HEY SUSAN! Q&A with RIOC President Susan Rosenthal

January 9, 2019

HEY SUSAN! – I was wondering if the fences that were installed by the Octagon in April (and originally expected to be down by June) are now a permanent fixture?  One of the “curmudgeon bloggers” on the Island spoke with a worker at the end of October who said it would be gone in two weeks, yet here we are almost in December and the eyesore is still there. Additionally, is the fence preventing working from removing the large limbs that cracked during the early snowstorm and are now precariously hanging over picnic tables? Given how seriously RIOC has taken tree removal lately, this seems like it would be a priority.

 

SUSAN: You may have noticed, since last month, that the green tarps along the fence line of the project have been removed. As you may know the City’s Department of Environmental Protection built an access road along the path from Main Street to the Promenade. RIOC had no control of the timing and or pace toward completion of the construction. When we inquired and met with the DEP staff in December, we were informed the fencing will be removed once the sod has an opportunity to knit i.e. become firmly rooted along the road. The tarps’ removal was a compromise to provide better street lighting and visibility in the area. And rest assured, we’ll have any hanging or downed tree limbs removed before the fencing is removed and the area is open again to the public. 

 

HEY SUSAN! When will the orange netting finally be replaced by the new metal railings along the river, between the subway and Island House? That stretch of the railings surely has more foot traffic, especially of children, than the stretch that has already been completed by Cornell, for example.

 

I cannot be the only parent who finds the planning and pace of the replacement of the railings unacceptably dangerous. In several places the orange netting is torn, leaving large gaps through which any young child could fall or hurt themselves. A more minor consideration is the toys, scooters etc. that could roll through those gaps and pollute the environment. 

 

With winter weather ahead, I am concerned that progress on finishing the replacement of the railings along that stretch appears to have stalled completely. I would be grateful for an update, not to mention some explanation behind the poor planning of removing existing railings many months before the replacement railings could be installed. 

 

Clearly the old railings would have been safer and more cost-effective and environmentally- friendly than plastic netting that rips. Many thanks in advance for your attention to these matters. 

 

SUSAN: I had my staff do a walk through and we found only one section of orange netting, near the Meditation Steps, that was ripped. We’ve asked the contractor to get that fixed today.

 

As you know, the long deteriorating Roosevelt Island seawall railings that run along the majority of the Island’s shoreline, about 3.5 miles in length, are being replaced with new anti-corrosive steel railings. The $8.7 million project is being completed by Elit Green Builders Corporation which so far has completed about half of the project. The work is on-going – removals and installations on the eastside and westside of the Island – depending on the weather (the concrete pours can only occur in dry weather at 40 degrees or higher) and when railings arrive from the foundry where they are being custom made. The work is expected to continue through the spring.

 

HEY SUSAN! Will there be a basketball clinic on Saturdays for kids over the winter?

 

SUSAN: Yes, we are finalizing the program schedule now. An announcement will be made shortly, and information can be found on our website at https://rioc.ny.gov/382/Youth-Center.

 

HEY SUSAN! I’ve asked this question before and you haven’t responded. What about better sprinkler systems for the children in summer heat? In such a nice neighborhood, there should be better sprinkler system for the kids to use in the summer time. Will improvements be made to the one by the baby park? Or, will one be added to the park across from the school? 

 

Cement sprinklers located by Blackwell Park,have been here since the late 1970's.

Long Island City's Rainbow Park installed modern, creative and safer new sprinklers in 2012 with padding and drainage.

 

SUSAN: The spray fountain at Blackwell Park was turned off temporarily for a couple weeks during the summer for water testing and turned back on in August. It will be turned back on in the Spring once we begin using the irrigation system again. We haven’t received any complaints about its quality. What would you like to see improved? Also, there is no plan to add a spray fountain at Capobianco Field across from PS/IS 217.

 

We have installed new padded ground surfaces at both Blackwell and Al Lewis parks this summer. There will be additional improvements at Blackwell – more play equipment, improved seating at the courts etc. coming this year as well as new swings installed at Octagon Park.  As you can see, we are continuing to upgrade our parks for the greater enjoyment of all our families and children. Please continue to share your ideas as we move forward.

 

HEY SUSAN! Is there a new ETA on when the Youth Center will be moved back to 506 Main Street? The last date I was told was November 6. I was then told it was pushed to the first week of December. Is there a new time frame now? Moving the program back to Main Street doesn’t seem to be a priority the way it once seemed to be.

 

SUSAN: First, our existing program, temporarily located on the second floor of Sportspark, is doing great. Our original plan for 506 Main was just to complete a facelift. Once we got into and fully examined the building we realized more was needed to properly renovate the venue: cosmetically, structurally, ADA and code compliance. While there is no rush, the job should be completed by the end of 2019.

 

HEY SUSAN! Google Maps doesn’t provide efficient transit directions for Roosevelt Island when F train service is disrupted. It seems like Google doesn’t recognize the Tram or any trains that run on the F line (for example, the R train stopped in both directions on the F line this weekend when the F did not). 

 

There are over 11,000 residents of Roosevelt Island, we should be able to know how to get home from Manhattan or Queens during the weekend. Are you working with Google and MTA to fix this issue?

 

SUSAN: The MTA posts notices about the transportation alternatives for weekend travel to and from Roosevelt Island at the subway station and via their website at http://alert.mta.info/. We have no jurisdiction as to what they choose to do with Google. RIOC is now working with Google Transit to add Roosevelt Island Tram information of which we do have jurisdiction. Stay tuned for our announcement of its debut. Also have you tried using other transportation apps like Moovit? They seem to have accurate and useful up-to-date updates on all public transit outlets.

 

HEY SUSAN! Any projected completion date for the renovation of the two wooden footbridges near the lighthouse at the northern tip of the island? I haven't seen much progress. We love walking in Lighthouse Park. We sorely miss walking around the Lighthouse itself, which is inaccessible now and has been so for several months. What's up?

 

SUSAN: RIOC is working with Cameron Engineering for the renovation design drawing package of the two-foot bridges. These bridges have been fixed several times previously only to be washed out again by flooding. We hope to incorporate some long term structural and landscape solutions this time to prevent this from happening in the future. Currently, the project is in the design and permitting phase. The construction of the project is expected to finish by late spring of 2019.

 

HEY SUSAN! Has RIOC ever investigated the possibility of reinstating access for Roosevelt Island residents to the Queensboro bridge?  I recently came across some old news articles and found that RIRA made a presentation to Community Board 8 back in 2007 to try and convince them that – for multiple reasons, including safety, the growing Island population and strain on public transit and general connectivity – it was important to reinstate pedestrian access to the Queensboro bridge from Roosevelt Island. 

 

See http://uppergreenside.org/blog/2007/04/11/roosevelt-island-queensboro-bridge-access/.  CB8 unanimously approved RIRA’s proposal for conducting a feasibility study to physically connect Roosevelt Island to the Queensboro Bridge pedestrian and bike path, but the trail seems to end there.  A few online articles reflect that DOT did not seem to take the request seriously.

 

I understand that the bridge is under the City’s control.  That said: Would RIOC support residents in a push to raise this issue again at Community Board 8 and/or with the Department of Transport? 

 

The importance and utility of creating this link has only grown since 2007.  The Island population continues to grow.  Two new Riverwalk buildings are planned right next to the bridge.  We now have Cornell Tech.  A hotel is being constructed, and an Executive Education Center.  Amazon will be building its new HQ2 directly south of the bridge in Long Island City.  The ferry and Tram are great, but a walking link to Manhattan and LIC would be transformative for the Island (and frankly, they seem like a good idea from a safety/evacuation plan point of view). 

 

There are so many people and entities on the Island (including RIOC) that would benefit from this increased connectivity.  What can we as Roosevelt Island residents do to push this issue?  If RIRA were to raise this again, could it count on RIOC’s support?  Would RIOC be willing to play a role in bringing together representatives from Hudson Related and Cornell Tech to urge them to support this proposal? 

 

SUSAN: Yes, having such an elevator or stair connection to the 59th Street Bridge does seem to be a good idea in theory, but several feasibility studies have shown we don’t have the land area on the Island to build it. We would suggest that you contact City Council Member Ben Kallos’ office directly to inquire more about other current plans being discussed.

 

SUSAN: Thanks to you all for submitting your questions to HEY SUSAN! We look forward to more in the coming months. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2019!

 

Have a question for HEY SUSAN!? Submit it to Ms. Rosenthal at information@rioc.ny.gov.

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