State of Tram Elevator Is Inexcusable

April 29, 2017


To the Editor:


I am writing to express my serious concern about the safety of the elevator and the red lift on the Manhattan side of the Roosevelt Island Tram.


Today, around 11:45 a.m., I was heading back to Roosevelt Island with my two young children in a double stroller. The elevator, which had been working earlier today, was no longer working properly. There was no sign that it was out of service, but I saw that the inner half of the door, with the levers exposed, was closed. A moment later the door opened and a woman in the elevator was confused that it had not gone up. I told her to come out of the elevator and, as the door closed, I showed her it looked like it was broken. She went up the stairs instead and said she would notify the attendant. The attendant came down and said he would help me get up by way of the red lift. My children (ages 3 and 1.5) and I went into the red lift and waited for the attendant to go back upstairs to operate it. After a short time, the lift started going up (about a foot and a half) and then it stopped. We were stuck in there for five to ten minutes without any movement or communication. Finally, I forced the door open and managed to get my children and the stroller out. 


It is outrageous that this re-occurring issue continues to be a problem. It was fortunate that neither my children nor I were hurt. What kind of event or disaster is RIOC waiting for in order to make the replacement of the elevator a priority? If there is an issue finding a contractor to bid on the project (as I hear this is the current excuse), then budget more for the project! In a city where there is construction being done every block or two, I find it unbelievable that the safety issue of a deteriorating elevator and unreliable lift is still unresolved.


Ellen Norton




Editor's Note: RIOC President Susan Rosenthal’s response is below.


Dear Ms. Norton:


I am truly sorry that you had an unpleasant and frightening experience with the elevators on the Manhattan side of the RIOC Tram. The elevator repair company responded quickly and fixed the elevator before the close of business. It is because of the age of the elevators and their frequent need of repair, that RIOC made their replacement a priority.


RIOC retained an engineer to design new elevators and we and the community are thrilled with the design.


As the next step, we have been seeking a contractor for the project; as a public benefit corporation, we are required to follow New York State procurement rules and guidelines when seeking to hire vendors. The first time we posted a Request for Proposal (RFP), we did not receive a bid from a qualified vendor. You correctly note that there is an extraordinary amount of work being done in the City and it is probably for that reason and the relatively small size of this project, that we have had difficulty soliciting bids.


Before posting a second RFP, we wrote to many contractors (recommended by our engineering consultant, Cornell and others) and attached the drawings of the project which design will surely change the landscape of Second Avenue. In addition, we are following up with personal phone calls to recommended contractors to encourage bids. Based upon our schedule, we will be posting the RFP within the next few weeks.


Funding is not an issue in that we have budgeted sufficient monies for this project. In other words, we are working diligently to replace the elevators.


If you have any suggestions to help in this endeavor, please feel free to reach out. Thank you.


Susan G. Rosenthal


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