A Westview Deal, Water Worries, and Playground Closures: News from RIOC

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation held a special Board of Directors meeting Monday night to work through some last-minute business, including the approval of a long-awaited ground lease for the Westview building. RIOC President Susan Rosenthal also offered an update on other Island concerns, including the safety of some public water sources, which have been turned off for the past couple weeks for testing, additional Helix repairs, and the upcoming renovation—and closure—of some Island playgrounds.

Westview’s New Ground Lease

After two years of negotiations, RIOC’s Board of Directors voted Monday night to approve a 40-year ground lease with Westview (the original ground lease does not expire until 2028), clearing a path for the building’s ongoing effort to privatize.

Westview is the last of the Island’s four original residential buildings to decide to leave New York State’s Mitchell-Lama program, which was designed to create affordable housing for middle-income residents. Under the new lease with RIOC, Westview will pay $325,000 per year with a 10% increase every five years for the first 30 years, and 4% yearly thereafter. Westview’s owner, David B. Hirschhorn, is responsible for an upfront transfer fee of $1.5 million. Additionally, 1% of every sale will go to RIOC. The measure passed unanimously, with only two resident board members, David Kraut and Michael Shinozaki, present.

As part of the deal, Hirschhorn will now be responsible for the retail portion of the space, which includes China One, Island Wine & Spirits, and the We Are One children’s store. RIOC has entered a new sublease agreement with Hirschhorn for its office space in the building and no ground rent will be payable to RIOC regarding the retail space.

RIOC said the deal set the building’s ground lease at 41% of Westview’s fair market value.

Mark Colon, president and deputy commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said the building’s affordability plan would protect existing tenants “with no immediate increases.” Rent for current tenants would be capped for 30 years. Westview tenants will also have the option to purchase their units at a 70% discount. However, if they sell their apartments within the first year of ownership, they will be subject to a 60% flip tax. If they wait 13 years, the tax goes down to 30% The earliest purchase time is estimated to be January; once the "black book," or offering plan, is distributed to tenants they will have 90 days to accept the offer to purchase.

Water Testing

Earlier this month, RIOC shut down many of the public water sources around the Island to investigate potential issues with their lines. At Monday’s meeting, Rosenthal announced that testing on the Island’s water fountains should be completed soon. Early test results have shown a higher level of bacteria in some water sources, but she specified that E.Coli was not found. She said she expects a preliminary remediation plan to be complete within the next two weeks.

More Helix Delays

Rosenthal also told Board Members that the “last bit of work” will soon be done on the Helix. That consists of the road railings and expansion. She said the work might occasionally require restricting traffic once more to a single lane, but that the remaining work would last no more than 30 days.

Youth Center Renovations

RIOC’s $1.7 million renovation of the Youth Center at 506 Main Street will commence in the next few weeks and is expected to wrap up November 1. In the meantime, RIOC’s youth programs will take place on the second floor of the Sportspark. Rosenthal says that plans for an expanded youth program, which was approved in June, will be presented to the Board at their September 6 meeting.

Playground Closures

The playgrounds at both Al Lewis and Blackwell Park will undergo “major work” with new equipment and new basketball courts, said Rosenthal. Both will close in the next few weeks for construction.

Slow Progress for Tram Elevator Replacement

Work on the new elevators at the Manhattan Tram station is still awaiting proper permitting. Five trees must be removed for the project. She said the entire project would take “a good year,” and might have some impact on service this year.

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