,  Jack Rosenthal, President-Emeritus of The New York Times Company Foundation;, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of The Nation, Warren Hoge, Senior Adviser for External Relations to the International Peace Institute; and William Whitaker, ex officio, Curator of The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Ambassador vanden Heuvel; Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.; Barbara Shattuck Kohn, Carl Weisbrod; Sally Minard; William R. Griffith, Secretary & Treasurer; James Polshek; and Gina Pollara.

Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets On Roosevelt Island Celebrating One Year Anniversary Today - $1 Ice Cream, Coffee, Popcorn And Cookies Now and Thru Weekend, Yum

Coach Scot's Main Street Sweets

on Roosevelt Island is celebrating its One Year Anniversary today and through the weekend. Owner Scot Bobo reports:
Today marks the Main Street Sweets 1 year anniversary.

We are celebrating with $1 coffee, $1 ice cream, $1 popcorn and $1 cookies today through the weekend.

Congrats Main Street Sweets!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Take A Walk Over Roosevelt Island Bridge To Melting Pot Caribbean Restaurant On Vernon Boulevard - We Love Astoria Likes It Very Much

Have you ever tried the Melting Pot Caribbean restaurant on Vernon Boulevard and 36th Avenue just over the Roosevelt Island Bridge?

We Love Astoria did and wrote a very positive review of the restaurant. An excerpt:
Melting Pot Cuisine, the neighborhood’s only source of Jamaican cooking, is perched on the neighborhood’s southwestern corner, abutting the Roosevelt Island Bridge at the intersection of 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard. They deliver everywhere in the neighborhood, but it’s worth trekking down there to enjoy a meal in their sunny dining room....
... The curry chicken roti is good bet on a cold day. It’s a huge griddled flatbread, filled with chicken on the bone and hunks of potato stewed in fragrant spiced gravy....

Chicken Roti. Photo credit: Anne Noyes Saini via We Love Astoria
 Click here for the entire review of Melting Pot from We Love Astoria.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Roosevelt Island Women's Health Organization Last 2013 Seminar On December 18 - Holistic Nutrition, Blood Pressure Screening And Meditation

Image From Roosevelt Island Women's Health Organization (RIWHO)

The Roosevelt Island Women's Health Organization (RIWHO) sends the following invitation to women 18 years and older for its December 18 Monthly Seminar.

Our Last Seminar for 2013
Date: Wednesday 12/18/13
Time: 6:30 P.M.
Place 546 Main St. 12th floor

Let us end 2013 feeling functional and fresh

Our speaker is

Ms. Magella Samory

She is a certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant

and Spiritual Healer

She will speak on Holistic Nutrition

Blood Pressure Screening: Eileen Sheehy

Meditation: Sheryl Glenn

And a Grab bag give away

Please come and join us

Remembrance Of Nelson Mandela From Roosevelt Island Resident Ike Nahem - "You Become Special When You Fight For Freedom" Said Mandela To Nahem

Reported last December 5 on the life and death of Nelson Mandela. He was buried on December 15.

Roosevelt Island resident Ike Nahem shares his thoughts on the struggle against South African apartheid and personal memories of meeting Nelson Mandela.

According to Mr. Nahem:

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.

-- Nelson Mandela

The incredible outpouring of human emotion and dignified appreciation that has met the passing of Nelson Mandela on December 5, 2013, has flowed like a raging river from every nation and people on the planet. It was a grief tempered by a jubilation and wonderment at the life of this great and humble human being.

While it is certainly true that the death of Mandela is felt most viscerally and genuinely by his own people and by the oppressed and exploited overwhelming majority of humanity who toil, think, and struggle for a better world, a world with more freedom, justice, and equality it is also true that he was admired and loved by countless millions from all social classes and walks-of-life with any democratic and anti- racist ideals who were sincerely touched by his amazing life, his example, and his deeds.

I had the unforgettable experience -- and the thrill of a lifetime -- to meet, shake hands, and exchange a few words with Nelson Mandela.

It was June 1990 in the so-called VIP reception area of Washington's National Airport. (Surreally to me the airport was later renamed for President Ronald Reagan who notoriously vetoed legislation mandating economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa that was overridden. Less well know is the fact that the Reagan Administration with bipartisan support, allied with apartheid South Africa in a series of devastating wars -- fought overtly by the apartheid South African army and covertly by the CIA -- against newly independent southern African states that were supporting Mandela's African National Congress. In Mozambique and Angola reactionary tribal groups -- RENAMO in Mozambique, UNITA in Angola -- were armed and trained under South African and CIA direction. Over a number of years through the 1980s they laid waste to the southern Africa lands, killing some 1.5 million people by most credible accounts.)

I had gotten an invitation as a longtime activist and organizer in the anti-apartheid movement. Since I had first heard of it as a teenager affected by the US Civil Rights Movement, I had always hated the apartheid system and state and wanted to do something about it. In college at Indiana University I had helped organize a big conference which featured anti-apartheid South Africans. But in the late 60s and early 70s, as the Vietnam War raged on, the racist apartheid state was implacable and seemed invulnerable. In truth it was entering its last period as history started to accelerate.

Endgame for the Portuguese Empire

In 1974 the centuries-old Portuguese Empire in Africa collapsed as the quasi-fascist Salazar dictatorship was overturned by a group of progressive-minded military officers. The floodgates of long-suppressed mass, democratic action opened up in Portugal and among other things it was a sentiment that wanted nothing to do with maintaining colonies in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau against growing independence movements.

The former Portuguese colonies that were adjacent to apartheid South Africa were about to form governments dominated by the liberation forces who were longtime friends and allies of Mandela's African National Congress (ANC). On the eve of its formal transition to full independence Angola found itself invaded by a powerful, highly mechanized South African army marching, practically unopposed by the badly outgunned Angolan forces, on the capital Luanda aiming to install a puppet government. The new Angolan government urgently appealed to the Cuban government for help and got it just in in time. (A wonderful account of the Cuban mobilization is given by the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez called Cuba in Angola: Operation Carlotta, which can be found online and on Amazon.com). Fidel Castro's government dispatched thousands of volunteer soldiers and heavy equipment without even telling the Soviet government which they knew would oppose it as too risky and a provocation to Washington, with whom they were pursuing a "detente" in Cold-War tensions following the end of the Vietnam War and US Watergate crisis. These considerations were of little importance to the Cuban leadership who saw clearly the worldwide ramifications for progressive humanity of a unbridled victory for the South African racists.

At any rate the Cuban army arrived, usually going directly from port or airfield directly to combat in the front lines and soon drove the apartheid invaders out of Angola. This was a political and psychological game changer in Africa. For the first time the white South African army (there were a number of white-officered conscripted African troops as well) were beaten in frontal combat by troops that were largely of color. The mystique of white superiority and domination was being broken.


In June 1976, in no small part inspired by these events, the Soweto student uprising took place. This insurrectionary student revolt that began against the mandatory instruction of the Afrikaner language of the racist regime, was the greatest-ever mass challenge to the apartheid regime since the 1950s. It was drowned in blood with many hundreds gunned down and murdered, to the utter revulsion of world public opinion.

I was living in New York when the Soweto uprising occurred. Two of the central leaders of the uprising, Tsietsi Mashanene and Khotso Seatlhoho, managed to escape South Africa and the death warrant on their heads. Anti-apartheid activists fought like hell to get them a US visa for a nationwide speaking tour. We finally succeeded and it was a big success. When they got to New York we gave them the grand tour, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and the then-overwhelmingly seedy and decadent Times Square of long ago. I'll never forget the wide-eyed, 18 year-old Mashanene, who had an almost childlike gentle demeanor that combined with a visceral intellectual and political intensity, astonished reaction to the Times Square of the late-1970s. With that distinct South African accent and inflection, he said to me, "My God, in New York you have not only X movies but XXX. I do not understand." I really had no answer to that.

After the tour both young warriors went back to Southern Africa for military training at an ANC camp. Years later I heard that both of my friends had died in combat. When my wife Erin and I first visited free South Africa in 2010, friends took us into Soweto, to the Memorial for the martyred youth

Images From Ike Nahem

and saw a tribute to my friends. We also visited Robben Island, off Cape Town and saw the cell where Nelson Mandela spent the big majority of his prison time.

Free South Africa Movement

In the mid-1980s, leading up to the crumbling of the apartheid regime, there burst onto the scene spreading from Washington, DC, the Free South Africa Movement. It was initiated by the DC-based group TransAfrica , led by Randall Robinson. It was decided to start daily picket lines in front of the South African Embassy, which was right in the middle of DC's opulent, serene, and fabled Embassy Row. The protest featured selective people engaging in non-violent civil disobedience and getting hauled away for a day in DC's jails.

As word spread of this happening, the protests grew bigger every day. A solidarity ritual took hold. Every day a new group would take the lead, mobilize some of their folks, and get arrested. Hundreds every day; on some special days thousands. Every day. Sculptors Against Apartheid, Punk Rockers Against Apartheid, Jewish groups, Muslim groups, so many churches, atheists and Buddhists, practically every trade union in the DC area -- grizzled looking old white guys who fit some biased anti-union stereotype brought their folks to the picket line --college students every day from a different campus, high school students from elite private schools, feminists, gays and lesbians. One day I couldn't believe my eyes there was a downright militant, chanting delegation of Accountants Against Apartheid! Pretty soon even the politicians got on board.

We had a movement on our hands. Campuses and banks were coming under heavy pressure to divest from South Africa. The forked-tongue Reagan Administration policy of "Constructive Engagement" began to collapse.

It was amazing. It was inspiring. And it told me that the apartheid state was doomed...and probably sooner rather than later.

A few years later Fidel Castro's Cuban Army led a military force including Angolans, South Africans, and Namibians (a former German colony ruled by the apartheid state) routed the South African army in the Battle of Cuito Cunavale, forcing a retreat back to South Africa where, now, the African townships were in open, permanent, mass rebellion. Endgame for the racist regime.

Namibia won its independence. Nelson Mandela and all the political prisoners were freed. The ANC and all the banned anti-apartheid organizations were legalized.

And Nelson Mandela was coming to the United States! It was the second country he visited since winning his freedom, in recognition of the strong, unstoppable anti-apartheid movement here. His first stop was Havana and Cuba to speak before hundreds of thousands embracing his close friend Fidel Castro and thanking the Cuban government and people for what he called their crucial, even decisive part in his release from prison and breaking the back and the morale of the apartheid state. (For the full speech of Mandela in Cuba see www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3044)

Meeting Mandela

I was feeling pretty humble standing there in the VIP Lounge among the dignitaries, politicians, diplomats, Secret Service Agents, media and other celebrities, with my fellow activists. His flight touched down, taxied, and Mandela, the living legend, entered the room. As I approached him I teared up. My tiny piece of the struggle was a big piece of my life. I caught that amazing smile and thought to myself, What a burden it must be to have people blubbering all over the place when they meet you. But I guess he's used to it. I shook his hand and gave him some copies of a pamphlet with several of his recent speeches -- always clear, precise, and elegant -- published by Pathfinder Press which I was helping to widely distribute. They were very attractive and professionally done and he seemed very pleased.

I managed to blurt out, "It's an honor to meet you." He replied, "Well it's an honor to meet you." "But I'm nobody special," I protested. Mandela looked me in the eye, smiled and said, "Well you become someone special when you fight for freedom."

The Struggle Continues

South Africa, a ravishingly beautiful land where we met so many warm and friendly people, is still far from overcoming the brutal legacy of apartheid. It remains starkly unequal and there is growing unrest and turmoil, especially from industrial workers and agricultural laborers. Corruption among the small, emerging layer of newly-rich Africans who have gained entry into the still-white dominated business and financial summits, has shocked and disgusted the many who still lack running water or decent housing, or who are among the 25% -- 50% among Black African youth -- who are officially unemployed. Police violence is rampant, as exemplified by the cold-blooded murder of 34 striking platinum miners by police last year.

Nelson Mandela and his generation of revolutionaries like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Ruth First and so many others, are almost all gone now, but what they fundamentally accomplished by destroying the structures and prerogatives of apartheid, was to lay the foundations to advance around questions such as land reform, education, access to medical care, women's rights, and decent housing. The destruction of apartheid established the democratic and political space, the rights for working people to move about freely, to associate, and to organize in their interests, which they are doing every day, in the ongoing fight for social justice and social equality. The struggle, personified by Madiba, the Xhosa name by which Mandela was affectionately known, conquered dignity and democratic freedom, the prerequisite for the previously oppressed majority to win a good and better life, to pursue happiness.

The ideas and example of Nelson Mandela will never die as long as human beings live and fight for freedom, justice, and equality by any means necessary.
(Ike Nahem has lived in Westview since 1999 with his wife Erin and son Andrew. He activism against apartheid goes back to the late 1960s. Ike is an Amtrak locomotive engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. He drives high-speed trains from New York to Washington, DC.)