Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Roosevelt Island Tram Was A Great Amusement Park Attraction At Universal Studios Florida - Watch Video Of Kongfrontation Thrill Ride And Jerry Seinfeld Jokes About The Tram In 1977 TV Appearance

According to Chris On Rides:

If there was ever a ride that was so ambitiously frightening, that it could scare the most avid theme park goers, that ride was Kongfrontation. This attraction featured the world’s largest theme park animatronic, and it was glorious. But much like the other Universal rides, it suffered lots of technical issues in later years. Let’s take a look at what became of this iconic King Kong ride, and what Universal did to keep King Kong alive.

At Universal Studios Florida, there is a New York City section of the park. Here there was a building that housed Kongfrontation, the 8th wonder of the ride world. Now the queue inside looked just like a New York City subway station. There was graffitti on the walls and model shops. They did not have to go through the trouble of theming the queue this much, but they did. And that’s the kind of commitment I miss in a lot of attractions today.

The guests board a suspended ride vehicle that looks like the Roosevelt Island Tram. As the ride starts we see the remnants of a broken New York City at night. Just look at the detail in these model buildings. They even added a busted fire hydrant that was leaking water.

There is a derailed train that is bursting with flames. Sparks are flying off the power lines and we approach an impressive model of the George Washington bridge. We hear the roars of the beast and we come to the first scene with King Kong. His screams are loud and he is waving is huge arms. His mouth is wide with anger as he shouts at the riders.

We narrowly escape and we think we are in the clear. A searchlight from a helicopter shines at our tram and we can hear more explosions. Then we see Kong again, this time on the other side. He grabs the vehicle up close to his face and screams as he shakes his head back and forth. We see more fire and hear gunshots. Then he drops the tram and it falls abruptly. The guests scream and the ride comes to an end. Sadly, the attraction closed forever in 2002.

Kongfrontation was so scary that I had a total meltdown on it back in 1994. I was three years old and sat on the right side of the tram. My parents didn’t know how scary the ride would be and I think they instantly regretted taking me when they saw the Kong animatronic. I remember it vividly seeing the beast scream in my face. I started crying in terror and I thought we were all gonna die. Luckily we didn’t but it took me two hours to calm down and I could not stop shaking....

Take a virtual ride on the Kongrontation Thrill Ride.

All Ears adds: 

 Kongfrontation is one of the most important attractions in Universal Orlando’s history. Not only was it the biggest — and arguably most dependable — headliner in the park’s opening months, but its star animatronic is a big part of why Universal’s Florida park exists in the first place.

However, even with all that, the attraction closed in 2002. So, why did such a historically important attraction shutter just over a decade into its lifespan, and how does Kongfrontation’s closure — and tangential return — still impact Universal Orlando to this day? Let’s find out.... 

Click here to learn more from All Ears about the Kongfrontation Universal Studios Florida theme park ride. 

The Roosevelt Island Tram as an amusement park attraction was the subject of Jerry Seinfeld's first national TV appearance in 1977.

Friday, January 26, 2024

RIOC President Shelton Haynes And General Counsel Gretchen Robinson Currently On Administrative Leave Seek Court Order Restoring Them To Their Positions And Shutting Down Investigation - New Interim RIOC Leadership Wins Praise From Community For Reset Of Relationship With Residents

Reported on January 6:

... The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Board of Directors received notice of several employee concerns about the RIOC workplace. The Board has determined that it is necessary to conduct a review of these concerns by way of an outside professional. During this review, Shelton Haynes (RIOC CEO) and Gretchen Robinson (RIOC General Counsel) will be placed on administrative paid leave.

During this period of review, the day-to-day operations of RIOC will be overseen by an interim leadership team that includes Dhruvika Patel Amin (RIOC’s Chief Financial Officer & Vice President) and Gerrald Ellis (RIOC’s Assistant Vice President & Deputy General Counsel). In addition, RIOC Board member and Audit Committee Chair, Howard Polivy, will serve as a dedicated Board member liaison and will provide additional support to the interim leadership. No further comments about this matter will be made by the RIOC Board until the review is completed. We thank all of our RIOC staff for your full cooperation and support during this period of time.

Shelton Haynes, Gretchen Robinson (Standing), RIOC Chair Ruthanne Visnauskas at 11/14/23 Board Meeting

During the last two weeks, the new interim RIOC leadership, including Board Directors Ben Fhala and Lydia Tang have begun a series of community engagement initiatives which have been welcomed by the Roosevelt Island community.  

Mr Fhala was among the three local residents, including Lydia Tang and Dr Michal Melamed, appointed to the RIOC Board of Directors last June. During the last 7 months, these three new directors have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to bring some transparency, community engagement and oversight to RIOC.

Image From November 14, 2023 RIOC Board of Directors Meeting
As reported January 19:

...  Ms Amin and Mr Ellis also participated in a frank and open discussion with Roosevelt Island residents, Board Directors and local media during an informal meeting organized by RIOC Director Ben Fhala which took place immediately after a contentious RIOC Operations Committee meeting on January 17. {link added}

It was a very productive meeting and an example of positive community engagement by RIOC, a welcome change from the previous administration under Shelton Haynes.

Community Board 8 Roosevelt Island committee chair Paul Krikler noted after a January 18 meeting of his committee with residents and the new RIOC leadership:

Yesterday we had a very positive meeting with RIOC leadership. I think it's fair to say that this marked the start of a reset of the relationship between residents and RIOC. 

and Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy added: 

Can we handle this openness?

It is unclear how long the new interim RIOC leadership will remain in place, how long the review of Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson's workplace conduct will take and if they will return to their positions as President/CEO and General Counsel respectively. 

But, Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson are attempting to stop the review of their workplace conduct and demand to be restored to their positions at RIOC.

On January 23, Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson filed an Order To Show Cause in the US District Court for the Southern District Of NY seeking a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction:

  • (a) Enjoining Defendants and any persons or entities acting in concert with or on behalf of Defendants from initiating an investigation into or disciplinary proceedings against or taking adverse employment actions against Haynes; 
  • (b) Enjoining Defendants and any persons or entities acting in concert with or on behalf of Defendants from initiating an investigation into or disciplinary proceedings against or taking adverse employment actions against Robinson; 
  • (c) Directing Defendants to restore Haynes to his position as CEO and President of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (“RIOC”); and
  • (d) Directing Defendants to restore Robinson to her position as Vice President and General Counsel of RIOC,...

 Here's the January 23 Order To Show Cause.

According to Mr Haynes' January 23 affidavit in support of the Order To Show Cause:

... 45. On or about the morning of January 16, 2024, Ms. Visnauskas and Mr. Polivy informed me that, effective immediately, I would be placed on paid administrative leave.

46. During this meeting, I was told that the RIOC Board had received complaints from at least five staff members about me and the administration, alleging a toxic work environment. I was told the Board determined that it was necessary to investigate these concerns and to put me on leave pending that investigation. When I noted that Mr. Fhala and others had been harassing and interfering with my work and the work of the RIOC administration, Ms. Visnauskas said there was no recourse.

47. According to outside counsel for the Board, the five employee complaints were submitted sometime after my counsel provided revisions to the proposed Protocols, and after Ms. Robinson and I filed our amended complaint.

48. This is the first time I have ever been placed on administrative leave as a result of an investigation. In my tenure as CEO and President of RIOC, I have faced twelve other investigations—none of which have resulted in any findings of wrongdoing—but I was never put on leave....

Ms Visnauskas is the Chair of the RIOC Board of Directors and Commissioner of NY State Division of Homes and Community Renewal. Mr Polivy is a long time member of the RIOC Board of Directors. 

Among the allegations in Mr Haynes' affidavit are:

28 ... Mr. Fhala, Ms. Tang, and others have continued to harass and excessively scrutinize me and Ms. Robinson by, among other things, initiating a new,unwarranted investigation into a procurement contract, attempting to limit our authority, conducting pretextual reviews of our confidential payroll records, and making critical statements about us to the already hostile media.

29. Within one week after Ms. Robinson and I initiated the Federal Lawsuit, Mr. Fhala sought an “emergency” Board meeting to reduce my monetary approval thresholds by nearly 50%. Specifically, Mr. Fhala wanted to reduce the amount of funds I was authorized to spend without pre-approval by the Board from $175,000 to $90,000—a substantial reduction that would significantly curtail my ability to run day-to-day operations.

30. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Tang requested an accounting of my time worked, leave requested, and salary since my appointment to the position of acting CEO. Ms. Tang did not need my confidential time and leave records to complete her duties as a Board member. Instead, I believe she requested those records to try to “find” issues with my work history.

31. As another example, approximately one week after Ms. Robinson and I initiated the Federal Lawsuit, Mr. Fhala, along with Ms. Tang, met with Mr. Ellis, without our knowledge. I believe this meeting was conducted at the behest of Mr. Fhala and Ms. Tang for the purpose of obtaining information that could be used against me and Ms. Robinson.

32. Shortly after this meeting, Mr. Ellis requested access to RIOC’s email search systems, under the pretense of needing access to obtain information for certain legal work. In reality, Mr. Ellis used the access he was given to search through mine and Ms. Robinson’s emails. I believe Mr. Ellis searched through our past emails on multiple occasions, from on or about September 26, 2023, to on or about October 20, 2023, to try to search for information to be used against us. There was no valid reason for Mr. Ellis to surreptitiously search through our emails.

33. On a separate occasion, Mr. Fhala emailed both the NYSIG and the COELIG to suggest that our procurement of a contract with a digital reputation management company was somehow improper. The contract had been entered into approximately one year earlier—well before Mr. Fhala joined the RIOC Board—to try to counter the negative impacts on RIOC and its staff created by the onslaught of unfavorable press. Moreover, there was nothing improper about the contract: it had gone through a public procurement process based on responses to a public Request for Proposals. RIOC’s comptroller, director of procurement, IT director, and legal staff were all aware of and/or involved in the procurement process. Before the contract was signed, Mr. Polivy had even encouraged Ms. Robinson and me to counterbalance the negative press with positive stories. Ms. Christian and Mr. Kraut encouraged us after the contract was signed. Moreover, the Battery Park City Authority—RIOC’s sister agency for Battery Park City—had entered into a similar contract with a similar media firm that has conducted similar work and no questions had been raised about the propriety of that contract. Despite this background establishing the propriety of the contract, Mr. Fhala has attempted to raise suspicions about the contract and used it to attempt to initiate yet another frivolous investigation into me and Ms. Robinson. Neither the Chamber nor anyone at RIOC ever took any action to counter Mr. Fhala’s conduct....

39. Mr. Fhala has also repeatedly “scolded” Ms. Robinson and me and spoken to us in a condescending, derogatory manner. For example, at a Board meeting on or about September 14, 2023, Mr. Fhala condescendingly told me and Ms. Robinson, “May I remind you that you report to us?” He has also written similar things in emails to us.

43. On or about January 2, 2024, I met with Ms. Christian. She informed me that she learned that a few days prior to our meeting, Dhruvika Patel Amin (the current CFO& Vice President) was having trouble accessing information for the Board regarding confidential overtime records for RIOC employees. Ms. Christian believed that Ms. Amin was attempting to see if I received overtime pay during my time as CEO and President (such pay is not permitted).

44. Also on or about January 2, 2024, I spoke with Mr. Ekpo. He confirmed his belief that the allegations in the amended complaint are 100 percent accurate. He also confirmed that Ms. Lopez had instructed Mr. Miskiewicz to remove observations of racism that were in the first draft of the report...

... 50. I am aware of numerous RIOC staff members and employees who are terrified about their job security and career opportunities given Defendants’ unreasonable and targeted treatment of me and Ms. Robinson following our complaints of discrimination and retaliation....

Here's the full affidavit from Mr Haynes.

Ms Robinson submitted an affidavit substantially similar to that of Mr Haynes.

Here's Plantiff's Memorandum of Law in support of the Order To Show Cause.

Mr Haynes affidavit references (Para 31) a federal lawsuit he and Ms Robinson initiated.

As previously reported, on September 12, 2023:

... Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in the Southern District Of NY against members of NY State Governor Kathy Hochul's Executive Chamber as well as the Commissioner, General Counsel and Deputy Counsel of the NY State Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

Though not named as defendants in the lawsuit, Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson claim in their lawsuit that NY State Senator Liz Krueger, NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Roosevelt Island Daily publisher David Stone contributed to a "racist backlash" against them.

The lawsuit also claims that Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson were excluded from the appointment process of 3 new RIOC Board Members in an attempt to undermine their authority and "ability to discharge their job functions." Haynes and Robinson claim the 3 new RIOC board members are antagonistic to them...

On December 8, 2023, Mr Haynes and Ms Robinson added RIOC and one of the newly appointed RIOC Board members Ben Fhala to their lawsuit. Here's the Haynes/Robinson amended complaint.

Stay tuned for more updates. 

UPDATE 1/29: According to 1/26 Pacer filing:

... proceedings held before Judge Katherine Polk Failla: Telephone Conference held on 1/26/2024. Attorneys Milton L. Williams, Jr. and Jeffrey C. Skinner representing Plaintiffs present. Attorneys Alan Schoenfeld and Thais R. Ridgeway representing Executive Chamber Defendants present. Attorney Scott Todd Baken representing Defendant RIOC. Defendants' opposition to Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction is due by 2/5/2024; Plaintiffs' reply is due by 2/7/2024, 12:00 p.m. Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint is due by 1/31/2024; Defendants' time to answer the second amended complaint is stayed pending further order of the Court. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for 2/9/2024 at 10:30 a.m.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Roosevelt Island NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright Tells CEO Janno Lieber That MTA Has Been Reluctant To Offer Adequate Supplemental Subway Service To Roosevelt Island Residents During Work On 63 Street Tunnel Project - Lieber Says We Are On Schedule With Completion Of Track Work

As previously reported, due to the MTA's work on the 63rd Street Tunnel Project:

There will be no Roosevelt Island weekend F Train service to and from Manhattan beginning February 10 -12 and continuing for the next two weekends of February 17-19 and 24-26....  

... Project completion is still slated for Q1, 2024, subject to change....

During the January 24 NY State Joint Budget Hearing on Transportation, Roosevelt Island's NY State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright asked MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber:

Right now there are two elevators in service. One is out. Many of the residents are people with disabilities.They're not able to walk up and down the stairs for two levels and so I would like to know what the MTA is planning to do to bring some relief for these citizens as well as the F Train shuttle that runes every 20 minutes.

There will be no shuttle service at all in 3 weekends in February. The Tram that services the Island is the same. Residents have been telling me that the line can stretch all the way to 3rd Avenue and it is just not feasible 

 RIOC has stopped the Red Bus shuttle service on the Island to  Manhattan 

It doesn't have the capacity to run the shuttle because of the strong demands on the Island. The MTA has been very reluctant to offer adequate supplemental service for the residents. So If you could just address this, I would appreciate it. 

According to Mr Lieber:

We are on schedule with completion of the track work in the 63rd Street tunnel....

Watch the full Q&A between Ms Seawright and Mr Lieber.

RIOC Public Safety Department And NYPD 114 Precinct Host Roosevelt Island 3 On 3 Co-ed Teen Basketball Tournament At Sportspark Last Saturday - Watch The Exciting And Competitve Game Action Leading Up To The Gold Medal Finals

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Sportspark Director Joe Natale reports:  

On Saturday January 20th, Roosevelt Island's Public Safety Department (PSD), in conjunction with the NYPD 114th Precinct, hosted its second 3 on 3 co-ed teen basketball tournament at Sportspark. With 8 teams

all vying for the gold medal, the games were competitive, hard fought, and most importantly, fun!  

In the preliminary rounds, team “No Hablo Ingles” ran the gambit winning all 7 of their games and securing the #1 seed. The round robin tournament was a much closer battle, where “No Hablo Ingles” met the well-coached #3 seed “Sweet Yams” in the gold medal game. In a tightly contested, highly defensive game, “No Hablo Ingles” squeaked out the win by a mere 2 points to secure the gold championship medals. 

We congratulate Matthew Matias, Noel Perez, and Carmelo Valentine on a job well done and look forward to hosting more teen tournaments in the future!  

We also would like to give a special thank you to all of the RIOC departments that made this tournament come to life, including Public Safety, Communications, Operations, Youth Center, and Sportspark.  

All photos by RIOC Director of Communications & Community Affairs Bryant Daniels and PSD.

Mr Daniels adds:

We hope to host more starting in the Spring, open to both island and off-island teens. These events are designed to bolster community policing efforts on the island and help build bonds between island residents and the corporation, particularly our dedicated PSD Officers.

 Watch the action from the Roosevelt Island 3 on 3 Co-ed Teen Basketball tournament.

And the Gold Medal finals game.

Thanks to Yitza Martinez for the videos.

Take a tour of the renovated Roosevelt Island Sportspark facility reopened last May.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Roosevelt Island RIVAA Gallery Annual Black History Month Exhibition Celebrates Heroes: Real And Imagined - You're Invited To Opening Reception Saturday January 27

 Roosevelt Island RIVAA Gallery reports:


We are pleased to welcome you to our annual Black History Month exhibition. This year we are celebrating “Heroes: Real and Imagined".

The exhibition is curated by Micheline Hess, a Roosevelt Island resident. A comic creator, artist/illustrator and former RIVAA member, Micheline has reached out to artist/cartoonists for portrayals of their heroes from life or those heroes they have imagined and created. The exhibition opens on January 25 and will be on view at RIVAA Gallery, 527 Main Street, until February 11. The opening reception takes place from 5-8 PM on January 27. 

More info on RIVAA Gallery 

at their website and Instagram page.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Meet Rent Easy Roosevelt Island, A Peer-To-Peer Online Marketplace To Rent Almost Anything Being Developed By Cornell Tech Computer Science Master's Students - Sign Up To List Your Products And Participate In Pilot Project

A team of Cornell Tech students are developing an online peer-to peer rental marketplace linking individuals who own underutilized products with those seeking temporary access to those items. They are seeking Roosevelt Island residents who would like to participate in a pilot project for testing their rental marketplace platform.

Meet Rent Easy Roosevelt Island - A peer-to-peer marketplace to rent (almost) anything.

According to Cornell Tech student Karan Shah:

Millions of homes are choked by idle assets - unused tools gathering dust, forgotten sporting equipment, clothes long waiting for the next wedding, appliances yearning for purpose. These possessions not only clutter our lives but also fuel unnecessary production and waste, burdening the environment. Meanwhile, many face limited access to these same items, their occasional use not justifying hefty purchase costs. RentEasy seeks to bridge this gap, becoming a digital matchmaker between owners and renters seeking temporary access. Think of it as the Airbnb for a wide range of rentals.

Imagine borrowing a drone or a camera for a weekend trip instead of buying a new one; renting an expensive evening gown for a one-time occasion. Owners declutter and earn passive income on their idle assets, renters save money and enjoy wider access, and the environment breathes easier due to reduced production and waste, creating a win-win-win scenario. This is a chance to reshape how we interact with resources, embracing a more sustainable future built on sharing and responsible consumption.

Folks, rather than opting to sell their pre-owned items on platforms like Facebook or other marketplaces, now have the opportunity to rent them out on this platform, earning a steady passive income. This innovative approach allows owners to generate more passive income over time through multiple rentals, all while retaining ownership of their products. On the other side, people just needing temporary access to these items can rent them for a cheaper price instead of buying it. 

I am currently pursuing my Masters of Engineering in Computer Science at Cornell Tech here on Roosevelt Island. The online peer-to-peer rental marketplace idea occurred to me during my quest to rent reasonably priced ice skates for one-time use. Faced with the challenge of not finding them easily available, I delved into extensive research and realized the need for a platform to bridge this gap. 

Eager to fulfill my entrepreneurial aspirations, this endeavor aligns seamlessly with my ambitions, coupled with the invaluable insights gained from my studies at Cornell Tech. Along with other like-minded friends at Cornell Tech, including Lakshit Dua, another Indian student pursuing a Cornell Tech Masters of Engineering in Computer Science, we are collectively working towards bringing this vision to life, starting with our lovely Roosevelt Island. The future goal is to establish ourselves as the largest rental platform ever. 

We have developed an initial prototype for this concept and are currently in the midst of conducting a pilot test. Following this phase, we plan to iterate towards the final product development, which will incorporate robust payment, delivery, and protection systems. Notably, the platform is offered completely free of charge for users to list their products, reflecting our commitment to promoting resourceful and sustainable living to its utmost potential.

We ask all Roosevelt Island residents to actively participate in this initiative by listing your products for rent. For a few days, people will only be able to list down their products and not acquire (rent) them, until there are a good number of products available. 

The process is straightforward: if you have any underutilized asset in your home, eg. camera, bicycle, or projector, you can easily upload it to the platform at no cost. Simply register, proceed to the listing page, enter basic product details and pricing, and you're good to go! When someone expresses interest in renting the products you've listed, they will contact you through the WhatsApp number you provided during registration. 

Here is the link to our Rent Easy Roosevelt Island website.

Thank you.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Seal Spotted Swimming In The East River Between Roosevelt Island And Long Island City Yesterday Morning - It Was Forced To Swim Due To Long Lines At The Tram And Shuttle Taking Too Long Says One Resident

A Tipster sends in this video taken yesterday morning from Roosevelt Island of a seal swimming in East River near Rainey Park in Long Island City Queens.

 A Roosevelt Islander Instagram follower speculated:

It was forced to swim due to the long lines at the tram and the shuttle taking too long.

According to this 2020 CBS New York report, Seals are making a comeback in NY waters:


Dolphins have also been spotted in the East River waters near Roosevelt Island.

And here's one man's 2023 search for NYC seals.

Roosevelt Island Has A New Main Street Restaurant, Rolls N Bowls Mexican American & Japanese American Cuisine - Come Join Us For 30% Off Soft Opening This Week

Meet the owner Angie, and staff Jacob, Kayra and Kayasha (pictured from right to left),

of the new Roosevelt Island restaurant Rolls n Bowls serving Mexican American and Japanese American cuisine.

I spoke to the Rolls n Bowls team yesterday about their new Roosevelt Island restaurant.


Rolls n Bowls is having a soft opening this week and offering 30% off their regular prices.  Customers were coming in today

to try out the Poke Bowls,

Rolls, Tacos, Gelato and Croffle desserts

at our new Roosevelt Island restaurant. 

Rolls and Bowls is located in the Rivercross Building

at 503 Main Street and will be open 7 days a week from approximately 11 am to 8 or 9 pm depending upon how busy they are.

Check out the new Roosevelt Island Rolls n Bowls restaurant.