Friday, February 10, 2023

Treasure Hunters Diving In East River Across From Roosevelt Island Searching For Prehistoric Woolly Mammoth Tusks Reportedly Lying On The River Floor - Watch Video Showing Up Close And Personal View Of The East River Woolly Mammoth Bones Search


The NY Times and NY Post recently reported on treasure hunters diving in the cold waters of the East River searching for prehistoric woolly mammoth tusks allegedly lying on the bottom of the East River, near East 65th street, across from Roosevelt Island.

According to a January 15 NY Post article:
...Expeditions on the East River started after Alaskan gold miner and fossil enthusiast John Reeves appeared Dec. 30 on the popular podcast — and citied a draft of a report by a former American Museum of Natural History worker referencing fossils and bones dumped in the river in the 1940s....

The NY Times added in a January 27 article that the treasure hunters:

... were drawn to their spot, near East 65th Street, not by scientific data or the boat’s keen instruments, but by a massively popular podcast: “The Joe Rogan Experience.” In a recent interview on that show, which has an estimated audience of 11 million listeners per episode on Spotify, a guest from Alaska presented an explosive discovery: There are tens of thousands of priceless woolly mammoth tusks lying on the river floor....

Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy notes:

Recently a story has been circulating about a boatload of pre-historic bones being lost in the East River around 65th Street in 1940. The bones were supposedly on their way from Alaska to the American Museum of Natural History. To date no evidence of the shipment has been located.
Here's more on the East River search for prehistoric Woolly Mammoth bones.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Beautiful Roosevelt Island East River Sunrise View This Morning Looking Over New Riverwalk Building Construction Site - View Will Soon Be Lost By New 28 Story Building

A Tipster shares beautiful Roosevelt Island East River sunrise this morning

 above the Riverwalk building 9 construction site.

Sadly for the Tipster and a few others, the view will soon be lost.

Here's more info on the $187 Million, 28 story, market rate rental building which will have 357 units including 104 workforce housing apartments for employees of Memorial Sloan Kettering and 7 thousand square feet of office space for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.

With Less Than A Month Notice, RIOC Increases Motorgate Parking Fees For Disabled Residents From Zero To $125 Monthly, Elected Officials Ask For A Pause In the Rate Increase - Resident Proposes Expanding Motorgate Garage By Building 500 Spots In Currently Vacant Quadrant Of Area

As far back as 1991, Roosevelt Island disabled residents were allowed to park for free at the Motorgate Garage,

but not any longer. 

Without any prior notice from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC), invoices were received last month by disabled residents informing them that their Motorgate Garage parking fees were increasing from zero to $125 per month. 

On January 17, I asked RIOC President Shelton Haynes and Communications Vice President Akeem Jamal:

I'm being told by disabled Roosevelt Island residents that the Motorgate Garage will start to charge them for Parking beginning in February.

Is that true or is it misinformation sent out by the operator as was done last September announcing the doubling of parking rates?

There was no response from RIOC.

During the January 17, Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Public Safety Committee meeting, Co-Chair Erin Feely-Nahem asked RIOC Public Safety Department Chief Kevin Brown about the new charges for disabled people parking at the Motorgate Garage. According to Ms Feely-Nahem:

 ... what are we going to do if people can't afford to pay for their handicapped spots...

Ms Feely-Nahem also expressed concern about increased traffic congestion on Main Street caused by the parking increase at Motorgate Garage.

Here's the RIRA Public Safety Committee discussion on the issue.

Today, Roosevelt Island elected officials including Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, NY State Senator Liz Kreuger and NYC Council Member Julie Menin sent a letter to RIOC President Shelton Haynes regarding this issue. According to the letter:

We are writing to you regarding the recent monthly increase for disabled permit holders at the Motorgate Garage at 688 Main Street. We ask that you pause on implementing this fare increase and consider a more gradual approach which gives impacted members of the community more time to plan financially and become familiar with the new payment structure....

Here's the entire letter.

On February 2, RIOC sent out this advisory regarding the Motorgate Parking rate increases.

Dear Resident,

RIOC has announced price increases for monthly permit holders at the Motorgate Garage at 688 Main Street. It is important to note that the decision to make increases was not made lightly. Critical infrastructure improvements have been made in the sum of a $20M investment to the Motorgate Parking Garage. With the rise of operating costs, upcoming projects, and worldwide inflation, RIOC has decided to raise its parking rates for the first time in over ten years.

RIOC's approach when examining parking rates centered around a fair and equitable increase for all monthly permit categories. The notification of rate increases began in September 2022. Recently, the disabled and handicapped parking monthly permits have sparked a discussion in the community. To clarify, while RIOC streamlined its monthly permit categories, we observed discrepancies among the rates for certain Island community members. The senior citizen rate is a total of $125. In the spirit of fairness, RIOC matched the senior citizen monthly parking rate to the disability/handicap category.

It should be noted that the average monthly parking permit in New York City is $570, nearly 360% more than what our seniors and handicapped population pay. While many New York City garages do not offer handicap or senior monthly permit rates. RIOC chose not to eliminate these categories as we recognize our incredible elderly and disabled communities.

While no one enjoys hearing the words "price increase," please know that RIOC hears the community's concerns and has considered them. With the Island community at the forefront, RIOC remains far below the city average. Notices for the handicapped/disabled and senior rates went out via email using the addresses on file from the vendor SP+ in December 2022, aligned with the vendor's obligation to give permit holders 30 days’ notice.

Also, to provide you a brief update, RIOC understands the growing need for additional parking on the Island, which is why President & CEO Haynes announced that RIOC has plans for a traffic study aimed to better understand and identify where areas on the Island that can be redesigned for additional designated parking areas and transform underutilized spaces.

We hope to have provided some clarity on the issue and appreciate your understanding in advance.

In February 2022, RIRA Committee Chairs toured the Motorgate Garage exploring ideas for increasing parking spots and RIRA's Frank Farance proposed expanding the garage by building an addition in the currently vacant quadrant of the area.

UPDATE 2/13 - This evening, RIOC sent out the following email announcement: 

Dear Roosevelt Island Community,

I have spoken to countless Island residents and stakeholders and have had time to consider your feedback concerning the permit rate increases, specifically the disabled rate at the Motorgate Garage. RIOC remains committed to finding an equitable solution for all. However, RIOC cannot lower the $125 fee and adopt a more minor increase, as this would not be fair to our elderly constituents. In the spirit of impartiality, I must stand by my decision, as both groups should be treated fairly.

To that end, RIOC will compromise as today I am announcing that all Motorgate Garage rate increases will be postponed, to be effective April 1, to ensure ample time is given to all permit holders beyond SP+’s required 30-day notice. The ample notice should provide all permit holders, including our disabled community, more time to plan financially and become familiar with the new payment structure. In the coming weeks, SP+ will communicate the timeframe for crediting permit holders' accounts for those subject to the increase.

For more information or concerns, please contact SP Plus at 1-800-245-4714.

I appreciate your understanding.

Best wishes,


UPDATE 4/10: According to RIOC: Motorgate Garage Monthly Parking Permit Holders,

After careful consideration, RIOC has adjusted the monthly permit rates at the Motorgate Garage – aiming to be fair and equitable to all Island permit holders.

General Update:

Monthly permit holder rates will experience an annual 2% increase to accommodate rising operating expenses and allow for further upgrades to the facility, effective May 1, 2024.

Disabled Monthly Parking Permit Holders:

Beginning May 1, 2023, the Disabled monthly parking permit rate will be reduced from the proposed $125 rate to $62.50 only for existing enrolled customers before April 6, 2023, at 11:59 PM for a period of one year through May 1, 2024. On May 1, 2024, the Disabled monthly rate will be aligned with the Senior Citizen parking rate. All new customers applying for the Disabled monthly parking permit rate will be subject to the proposed $125 rate.

Disabled monthly parking permit holders who were charged for April will be reimbursed by the Garage operator SP Plus.

RIOC remains committed to preserving and protecting the quality of life for all community members while also providing the gold standard of services to our Island community,” said RIOC President and CEO Shelton Haynes. “The disabled community is the heart and soul of the Island, and I thank them for their continued partnership. A special thank you to the President of RIDA, Wendy Hersh, for furthering the discussion and collaboratively working with RIOC to find a more fair solution for all Disabled Parking Permit holders.”

“I want to thank President Haynes and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation for listening to our concerns and working with us to develop a more affordable parking permit rate for individuals with disabilities,” stated Wendy Hersh, President of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA). “We appreciated RIDA having a seat at the table when it came time to re-evaluate these rates, and we look forward to continuing this productive, open, and honest dialogue with RIOC in the future.”

RIOC remains committed to preserving and protecting the quality of life of all community members while providing the gold standard of services. A special thank you to the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association for furthering the dialogue and working with RIOC in a collaborative effort.

Thank you for your continued support and cooperation.


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

When Will The MTA's OMNY Payment System Be Installed At The Roosevelt Island Tram Stations? MTA Chair Janno Lieber Tells Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright Software Problems Delay RI OMNY Installation To Second Half Of 2023

In July of 2022 I reported on a "Bring OMNY To The Roosevelt Island Tram" online petition which garnered 1404 signatures


... Last March, NYC Council Member Julie Menin told me that the MTA and Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) assured her that the OMNY payment system will be installed on the Roosevelt Island Tram within this year....

But that was not to be.

Roosevelt Island residents were told during the December 22, 2022 Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Of Directors Meeting by RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson that the OMNY payment system installation on the Tram would be delayed until, hopefully, the 2nd quarter of 2023.


This week we learned that the Roosevelt Island Tram OMNY installation will be delayed past the 2nd quarter of 2023.

During the February 6, 2023 NY State Senate Joint Public Hearing on the 2023-24 Executive Budget Proposal, Roosevelt Island's NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright asked MTA Chair Janno Lieber:

The Roosevelt Island Tramway still continues to lack OMNY. Can you tell us why this has been delayed and when you expect it to be installed so that our Roosevelt Island residents and visitors can benefit from this service?

Mr Janno replied: 

The answer is it's projected to happen in the second half of this year... ... We didn't have software in some of the specialty locations like Roosevelt Island Tram, the Air Train in Jamaica Station and a few other places. The software has to catch up and we are working on it but that right now the projection it's going to be the scond half of this year....

Yesterday, I asked Ms Seawright:

Thank you for asking the MTA Chair Janno Lieber about when the OMNY payment system will be installed on the Roosevelt Island Tram and why it has been delayed.

Mr Lieber said OMNY is projected to be installed on the Tram in the second half of the year which is another in a long line of delays. He blamed software and vendor delays as the reason for OMNY not being installed on the Tram.

He did not say anything about issues agreeing to a new revenue sharing arrangement with RIOC which RIOC has previously said was an obstacle with the MTA to install OMNY on the Tram. Mr Janno said he "would be happy to get in a specific dialogue with you".

Can you ask him if there are any issues other than software and vendor problems to installing OMNY on the Tram and specifically including any issue agreeing to a revenue sharing arrangement with RIOC for payment by riders using OMNY on the Tram as well as transfers from the Tram to the subway and bus.

Ms Seawright replied:

At yesterday’s legislative hearing in Albany, I asked MTA Chair Janno Lieber about the effort to enable OMNY card holders to use their cards to transfer onto or off the Roosevelt Island Tram — because the long delay in implementing this capability is simply unacceptable. We need better answers from the agency officials responsible. I’ll be following up to press for solutions that get us past inter-agency squabbling and instead address the needs of Roosevelt Island residents and New York City riders.

Roosevelt Island has been waiting for the MTA OMNY payment system to be installed at the Roosevelt Island Tram stations as far back as 2020. 

Former RIOC Chief Financial Officer spoke to Manhattan Community Board 8 in September 2021 about efforts to get the OMNY system installed at the Roosevelt Island Tram


and during a June 8, 2022 RIOC audit committee meeting (at 7 minute mark), CFO O'Reilly reported that RIOC receives only $2.00 of the $2.75 Roosevelt Island Tram fare.

On February 18, 2022, a MTA spokesperson responded to my inquiry saying:

The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an essential part of the city’s transit network and it has been the MTA’s plan to have OMNY available to everyone including riders of the tramway by integrating the contactless payment system to help New Yorkers and visitors travel to and from Roosevelt Island. The MTA is thrilled that our transit partners at the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) want to join the OMNY team and we are working with them to offer OMNY to those who use the Tramway.

In November 2022 a MTA spokesperson added:

The Roosevelt Island tram will be integrated with OMNY sometime in 2023. The MTA is building out OMNY functionality for New York City Transit first, before addressing other agencies, however we look forward to welcoming tram riders to OMNY next year.

Over the last several years, the Roosevelt Island Twitterverse comments on the lack of OMNY at the Tram.

UPDATE 2/9 -  On February 7, I followed up on a November 28, 2022 email inquiry to RIOC President Shelton Haynes and Communications Assistant Vice President Akeem Jamal about the status of OMNY installation on the Roosevelt Island Tram. I asked:
I am following up on email below regarding installation of MTA OMNY system on the Roosevelt Island Tram.

When do you anticipate the OMNY system to be installed on the Roosevelt Island Tram?

What is the reason for the long delay?

Former RIOC CFO John O'Reilly has reported that a reason for the delay installing OMNY on the Roosevelt Island Tram is because RIOC and the MTA have not reached an agreement on a revenue sharing arrangement for payment by riders using the Tram and switching from the Tram to the subway or bus.

Is that true?

Does RIOC have any comment to the Roosevelt Island community on installing OMNY at the Roosevelt Island Tram?
There has been no response from RIOC about the status of OMNY installation on the Tram, continuing the practice of Mr Haynes and Mr Jamal in refusing to answer questions by local press in order for RIOC to:
... Control the narrative...
as told to me by Mr Jamal in a brief conversation several months ago.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

You're Invited To Church Of The Good Shepherd Roosevelt Island Black History Month Celebration Sunday February 12 - Come One, Come All And Join Us In Music, Spoken Word, History And More!

Roosevelt Island resident Verna Fitzpatrick invites you to the Church Of The Good Shepherd February 12 Black History Month Celebration.

According to Ms Fitzpatrick:

The Church of the Good Shepherd is dedicated to reach out to the Roosevelt Island community in multiple ways.  As you many know, in addition to regular Sunday morning services, we sponsor a Candlelight service during the Christmas season, a Youth Choir, Blessing of the Animals during the month of October and this month we are Celebrating Black History Month.  

Our Black History Month Celebration features Roosevelt Island residents including the well known musician Roy Eaton and Jackie Moscou, who worked as an actress in Seattle. In addition,  Elena F. Sifford is a former Roosevelt Island resident who is currently Associate Professor of Art History and Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Muhlenberg College; Leandrew Hill, a member of our congregation has spent over 13 years at the Metropolitan Opera of New York, Stacey Robinson an Operatic Baritone, is a Julliard trained singer who has performed in multiple Broadway productions including Phantom of the Opera.  Mr. Robinson also does voiceovers, commercials and television.  Mr. Piniella is also a Broadway actor with multiple credits to his name. 

The program is scheduled on Sunday, February 12th from 3pm to 4:30pm with a reception following the event in the lower community room. Come one, come all and join us in music, spoken word history and more to celebrate Black History Month at the Roosevelt Island Church Of The Good Shepherd.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Roosevelt Island NY State Assembly District Moving To Queens In Proposed Redistricting Map - "You Can Make This Nonsense Stop" Says Local Activist Supported By Political Leaders, Join Your Neighbors At Public Hearing February 7

 As reported December 5, 2022:

According to the NY State Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC) draft Assembly map released Thursday December 1, Roosevelt Island and portions of the Upper East Side will be moved from Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright's Manhattan 76 Assembly District to the mostly Queens 36th Assembly District currently represented by Zohran Mamdani....

... Roosevelt Island resident Joyce Short was a leader in the successful organizing efforts to keep Roosevelt Island in the traditional Manhattan State Senate and City Council Districts. Ms Short is getting ready to organize against the draft Assembly map removing Roosevelt Island from the rest of Manhattan....

Ms Short reports today: 

Tomorrow is the day for the NY State Independent Redistricting Commission's hearing on whether Roosevelt Island's Assembly District will be drop kicked to Queens.

As a Manhattan Island with strong ties to the mainland of Manhattan for close to 50 years, and a government infrastructure from the State of NY where Manhattan representation is essential to voice our interests in Albany, this change could be extremely harmful for our community.... for our school, for operating our tram, for construction during the expansion of Cornell Tech, for our policing, and more.

The public is invited to testify beginning at 4 PM tomorrow afternoon. 4 PM today is the cutoff for written comments.

Please use the QR or clink on this link for more information.

Commissioners on New York's redistricting panel voted Thursday to advance a new proposed map for state Assembly legislative boundaries. I am very disappointed to see that the proposal for our AD76 would eliminate Roosevelt Island and redistrict it to a Queens Assembly District. I am committed to fighting alongside constituents to keep Roosevelt Island where it belongs.

Roosevelt Islanders were so powerful in their testimony during the New York City Council districting process, I believe together we can make an unequivocally strong argument to keep Manhattan's Roosevelt Island with our Manhattan Assembly District 76. The process for state redistricting requires rigorous scrutiny, consistent with a process that ensures fairness, provides a platform for all voices, and carefully reviews all options.

The next steps are a series of public hearings around the State. The hearing in Manhattan will be on February 7, 2023 at the Hunter College Kaye Playhouse. I urge all concerned to share their views by testifying in person or submitting comments to the Commission directly at

Roosevelt Island and Upper East Side Democratic Party leaders oppose splitting Roosevelt Island Assembly District representation from the Upper East Side.

Ms Short adds:

We can do this! Wear your best Roosevelt Island RED and show up for our community even if you don't want to speak. Travel with the "Group Meet",  F train, RI station, 3 PM Tuesday, 2/7.
Here's the proposed NY State Assembly map moving Roosevelt Island from the Manhattan 76 AD to the mostly 36 AD.

See the full map at

UPDATE 2/8 - Here's the testimony delivered on behalf of Assembly Member Seawright at the NYS Independent Redistricting Commission hearing yesterday afternoon at Hunter College. Ms Seawright was in Albany for the legislative session.