Fewer Races, Fewer Potholes, a Stronger Helix

May 25, 2018

During the past decade, road running on Roosevelt Island has become increasingly popular due to the Island’s flat, fast race course and the scenic views along the East River seawalls. 


But recent residents’ complaints about the parking restrictions, noise, and traffic, caused by the 5K and 10K events has led us to review our race permit policy. After meeting with a delegation of Southtown and Roosevelt Island Residents’ Association members this week – including Mickey Rindler, Janet Falk, Dave Evans, Melissa Wade, Erin Feely-Nahem, and Jianfan Zhu – in addition to several internal meetings between myself, RIOC Vice President of Operations Shelton Haynes, and RIOC’s Public Safety Department, Permitting, and Parks and Recreation teams, we’ve decided to implement the following changes:

• No more than two road races per month;

• The elimination of 10K events; only 5K events with a maximum of 1,000 people will be permitted;

• Move the race course away from residential buildings, and reduce the impact on traffic;

• Uniform starting times of 8:30 a.m., no pre-race microphone or speaker use until 30 minutes prior to start time;

• Impose non-compliance monetary penalties on race directors and organizers.


With some events already under contract, we may not be able to implement these changes for all upcoming 2018 races, but we have been in telephone and written contact with all the race promoters re-emphasizing our existing rules. 


We are also asking race organizers to remind participants to use the subway or NYC Ferry to travel to the Island instead of driving or traveling by the Tram, due to the ongoing Helix ramp repairs and the Tram platform construction project. And if they must drive, please abide by the event parking signs to steer all cars to the Motorgate garage.


We’ve tried to balance our earnest desire to bring more visitors to the Island with the hope that they will support our businesses and restaurants, particularly those along Main Street. We know these changes are not going to be perfect, but we are embracing what you are saying and we are going to do something about it. And, if we need to make further modifications, let’s continue the dialogue.


Tram and Helix Update


The Tram platform construction work is on schedule; we’re planning for completion before Roosevelt Island Day on June 16, at which time both cabins will be back in operation and, at the Island station, new MetroCard vending machines will be installed and the existing kiosk will be re-opened for use.


One lane of the Helix ramp project has been completed and work has begun on the second. As before, workers will have to demolish the existing concrete topping slab, and in some cases, replace the underlying rebar, (the mesh of steel wires used to strengthen and hold the concrete in compression).


As we’ve mentioned previously, some sections of the Helix’s existing structural concrete slabs were in worse disrepair than we’d originally diagnosed and will require a more extensive repair that may extend this project’s completion a few additional weeks




Rain is good for Roosevelt Island’s trees, but not so much for our roads. 


During downpours, water seeps through cracks in the old or weakened asphalt (or Z-bricks in some cases) and the sand and gravel “roadbed” that supports the road soaks up that water. Cars, heavy trucks and buses pass over the road and force the water to spread through the sagging roadbed. 


Eventually the asphalt sinks into the eroded parts of the roadbed, and small cracks become larger from the continued impact of tires; eventually forming a small pothole that grows into a big one. Compound this with the record amounts of snow and freezing ice dumped on us during the recent winter – along with the negative byproduct of using salt to defrost the surfaces – and you’ll see some areas of our roads have become untenable.


We have a plan we have started to implement now that drier skies have prevailed in recent days. The RIOC maintenance crew has addressed some of the worst stretches of potholes – near the Octagon tennis courts and along West Loop road by the Roosevelt Island Tram and subway stations – using “cold patch,” a cold asphalt product used to make road repairs quickly. Cold patch can be shoveled or poured into a pothole from the container without heating and tamped down with a hand tool.


But this is only a temporary fix to a larger problem. In 1969, when Roosevelt Island was designed as a mixed-income residential community, urban planners and architects wanted this to be a car-free (and dog-free) Island. Cars crossing the Roosevelt Island Bridge were to be required to park at the Motorgate garage.


Thus, when Main Street was created, the roadbuilders laid the Z-brick atop a gravel and sand roadbed with no concrete binding agent in between, unlike most traditional roads designed for heavy traffic loads. Years later that decision, plus our residential and commercial growth, has led to today’s issues. 


We’re working now to procure a full-service roadway company to work with us to make the necessary repairs. I’ll provide updates as we get closer to issuing RFPs, awarding a contract, and scheduling the project.


I’d like to thank Steve Noone, our assistant vice president of capital planning and projects, and Alonza Robertson, our public information officer, for teaching me more about road repair than I ever thought I would know.


Roosevelt Island Day


Roosevelt Island Day is Saturday, June 16. We’re looking forward to partnering with many different Island groups – including the Roosevelt Island Senior Association, the Roosevelt Island Residents’ Association, the RI Garden Club, RI Girl Scouts, Island Kids, and others – to stage a daylong community festival that celebrates the Island’s beauty and diversity and encourages volunteerism. 


Besides the interactive games, children’s activities, and food, I’m happy to announce that the evening’s concert performer will be The Funktion, an eight-piece Motown tribute band. Get ready for a great party!



Susan Rosenthal

President, RIOC



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