Saturday, March 26, 2022

Roosevelt Island Tram On Google Maps Celebratory Ride This Morning With Congresswoman Maloney, Assembly Member Seawright & Council Member Menin - All 3 Express Support For Roosevelt Island Residents/Workers Preference Boarding Tram During Crowded Times

As reported last January 14:

... the Roosevelt Island Tram is currently on Google Maps in a test phase....

... The initiative to get the Roosevelt Island Tram on Google Maps was spearheaded by Alex Bores, a former Roosevelt Island resident with a Masters in Computer Science and currently Democratic Party 76 Assembly District Leader (which includes Roosevelt Island).

Mr Bores reports:

The Tram and Red Busses Launch on Google Maps 

The Roosevelt Island Tram and Red Busses (including Octagon Express) are now in testing on Google Maps. Residents and visitors can look up transit directions the same way they look up the subway.
Google integrates around 120,000 different transit systems worldwide. This includes many different transportation sources around Roosevelt Island, including the subway, the Hornblower ferries, and Citi Bikes, but until now, did not include the tram or busses.

I noticed the tram was not on Google Maps when a friend tried to visit me. When he saw that Google’s directions did not suggest the Tram, he assumed it wasn’t running.  I teamed up with Assembly Member Rebeca Seawright and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) to accurately represent the schedule, and then coded it into the technical format that Google and other map providers use to show schedules...

... The schedule is still in testing, so the feed may change or be temporarily unavailable in the future. RIOC will provide updates to the schedule over time. The schedule is static, meaning it shows the planned schedule instead of tracking the real-time location of any busses or tram cabins. The goal is to launch it permanently by the end of February, as well as to have it appear on Bing Maps and Apple Maps (where currently the tram appears but not the busses)....

This morning Roosevelt Island Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and City Council Member Julie Menin accompanied Mr Boras on a crowded Roosevelt Island Tram 

to announce:

I spoke with Mr Bores and our elected representatives as they got off the Tram on the Roosevelt Island side about their celebratory ride.


Ms Menin added that the MTA is expected to install the OMNY system by the end of this year.

Also, all three expressed support for finding a way to give Roosevelt Island residents and workers cabin boarding preference during times when the Tram is overcrowded. 

There was no representative from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) present.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Long Time Roosevelt Island Resident, Farmers Market Vendor And Astoria Based Nneji Restaurant Owner Beatrice Ajaero Profiled On Pix11 News For Serving Delicious West African/Nigerian Dishes And Feeding Families In Need

Beatrice Ajaero is a long time Roosevelt Island resident, RI Saturday Farmers Market vendor and owner of Nneji, a restaurant specializing in West African/Nigerian dishes based in Astoria.

Ms Ajaero was profiled yesterday by Monica Morales of WPIX TV.

Check out Ms Ajaero's delicious Nigerian and West African dishes at the Roosevelt Island Farmers Market every Saturday or visit her take out restaurant Nneji in Astoria, a 10-15 minute walk from the Roosevelt Island Bridge. Nneji is located at 32-20 34th Avenue. 

Nneji received a great review from the NY Times in 2021.

I spoke with her at the Farmers Market in 2018.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Roosevelt Island Navigators Host First Bake Sale Fundraiser To Support People Of Ukraine At Farmers Market Last Saturday And Welcome Parents Of RI Resident Just Arrived From War In Ukraine

NY State Governor Kathy Hochul:

... today announced the launch of a new website containing resources offered by New York State and its partners to help Ukrainian people and their friends and allies here in New York. This follows the Governor’s announcement warning consumers about scams and cybersecurity threats amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In an additional show of support, the Governor also announced the Ukrainian flag will be flown on the Capitol building, the Executive Mansion, and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services headquarters....

The Roosevelt Island community came out last Saturday to show their support for Ukraine too. According to Roosevelt Island Navigators Troop Leader Rachel Dowling:

On Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market the Roosevelt Island Navigators Troop 223 came together with the RI community to host a bake sale for the people of Ukraine.  

After a false start the Saturday prior due to the snowstorm, locals were undeterred in our determination to do something to show our support to the victims of Russia’s brutal war on their country.  Fresh baked goods were put into freezers last week when the weather turned foul, to hold them till this past Saturday, and many fresh cupcakes, cookies cakes and brownies were baked as well.  

For this first fundraiser I wanted to support a friend’s Ukranian family who had all traveled to Lviv from different parts of Ukraine to escape the violence.  They have set up a fund to help them help the people of Ukraine. The situation has been dynamic and the needs have evolved, as is the nature of war. Most recently they were able to use the funds to have a large truckload of humanitarian aid shipped from Italy.  They have also been setting up a field hospital, as I understand.

The island’s generous spirit shone through on Saturday, and we raised $463.00 dollars for Cori and Kostya Bilyayev’s “Miles of Smiles” fund.  

 This fund is ongoing. Cori’s husband will now be registering with the military.  We pray for all of their continued safety and for the peace and welfare of all the people of Ukraine.

The interest from the community was so strong we plan to hold another fundraiser, this time perhaps raising money to support the Ukrainian military.  We made some great connections with some Ukrainian residents of Roosevelt Island. One young woman, Katya, and her dog Loki, introduced me to her parents, 
who had literally just arrived from their war torn country the night before.  They were so grateful, and it was heartbreaking to witness their shock and pain from horror that is all too real for them.

Let us welcome our Ukranian refugees, and continue to help Ukraine.

Please contact Rachel Dowling at to find out how to get involved with the next fundraiser April 2nd. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Share Your Roosevelt Island Community Concerns Or Questions At March 24 RIOC Board Of Directors Meeting Public Session Via Zoom - For Example, Why Did Well Respected Recently Hired RIOC VP Of Operations Debra Kustka Resign After Less Than 3 Months On The Job

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board of Directors will meet 5:30 PM Thursday March 24, via video conference.  This is the first RIOC Board Meeting of 2022, two earlier scheduled meetings were previously cancelled.

You can watch the Board meeting here and ask questions or share concerns about Roosevelt Island issues during the opening Public Session before the start of the meeting. Submit your written question or comment here.

But be aware that RIOC Board Members and staff usually do not respond to questions during the Public Session though sometimes they may do so or address the subject during the actual Board meeting.  

If you have a question or concern, give it a try, you may get a response. 

Below is the Meeting Agenda:



I. Call to Order 

II. Roll Call 

III. Approval of Minutes 

1. December 29, 2021 Board Meeting (Board Action Required) 

IV. Old Business 

V. New Business 

1. Approval of Insurance Binders for Fiscal Year 2022-23 (Board Action Required) 

2. Authorization to Enter into Contract with LiRo Program & Construction Management P.E., PC for Owner's Representative Services for Capital Projects & Strategic Planning (Board Action Required) 

3. Authorization to Enter into Contract with ENVAC Iberia, SA. for On-Call AVAC Repair Services (Board Action Required) 

4. President’s Report 

5. Committee Reports 

a. Audit Committee 

b. Governance Committee 

c. Operations Advisory Committee 

d. Real Estate Development Advisory Committee 

6. Public Safety Report 

VI. Adjournment

1 Due to public health concerns and as authorized by Chapter 417 of the Laws of New York of 2021, the RIOC Board Meeting will be conducted via videoconference. The meeting will commence following a public comment period. The public can submit their comments in writing via “Speak up at Upcoming Meeting” link on RIOC’s website. The public comment period is not part of the meeting.

Take a look at the last RIOC Public Session and Board Meeting from December 29. As previously reported, the Public Session comments included:

  • Request for a Pickleball court
  • Traffic Safety ideas, crosswalk improvements, reduce car traffic on Main Street
  • When will MTA OMNY be installed at Roosevelt Island Tram Station
  • Outside consulting work by RIOC President Shelton Haynes in 2018 allegedly without receiving State approval
  • RIOC managers allegedly withholding information of racial discrimination and sexual misconduct
  • RIOC not answering Freedom Of Information requests for over 6 months or providing incomplete answers
  • RIOC failing to make public information about the Corporation's officers salary compensation in proposed 2022-23 Budget in violation of corporation bylaws.

There was no response from RIOC Directors or staff to any of these submitted comments read by RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson.

Watch the video below of the Public Session followed by the RIOC Board meeting in which the RIOC Board approved the 2022-23 Budget and appointment of Debra Kustka to the Position of Vice President of Operations of the Corporation.

RIOC Board Meeting - December 29 2021 from Diva Communications on Vimeo.

On March 17, RIOC announced on Instagram that the newly hired Vice President Of Operations Debra Kustka resigned after less than 3 months on the job. Two days earlier, after receiving an automated email from Ms Kustka stating she no longer worked at RIOC, I asked RIOC President Shelton Haynes the reason for her departure. There was no answer from RIOC.

Ms Kustka was a well respected and experienced professional. Before joining RIOC last December, she was the Vice President of Operations at the Hudson River Park Trust having worked there for 15 years.

There is still no answer from RIOC regarding the reason for Ms Kustka's resignation.

Does the RIOC Board know the reason for the resignation of their VP of Operations after less than 3 months in the position?

During the March 17 Community Board 8 (CB 8) Roosevelt Island Committee meeting, Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS) President Judy Berdy blasted RIOC saying that with the exception of a few hard working RIOC staffers, most of RIOC has been missing in action for the last two years.

CB 8 Roosevelt Island Committee Chair Lynn Strong-Shinozaki's attempted to soften Ms Berdy's remarks but Ms Berdy would have none of that and replied holding nothing back. Watch for yourself.

The Roosevelt Island Daily speculates on reason for Ms Kustka's departure from RIOC.

Roosevelt Island Residents Joyce Short And Marc Jonas Block Are Candidates For NY State Democratic Party Committee - Seeking Community Support For Petition Drive To Get On Ballot

Roosevelt Island resident Joyce Short reports:

Marc Block and I are running for NY State Democratic Party Committeewoman and Democratic Committeeman for the 76th Assembly District. We need the community’s help! 

Right now, we are petitioning to get on the ballot and need signatures. The petitioning is due the beginning of April. We have very little time!  

Tonight, we are holding a petition-signing event at the Sr. Center- at 546 Main Street, from 5:30 to 9:30.  

Our election will put Roosevelt Island on the political map of NY State! History has shown us that without Island representatives who can input the policies and platform of the Democratic party, Roosevelt Island’s interests are overlooked. We aim to change that. Signing our petition helps us get the community the attention it needs!

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation Celebrates Purim Holiday With Worship Service Followed By The Marvelous Mrs. Esther Maisel Purimschpiel Play - Watch The New Maccabeats Purim Video Too

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

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, March 16, with more than 40 people participating in a full evening of worship and Purim celebration both in person and online. 

Image Of Haman And Queen Eggster by Ken & Peggy Organes

Rabbi Joel Shaiman, 

Photo By Harriet Shaiman
dressed in a green plaid kilt and tam o’ shanter in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, led the worship service and the reading of the megillah or traditional scroll. The holiday marks the survival of the Jewish people at a time of a threatened massacre. The other readers were Keren Bachi, Uri Shusterman, Rachel Rekhter, Michal Melamed and Ben Fhala. The reading was interrupted by children and adults wielding noise-making groggers to blot out the recitation of the name of the man who purportedly attempted to destroy the Jews. The congregation joined in singing prayers to the melodies of familiar Irish songs.

The service alternated with scenes from a Purimschpiel, or play, based on this narrative. Written by Mickey Rindler and directed by Janet Falk, The Marvelous Mrs. Esther Maisel transported the characters from the television show (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) to the Shushkills (formerly known as the Catskills) where there is a lively comedy club scene. The cast featured King Adamsuerus (Tamar), Haman (Mickey Rindler), Mordechai (Charles Schwartz), Queen Vashti (Beth Asher), Esther Maisel (Emily Kalb) and Aunt Rose (Michal Melamed).  

Other cast members included sisters Lucia and Gabriella, children of our RIJC 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 used their groggers and applauded enthusiastically. 

The evening concluded with delicious Hamantaschen, a triangular holiday fruit pastry treat, baked by Tamar, which has become an annual tradition. 

For more information about the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation, which is the oldest, active and egalitarian congregation on the Island, please visit or send an email to  

The next Shabbat worship services are on Friday, March 25 at 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary at the Cultural Center, 548 Main Street. Attendees should RSVP to and must be fully vaccinated. Masks are optional. The services will be broadcast on Zoom; the Zoom link is at on the Coming Up page, listed as Friday Night Programs. 

Our Spring Learning series, led by Rabbi Joel, will focus on various aspects of Social Justice, will start up the week of Tuesday April 5, with dates, times and Zoom link to be announced. Shabbat services, holidays and other activities in April, May and June will be posted and sent out soon. 

More info on the Roosevelt Island Jewish Congregation at their web site.

The Maccabeats singing group celebrate and explain the Purim Holiday too.

Monday, March 21, 2022

First Sign Of Roosevelt Island Spring - Cherry Trees Beginning To Blossom, It's The Loveliest Time Of The Year Says Matt Katz And Singer Tom Lehrer - 20 New Cherry Trees Planted Says RIHS President Judy Berdy

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and Roosevelt Island is starting to show signs of the nice weather soon to come with our Cherry Trees beginning to blossom as seen today on the East Promenade behind Capobianco Field and the basketball court.

Roosevelt Island resident Matt Katz muses on the first day of Spring:
"Spring is here, spring is here; life is skittles and life is beer; I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring; I do; don't you? 'Course you do!"   
Today is the first day of spring and I, for one, have had a surfeit of winter.  My windows are open and my cats are on the windowsill sniffing the air and checking out the wildlife (and so am I).  
My apartment overlooks the Westview courtyard which is full of burgeoning trees, squirrels fresh out of hibernation and birds busy building nests.  There is a drain pipe just above and to the left of my bedroom window which, every year, is building central for a family of sparrows (or starlings, I'm not really sure).  I watch them bringing twigs for that purpose and hope that a rainstorm won't wash their efforts away.  
We awake, this time of year, to the calls of bird sentries assuring that no usurpers will attempt invading their space.  And the trees!  The buds seem to be bursting already and it's still March!  If I stare hard enough, the buds seem to be throbbing with the expectation of new leaves. In a month there will be fronds and by May the courtyard will be a forest, a jungle packed with urban critters to entice my pussycats (and me).  
Roosevelt Island does spring awfully well, doncha think?  
Our gardens come to life as do our playing fields.  Down coats are replaced by tee-shirts (Roosevelt Island Day tees, natch) and shorts.  
All we need to make this idyllic spot perfection is a shop selling made-to-order ice cream cones.  With sprinkles.  (Sigh).  
What I'm trying to say to my neighbors--new and old, friends and strangers, New Yorkers and from around the world-- is...Happy Spring!
    Matt Katz
    Proud Roosevelt Islander  
I asked Mr Katz:
Where did you get the quote about spring. 

Also, if your looking for some good ice cream, go over to the Cornell Cafe. They have great ice cream from their Ithaca campus in pint and half pint carton but sadly no cones. 
He replied: 
The quote is from my favorite Tom Lehrer song, "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" and it is as irreverent as the title suggests. I'll sing it next time I perform here. This was the concert title of a program at the 92nd Street Y, a parody song concert as part of their Lyrics and Lyricists series where I got to meet Tom Lehrer. A big thrill for me! 
Yeah, the Cornell ice cream is good but it's not really summer without two scoops of chocolate ice cream on a sugar cone, sprinkles discretionary. Goes back to childhood in Brooklyn, I suppose.

Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy adds

Soon, the Cherry Trees will blossom all over Roosevelt Island.  

From 2021.

But, the crowds will come:

UPDATE 1/22 - Cherry Trees starting to blossom on the East Promenade next to Cornell Tech Campus facing Queens too.