Get your hard hats ready! Island construction was the unofficial theme of the September 6 Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation Board of Directors meeting.
Some of the upcoming work will be funded by a one-time State payment of $23.9 million, compensation for the land that the Loop Road, which rings Cornell’s development, sits on. As part of his presentation of the 2018-2019 budget, RIOC Comptroller Muneshwar Jagdharry affirmed that the $23.9 million is in the approved State budget and should arrive by the end of the year.
Besides the lump sum from New York State, RIOC generates most of its revenue from the leases for residential buildings on the Island. RIOC also generates revenue from the Tramway, the Motorgate parking garage, metered street parking, commercial leases, interest income, and other Island-based activities.
Here’s a look at how some of that will be spent in the coming year.
The AVAC System
The Board voted to upgrade the Island’s AVAC system for $2,016,497. The AVAC system, also known as the Automatic Vacuum Assisted Collections, transports our waste at 60 miles per hour through underground pneumatic tubes to a collection station. Our AVAC system, one of the first full-scale pneumatic installations in the world, is now in need of upgrading; its original equipment is now reaching the end of its expected life. RIOC’s director of asset management, Tamara Andreatta, affirmed that all of this would happen without interruption to service and would take 12 weeks to complete.
The Blackwell House renovation just got more expensive. The board voted to add an additional $1.2 million to the construction cost for interior repairs and ramp renovations. The contract was initially awarded to AFL Construction, Inc. in August of 2017.
According to Steven Noone, the assistant vice president for capital projects, the scope of the project has changed. He described the exterior of the house as being in “severe disrepair.” The board voted to perform additional repairs on the exterior that would safeguard the interior renovation work currently under contract. At the meeting, Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy recommended RIOC “do what every other historical house does – get a caretaker.”
Substantial completion should take place on October 31.
Blackwell House renovation is almost complete
The Helix repairs, which began in February, are almost complete. When done, the project will end up having taken three months longer and $500,000 more than originally anticipated to complete. As you might remember, it turned out that the Helix ramp had deteriorated far beyond what was originally expected in the initial contract. As of now, the total cost of construction comes to $3.3 million.
A walk-through will take place on September 19 and final completion should take place 30 days later. “There’s not a whole lot of choice,” said RIOC board member Michael Shinozaki of his vote to approve the expenditure.“The Helix is the only vehicular access to the Island.”
The Youth Program
The RIOC Youth Program, led by director Erica Spencer-El, is now open for business at its temporary location on the second floor of the Sportspark. The relocation is a result of construction at the Island’s Youth Center at 506 Main Street. The program serves children between second and 12th grade, Monday through Friday 2:30 - 8 pm, and Saturdays 4 - 8 pm. According to Spencer-El, in the summer they served up to about 60 children per day.
In June, RIOC created a new Youth Center department and funded it with $700,000, more money than had been offered in their request for proposals for the youth center operator, and more than the Department of Youth and Community Development granted the Beacon program for the entire year.
BikeNY is a partner for their fall program, and there will also be partnerships with Island artists. They will be piggy-backing on some of the library’s programming for young adults as well. “We are a drop-in program, so we are limited in what we can do,” explained Spencer-El. They do not plan on acquiring the proper licensure to offer traditional after-school programing.
She did confirm that RIOC would run the popular youth soccer league for the fall season and that she is working around the Octagon field closure, one of the many limitations she is currently up against. That list also includes changing temperatures and the loss of light as the days get shorter. The current plan is to move the program to Firefighter Field and use Pony Field for the youngest kids. Practices will take place between 6 and 9:30pm twice a week and games will be held on Saturdays. She said the start date will be the later this month, and that tryouts and grouping will come first. She said more information would come later this week and sign-ups will ultimately be available on the RIOC website.
Spencer-El, an 11 year employee of RIOC, has a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Sports Science. She founded an inner-city Fencing program in Houston, Texas, and has served in programs such as Nike P.L.A.Y. Corps and the National Youth Sports Program which direct resources to underserved communities.
More Construction Coming Up
As for other projects around the Island:
• The bike ramp that will give cyclists access from Queens without going down the Helix or through Motorgate is currently in the design phase.
• RIOC is looking at possibly renovating Blackwell Plaza, the space between Blackwell House and the new library. It currently houses a broken fountain.
• Construction on the future home of the Roosevelt Island library branch has at last commenced and RIOC will design the courtyard space.
• What RIOC is calling Blackwell Park East – the space where the sandbox in Blackwell Park currently is – will be redone with a new dog run, basketball courts, and seating.
• The two playgrounds that are currently closed for repairs, Al Lewis Playground and Blackwell Playground, will reopen in a few weeks.
• Octagon Field will soon have energy efficient LED lights. They will be installed prior to the field and comfort station renovation which has not started. The field was fenced off in late August after it was deemed to have "deteriorating turf conditions." Work is not scheduled to be completed until the spring.