Friday, March 9, 2018

Change Is Difficult Says RIOC President Susan Rosenthal - Reports On Re-Opened Youth Center, Farmers Market, Helix & Bike Ramp, Tram Station Elevators Construction, Welcome Sign, Wayfinding Signage & More

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Susan Rosenthal reports to the community:

Change is difficult! The first residents of the WIRE buildings have survived less open spaces, more building developments with thousands of new residents, Four Freedoms Park and the Cornell Tech campus.

Following these changes, over the course of a few years, a clash over the future of the youth center has erupted into an open, sensitive and disturbing divide in our community. It is downright depressing.

I believe this current situation not only poses a serious challenge but also a tremendous opportunity. Do we want to define ourselves by angry words or shall we take a moment, think and strive to have conversations that lead us toward something for the entire island community that’s constructive, cooperative and collaborative?

For the record, the recent legal inquiry and report about allegations made against the former head of the RIYP had nothing to do with the quality of services our youth received during its tenure. I, and the board members of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, openly acknowledge the praise and testimonials many adults and young people gave at our January and March meetings. However, the RIOC board’s decision to withdraw the grant award was a difficult one that reasonable folks could differ over.

And when RIYP shut down its operations last Friday, RIOC acted fast in making the decision that we would not leave our parents and students without a program.

As you are probably aware by now, RIOC reopened the youth center, under our supervision, last Monday as a free afterschool childcare center for students in grades 2 – 8; open five days a week from 2:45 p.m. – 6 p.m. Starting Monday, March 12, the center will offer extended hours from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. for youth ages 13 – 21. The center will remain open through June 26, the last day of the current school year. RIOC is exploring what will happen after that. We will not leave you high and dry.

The previously-planned renovation of the entire building will also start in the next few months, and be completed in phases to not disrupt ongoing activities at the center.

We’ve held two parent meetings, sent out group emails and advisories and held numerous other informal meetings to gather your input on programs and services that are most desired – including weekend evenings for teens, music instruction classes, SAT prep and homework assistance – and getting those re-established as quickly as possible. (Please contact Roy Magsisi, our new youth center director, at if you have additional questions about our current operations).

Many of you also have asked us about the status of youth sports programs and summer camps. Both were offered by the former RIYP, when it operated both the center and the Beacon program headquartered at PS/IS 217.

Beacon programs are free school-based community centers – supervised by the City of New York Department of Youth & Community Service serving children age six and older, and adults. There are currently 91 Beacons located throughout the five boroughs of New York City operating in the afternoons and evenings, on weekends, and during school holidays and vacation periods, including the summer. The Roosevelt Island Beacon program, under new leadership since September 2017, needs our input on the kinds of programs including sports, we would like to see here on the island.

I invite you to join me in planned discussions (dates and times to be announced soon) with Beacon leadership to address these and any lingering issues involving inclusion, past assumptions and future opportunities we should be pursuing to help all our island youth and young adults develop and get ahead.

Feel free to email me at to offer your thoughts, ideas or to join me in future discussions about how we might participate together for the enhancement and healing of our community.


The Helix and Bike Ramp

The first phase of construction of Helix Ramp repairs is a demolition.

On Monday March 12, the contractor will start the demolition of the outer lane. Signs and traffic lights have been installed earlier this week to help manage traffic slow. Please note all over-size delivery vehicles, and their business destinations, must coordinate with the Public Service Department at 212.832.4545 at least 48 hours prior to delivery date.

As we previously noted the Saturday Farmer’s Market, relocated to Good Shepherd Plaza from its previous home underneath the Helix, has been warmly received by residents and visitors alike. We are considering making the relocation permanent.

The Request for Proposals to construct a bike ramp, off the Roosevelt Island Bridge, and lane will be issued this month and we hope to begin construction on that project by the summer.

Manhattan Tram Station

The Manhattan Tram Plaza, the official gateway to the island from Midtown, is getting a major facelift by way of a new glass elevator project set to begin this month also. The renderings of the project show an enhanced, sleek platform and a ritzy glass-walled elevator powered by electric motors that drive traction cables and counterweight systems.

Seawall Railings

The rustic seawall railings that encircle the island and serve as the official buffer between our land and the East River are all scheduled to be replaced and repaired this year as well. The concrete spall repairs, where the concrete has broken up, flaked, or become pitted due to constant freezing and thawing - have already begun on the island’s west side.

RI Welcome Sign and Wayfinding Signage

The RIOC Board’s Real Estate Committee voted February 27 to move forward on the RI welcome sign’s fabrication. The big red letters – which I’m sure many of you have seen or heard about - are set to be displayed near Tram Plaza for a three-month trial period to allow a lengthier time to gauge public comment. I have a $1 bet with Judy Berdy, operator of the Roosevelt Island Visitors Center and president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS), that the welcome sign will increase foot traffic to the center and result in more business and revenue for RIHS. When I collect on the bet, I’ll share with you how many more dollars she’s made due to influx of more customers.

In addition to the welcome sign, the much-needed and often-asked for wayfinding signs and kiosks - which will offer visitors additional information and directions to island businesses and landmarks beyond the Tram - are set to be installed in August.

Rebuilding is important

Development, decline, revitalization and redevelopment. That is the story of how Roosevelt Island was, and how it sits now in its history. Rebuilding our infrastructure: roads, ramps, bridges, railings, elevators and seawalls is critical; something I hope you also deem as important. But most important, is the rebuilding of our personal relationships.

We know that Roosevelt Island is a special place for a host of reasons. We can rekindle that original sense of unity, which Roosevelt Islanders describe with pride. It CAN be done, only when we band together.

Leaks & Puddles At Roosevelt Island F Train Subway Station - But At Least Roosevelt Island F Train Service To And From Manhattan This Weekend

Be careful you don't slip and fall from the leaking water forming puddles at the Roosevelt Island F train subway platform warns a Tweet this morning.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Roosevelt (Blackwell's) Island History In 30 Second Video - Isolation Made It Ideal For NYC's Less Desirables, Later Affordable Haven For Middle Class - Now?

One World Explorer video sums up Roosevelt Island history in this 30 second video.

More Roosevelt (Blackwell's) Island history from the Bowery Boys.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Stay Inside And Follow Along On A Walk Thru Central Park During Today's Thunder Snow - From The Zoo To Alice In Wonderland

It's best to stay inside during today's Thunder Snow but you can follow along on this walk thru Central Park without going outside.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sponsored Post - Roosevelt Island Happy Tax Filing Service Mobile App- Contact RI Resident Claud Cornetti For More Info

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Roosevelt Island Interim Youth Center Re-Opens As After School Drop In Center Yesterday For Children In Grades 2-8 - Will Be Open Next Week For Older Kids During Evening Hours Says RIOC

The Roosevelt Island Youth Center re-opened yesterday

under the supervision of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC). According to RIOC Public Information Officer Alonza Robertson:
Students were welcomed back to the Roosevelt Island Youth Center Monday as it officially reopened as an after-school drop-in center under the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s (RIOC) supervision.

Children in grades 2 – 8 were back in the 506 Main Street building playing ping pong, games and shooting pool. Director Roy Magsisi supervised a staff of five counselors, all now employees of RIOC.

RIOC President Susan Rosenthal hosted a second parents meeting Monday, following an earlier meeting on Sunday afternoon, to explain the new operation and answer additional questions from the community.

“I am happy to announce that five of the six former RIYP employees have agreed today to come work with us in the same capacity,” Rosenthal said. “I think it will serve the children well in having a smooth transition to have an air of familiarity with the those who’ll be working there.”

Besides collecting emergency contact information and signed permission forms for students, RIOC officials are busy Monday restocking healthy snacks and program supplies.

As previously announced, the drop-in center will be open from Monday to Friday from 2:45 p.m. – 6 p.m. In responding to parents’ concerns about activities for 13-year-olds to 21-year-old, Rosenthal said starting next Monday March 12, the center will remain open weekday evenings from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. for the older students and plans were in the works to resume SAT preparatory, music programs and Saturday evening activities.

Both the afternoon and evening programs will run through the end of the school year June 26.

The RIOC Youth Center will not offer a summer camp Rosenthal said, “but I would like to have a meeting between concerned parents and the leaders of the Beacon program to discuss summer and sports programs, two things that have traditionally been produced by the Beacon program,” she said.
Here's full video of last Sunday's meeting with with RIOC staff

and Roosevelt Island parents

regarding the new, interim Youth Center.

Winter Snow Storm Coming To Roosevelt Island Tonight & Tomorrow - Get Your Cars Off Main Street And Into Motorgate For Snow Removal

Winter is back and snow coming.

According to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC)
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for our area on Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 through Thursday, March 8th, 2018, due to snow, forecasted temperatures, and/or wind chills.

Total snow accumulation are expected to be between 6-12 inches. Residents are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel. Please drive slowly, use major streets or highways, and keep the name and number of at least one local towing service in your vehicle. Pedestrians should avoid slippery surfaces, dress in layers, and maintain a heightened awareness of cars, especially when crossing intersections

Please be advised that, due to the Snow Emergency, there is “NO PARKING, NO STOPPING OR NO STANDING” on Main St. or the East and West Roadways from, Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 at 8:00PM THRU Thursday, March 8th, 2018 at 8:00PM, in order for snow removal to take place.

As an alternative, free parking will be available at the Motorgate Garage starting at 5PM, Tuesday, March 6th, 2018. Please note that free parking is ONLY for residents of the island. Proof of residency and vehicle registration must be presented upon entering. Vehicle must be registered to a Roosevelt Island resident. Vehicles accommodated for snow emergency must be moved by 8PM on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 when Main Street reopens for parking. After that time, standard Motorgate parking fees will apply. Please contact the Motorgate Garage at (212) 832-4585 or visit the Motorgate offices on the fourth floor if you have any additional questions.

Trucks will be plowing and salting the roadways throughout the day and night in order to avert dangerous travel conditions. RIOC will be working to keep all areas clean for the duration of the storm. Expect delays in Red Bus and Tram service. Thank you for your cooperation while necessary preparations for the storm and subsequent snow removal are taking place.

To report any icy or other hazardous areas, please call the Public Safety Department at 212-832-4545 as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
UPDATE 3/7 11 AM -:
UPDATE 1;40 PM - From RIOC:
Due to the inclement weather, Sportspark and the Cultural Center are closed Wednesday, March 7th.We apologize for the inconvenience. Stay safe and warm!
Also, this evening's Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA)Common Council meeting is cancelled and rescheduled to next Wednesday, March 14.

Elderly Roosevelt Island Residents Freezing In Their Manhattan Park Apartments Unable To Afford High Electricity Bills, We Need Help Pleads Resident - Building Management Says Con Ed Increased Electricity Rates

Are elderly Roosevelt Island residents freezing in their Manhattan Park 2-4 River Road apartment

because they can't afford the high electricity bills charged by Manhattan Park management?

According to a March 4 Roosevelt Island Daily story:
... "I am a tenant who wishes to remain anonymous. My heating bill has tripled and so has the rest of the building's bills. Apparently management is saying they have to increase our rate. My family members' rent every month is only $139. How am I supposed to pay a $300 electricity bill? Especially when the heaters haven't even been used? It's cold everyday in my home because we don't use the heaters due to the electricity bill being unaffordable. Please help us. The elderly in [deleted] River Rd are so scared on their fixed incomes with rent at $120- $175 and heating bills at $400. Most people don't use the heat. They stop sealing our A.C and won't explain why. So, there's plenty of draft. I write to you at 2am at the age of 72 under 3 blankets and freezing. We need help"....
Click here for full Roosevelt Island Daily story.

2-4 River Road is the affordable housing component of the Manhattan Park buildings complex with many elderly and low income residents.

Winter storm is coming tomorrow.
In response to my inquiry, Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Ben Kallos replied:
No one should be freezing in their own apartment in this City. Our Office is working to get in contact with the residents referenced in the story. Once that occurs we will do our best to get them the help they need through the City's resources.
According to a spokesperson for Manhattan Park management:
Management understands how fluctuating heating costs can impact monthly household budgets, especially for those living on a fixed income.

But electricity prices are set by Con Edison, the local utility provider for the property. Unfortunately, Con Edison increased their rates significantly during the last billing cycle due to the extremely cold weather at the beginning of the year, impacting all New Yorkers.

To help keep electric costs down, we purchase electricity from Con Edison at a bulk reduced rate that we pass through to the residents of 2-4 River Road, without any additional charges. Further, residents in the affordable units receive a flat monthly utility allowance set by HUD, which throughout the year often exceeds their energy consumption.

We also offer our residents a level payment plan option, which spreads electricity costs over the full year. But with the coldest months likely behind us we are hopeful that electricity rates will return to a more normal range on the next billing cycle, and remain more constant throughout the year.
Very high electricity charges are a long time issue for many Manhattan Park residents as seen from this 2013 post.

Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation Celebrates Purim Holiday With Worship Service Followed By Shusan Abbey Purimschpiel Play

Janet Falk reports on the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation (RIJC) Purim celebration last Wednesday. According to Ms. Falk;

Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation Presented Shushan Abbey for Purim

Purim, a joyous and comedic holiday celebration, filled with fun and parody based on the Biblical story of Esther, was celebrated by the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation (RIJC) on Wednesday night, February 28 with more than 50 people participating in a full evening of activities for all ages.

Rabbi Leana Moritt, dressed as Vashti #MeToo, led the worship service. It included the reading of the megillah or traditional scroll, which recounts the story of the holiday, marking the survival of the Jewish people at a time of a threatened massacre.

Gad Levanon and Rabbi Leana Moritt read the story of Purim from the megillah scroll of the Book of Esther. (Photo Judy Berdy)

Assisted by Gad Levanon and Rachel Rekhter, her reading was interrupted by children and adults wielding groggers to blot out the recitation of the name of the man who purportedly attempted to destroy the Jews. With humor and parody, the congregation joined in singing prayers and songs to popular music and show tunes.

Later, a Purimschpiel, or play based on this narrative, was performed. Written by Mickey Rindler and directed by Janet Falk,

Mickey Rindler, Playwright, and Janet Falk (Director) welcome the audience & play Theme from Downnton Abbey. (Photo Scott Pirro)

Shushan Abbey drew inspiration from the television series Downton Abbey. It also wove aspects of contemporary New York life into the familiar tale and featured Lord Crawley-suerus (Tsoni Peled),

Emily Kalb (Lady Esther) welcomes Tsoni Peled (Lord Crawley-suerus) back to Shushan Abbey (Photo Scott Piro)

Thomas Barrow Haman (Mickey Rindler),

Mickey Rindler (Haman) speaks to staff of Shushan Abbey, played by children and Ellen Polivy. (Photo Scott Piro)

Mordechai (Scott Piro), Lady Vashti (Rabbi Moritt) and Esther (Emily Kalb).

Scott Piro (Mordechai) tells his cousin Emily Kalb (Esther) to apply for the job of maid at Shushan Abbey. (Photo Janet Falk)

Other cast members included Ellen Polivy and Michal Melamed, plus children of the RIJC Religious School and Island community.

The Purimschpiel's broad humor and political-themed puns, plus references to Roosevelt Island affairs, drew laughter, groans and cheers from the audience, who applauded enthusiastically.

The evening concluded with refreshments and delicious Hamantaschen , a triangular holiday fruit pastry treat, baked by the Levanon-Seligson family, which has become an annual tradition.

For more information about the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation, which is the oldest, active egalitarian congregation on the Island, please visit or call 212-688-0003. The next Shabbat worship service is Friday, March 16 at the Cultural Center, 548 Main Street.
Scott Piro adds a Roosevelt Island Purim Tweet:

Monday, March 5, 2018

Roosevelt Island Historical Society Invites You To Find Out What Your Personal Treasures Are Worth By Professional Experts Saturday March 10 At Good Shepherd Chapel

Roosevelt Island's own version of the Antique Road Show is coming to Good Shepherd Chapel Saturday March 10.

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society invites you to bring your treasures to have their worth evaluated. According to RIHS:
What Your Treasures Are Worth?

The Roosevelt Island Historical Society Invites You Bring Your Art, Antiques, Clothing and Textiles for a Professional Valuation* by the Experts from


Bring your:

*These are oral evaluations, not for legal purposes.

$25 donation to the RIHS for three items to be valued.

Saturday, March 10, 2018
12 noon to 5 p.m.
Chapel of the Good Shepherd
543 Main Street
Who knows - you may have something

very valuable.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

RIOC Answers Questions From Parents About Roosevelt Island Interim Youth Center Drop In Program For Children Grades 2-8 Thru End Of School Year- No Program For Older Kids

As reported last Friday:

Less than 24 hours after rejecting the Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP) as operator of the Youth Center, RIOC announced late this afternoon that it will operate an interim after school drop in program for children in grades 2-8...
... The drop-in program will be open Monday through Friday and provide afterschool care from 2:45 p.m. - 6 p.m. and serve children in grades 2 – 8.

The program will be managed by former RIYP Director Roy Magsisi...
This afternoon, Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Susan Rosenthal, General Counsel Jaci Flug, Mr. Magsisi and Public Safety Deputy Director Kevin Butler

spoke to concerned and some upset parents

at the Youth Center building about the new interim program.

Here' video of the meeting.

Part 1 - Ms Rosenthal reported that the interim program will be in place until the end of the school year. At present, RIOC does not know what will be done after the school year but Ms. Rosenthal is eager to speak with any parent who has ideas on how to proceed. Ms Rosenthal added that parents need to sign consent forms to have their children be picked up at PS/IS 217 and brought to the Youth Center.

Part 2 - Mr Magsisi describes how children will be picked up from school and escorted to youth center. Deputy Director Butler reports that PSD Sergeant Jeff Laszczych will be on staff during the Youth Center drop off hours.

Part 3 - Questions from the parents included what do teens older than 8th graders do who are no longer allowed in the Youth Center. No programs are currently being offered to these older kids.

Part 4 - How will information be posted about Youth Center, who will be allowed inside building, what happens to RIYP data. will homework assistance be provided, answer is no.

Will post more video tomorrow.


Part 5 - What are we going to do with the older kids, Soccer Program, Little League etc.

In response to question from parent asking how we got to this situation, Ms. Rosenthal responded she did not want to look back but work to go forward.

Part 6 - The past is what brought us here says another parent.

According to RIOC General Counsel Jaci Flug, RIYP informed RIOC on Friday, March 2 that they were shutting down the program the same day and not fulfilling remaining term of contract to the end of March.

Part 7 - Ms Flug added that RIYP Treasurer Steve Kaufman made "some threat or allegation" to close on Thursday and on Friday confirmed it.

RIOC will not release full investigation report because of privacy concerns and attorney work product. Ms Rosenthal said the Executive Summary tells the whole story but not the details.

Ms Rosenthal said they offered the entire former RIYP staff jobs with the new RIOC interim center. Ms Flug added that the former RIYP staff were all offered jobs "at the same salary or higher as part time RIOC employees and they all said no with the exception of Roy."

Parents expressed unhappiness with the new Beacon After School operator.

Part 8 - Will RIOC Interim Youth Center hire kids from Roosevelt Island.

Parents say there is a "disconnect" between parents who need the Youth Center and RIOC staff who don't understand the history and dynamics of Roosevelt Island.

Part 9 - A parent asked if RIOC Board Director Fay Christian's relationship with PS/IS 217 was a conflict of interest that required her not to vote on the RIYP Youth Center operator contract. Ms Flug said there was no conflict because PS/IS 217 has nothing to do with RIOC and the Youth Center.

Ms Rosenthal talks more about Youth Center investigation and reason for not approving RIYP as Youth Center operator.

Finally, Part 10 - RIOC still figuring out how the Interim Youth Center will work.

No matter how much RIOC wants this issue to go away and move forward, there will be more to come.

Kids, Family & Staff Share Last Day At Roosevelt Island Youth Program - Lack Of Concern For Minority Youth Is Lesson Learned Says RIYP

After a bitter and contentious losing battle to remain as operator of the Youth Center, the Roosevelt Island Youth Program said goodbye on Friday. According to RIYP:

Roosevelt Island Youth Program Inc.Closes Doors on Friday Night

After 4 decades of service to the Roosevelt Island Community, RIYP's doors were shut on Friday March 2nd at 8 PM. Many of the youth program's population showed up to

say goodbye to the staff

and the program they loved.

These youth fought so hard to defend the program and it's Director Charles DeFino

at the 2 RIOC board meetings. They learned a valuable lesson about this community and it lack of concern for minority youth.
Many of the minority youth and their parents left the March 1 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors meeting that voted 4-3 to remove the RIYP as Youth Center operator saying "It's a Shame, It's a Shame" and "Gentrification".

RIOC intends to operate an interim Youth Center until future plans for a Youth Center are determined. RIOC is hosting a 3 PM meeting today at the Youth Center, 506 Main Street, to discuss their interim plans.

More on the issue at previous posts.