The position of public information officer (PIO) was recently created by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) to increase communication between us and our residents, and to create a basis for a natural exchange of information and ideas. RIOC understands that the absence of relevant up-to-date information creates a sense of disempowerment, mistrust, and frustration. We are working to change that. We’re learning that the more accurate information we share with the Island community, the more we will work together for the common good.
I hope you will try to get to know RIOC’s newest officer, Alonza Robertson (email@example.com).
I’m often e-mailed, phoned, and stopped on Main Street by residents, community leaders, and business owners asking about the who, what, when, why, or how RIOC is going to do something they believe we should. Often my answers seemingly disarm preconceived notions that RIOC is an indifferent political oligarchy.
This column is a means of me providing you information before the questions even are asked. Let’s increase this dialogue so RIOC can continue improving our service to you.
With the passage of the State of New York’s 2018 state budget two weeks ago, RIOC will receive a $25 million payment to supplement its existing capital infrastructure improvement program. The payment is the tangible result of a unique 2013 land-swap agreement – regarding a 2.62-acre parcel to help facilitate the Cornell-Tech campus development – between the State and RIOC. The money, according to the budget law, is to be used “in support of the comprehensive, multi-year capital program for capital improvements on Roosevelt Island.”
RIOC plans to add the funds to its existing five-year, $40-million major improvements schedule, an aggressive plan that works to immediately address aging Island infrastructure and public facilities that have had neither improvements nor significant repairs since their original construction 40 years ago. Some of those capital improvement items include: the 59th Street Tram station elevator construction, Island-wide seawall railing replacements, Southpoint Park seawall construction, repairs to the AVAC sanitation system, Sportspark and Youth Center renovations, Motorgate parking garage repairs, Blackwell and Al Lewis playgrounds renovations, and Octagon and Firefighters field improvements.
I recently received some questions from the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) about existing parking space and traffic striping issues in the Motorgate parking garage.
Although it has yet to be announced, RIOC has finalized a request for proposals (RFP) to repair concrete spalls and expansion joints, re-waterproof all surfaces, and redo striping at the southern end of the garage facility.
Our Capital Planning and Projects team has reviewed the scope of work with the Motorgate engineering consultant. We expect to issue that RFP by April 30. Upon the bid approval by the RIOC Board of Directors, the work will commence on floors three, four, and eight, which is Phase 1 of the total project. The repairs will be conducted in two phases, so as to not overly disrupt the garage’s ongoing operation. Each phase is estimated to cost about $5 million; the work durations for each phase will be shared once the contract has been awarded. RIOC’s plan also includes new signage.
In the meantime, we’ve recently replaced and installed 13 new closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras at the garage to bolster our efforts, in addition to regular PSD patrols, to keep you and your parked vehicles secure.
RIRA also recently asked us to review their report and ideas for the Sportspark renovation project. While we have more plans to solicit community input on this project, we first should update you on the plan’s current state.
The first Sportspark RFP, set to be released by mid-June, is for design services and biddable documents only; not for physical renovation (that will be addressed in a subsequent RFP). Once we have a firm in place, then we will engage you, and the RIRA committee (and utilize our Cornell community study on possible programs) to receive your input and ideas on the renovation.
Members of our staff have reviewed the information RIRA provided, of which a majority involves facility concerns that we are aware of and agree should be addressed with the design. We recognize RIRA is excited about the project and so are we. We look forward to working together. I will share additional updates as the project moves along.
Did you happen to notice the new outdoor basketball backboards and hoops installed this week at Capobianco Field, Blackwell Field, and Sportspark?
Helix Repair Update
The first lane demolition of the Helix is about 70% complete. Now uncovered, we’ve found that the top of the structural slab is in much worse condition in some areas than we anticipated. That deterioration was caused by insufficient maintenance and inspection, in addition to much heavier truck loads traveling the road than what the Helix was originally designed for.
We have hired an additional traffic engineer to review our existing traffic control plan during the Helix construction and to present their findings and/or recommendations to the RIOC Board and community.
24/7 Ambulance and NYPD Vehicle
You should also note that RIOC Public Safety Department Chief Jack McManus has successfully lobbied the New York City Police Department and NYC Office of Emergency Management to station an NYPD patrol vehicle and FDNY ambulance on the Island 24 hours a day during the Helix construction period. This is meant to allay concerns about potential emergency response times due to Helix construction traffic.
When additional emergency response vehicles are dispatched to the Island, PSD is safely expediting their entry and exit by freezing all Helix traffic, in both directions, to accommodate those vehicles. We also appreciate several Island businesses – Gristedes, Coler Memorial Hospital, and Cornell Tech – as well as the Department of Environmental Protection for their cooperation working with PSD in safely coordinating deliveries coming from oversize tractor trailers until after 3:30 p.m. every day.
Manhattan Tram Elevators
The permits for the Manhattan Tram Plaza elevator project were awarded earlier this month and construction work will begin soon. As I mentioned in my last column, two new aesthetically-improved glass elevators – that are more efficient and ADA accessible – are being built to replace the existing elevators. The project – which we will execute with minimal impact on the Tram’s operation - is expected to last a year.
Radar Speed Signs
Radar speed signs, also known as driver feedback signs, are designed to slow down speeding drivers by alerting them of their speed. They are being used across the country, and in the past week, you might have noticed that two have been installed here on Roosevelt Island; one near Coler Memorial Hospital and the other near the Cornell Tech loop. The signs are mobile and can be moved to different locations throughout the Island as needed.
We remind everyone that the Island-wide speed limit is 15 miles per hour. Please slow down; speeding is hazardous to yourself, other motorists, and pedestrians. Island speed limits will be monitored and enforced by the Public Safety Department.
Real Estate Development
RIOC’s Real Estate Development Advisory Committee met on Tuesday, April 3, to discuss Southtown buildings 8 & 9, a Rivercross arbitration settlement, and Westview ground lease. I know many of you anxiously await the details of the settlement and lease agreements, which I am not at liberty to currently discuss. I do encourage you to attend our next full RIOC Board meeting Wednesday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the Cultural Center Theatre.
Though its required environmental impact study is not yet complete, I thought I should share some additional details about the Southtown 8 and 9 residential towers, located immediately north of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge along Main Street on the Island.
Building 8 will consist of a 21-story residential tower, 227 feet tall with 341 affordable units. Building 9 will consist of a 28-story, roughly 287-feet-tall mixed-use building with 300 market-rate units and 7,000 square feet of commercial office space.
Building 8 is expected to be completed and operational by March 2020, while Building 9 is expected to be completed and operational by March 2022.
Youth Center Update
We’re making more changes at the Roosevelt Island Youth Center.
Our objective, since assuming management of the center’s operations on March 5, has been to develop the center, and its programming, into something that parents, students, and staff could all enjoy.
Two weeks ago, RIOC posted new guidelines, which we intend to enforce, to keep the facility safe, supervised, and alcohol- and drug-free. Parents and older teens will no longer be able to roam the facility unsupervised; “sign-in” and “sign-out” and appropriate behavior policies have been drafted and will be enforced. Please review these with your children, and explain that these changes should be viewed as improvements.
I am happy to announce that Erica Spencer-El, a long-time RIOC community relations manager has been promoted to Director of Community Affairs and the Youth Center will be one of her new management assignments, in addition to oversight of Community Relations and Island-wide events. More details on additional staff and programming additions, the scheduled renovation of the center and RIOC’s efforts to create a youth soccer program will be forthcoming.
Additionally, RIOC is proud to announce that we’ve waived all field usage fees to allow for the Child Center NY Beacon at PS/IS 217, in partnership with the Roosevelt Island Center for Community Development and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, to relaunch the Roosevelt Island Little League for ages 5 through 13 at no cost to participants. I encourage you to join and enjoy your child playing in the league’s 10-game season.
As we also announced previously, we are making Island residents and organizations’ field and room requests a priority when booking space for our outdoor fields and indoor facilities, according to availability. Capobianco Field will remain open year-round with no permit required. The 440-square-foot Lighthouse and 320-square-foot Blackwell rooms in the Cultural Center are also available free of charge with only a certificate of liability required to make a reservation. Please visit our website, rioc.ny.gov, to see availability for all our recreation and community spaces.
In response to several parents’ concerns about the Child Center NY’s Beacon program here on the Island, we recently invited the program’s senior vice president and the City’s associate commissioner for the Department of Youth and Community Development (which funds the Beacon program) to meet with a small group of Roosevelt Island parents.
It was a positive meeting and parents vented their frustrations about the new Beacon program. We discussed the timeline of the Beacon’s expanded programming, including potential summer camps, improved parent/program staff communications, and staffing ratios, among other things.
Another informational meeting will be scheduled to discuss their improvements by the end of this month. Sign up for the latest Roosevelt news advisories, upcoming meetings, and facility availabilities by visiting our new website, rioc.ny.gov. And, remember I want to hear from you; email our PIO, alonza.robertson@RIOC.ny.gov, with your questions or concerns!