The RIRA Column

April 23, 2016

Jeffrey Escobar, President
Roosevelt Island Residents Association
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Welcoming the Blue Dragon

After nearly two years of hard work and effort by then RIRA Common Council member Ëlisabeth Stapen of the Octagon, along with support from the RIRA Social, Cultural, & Educational Committee (SC&E) and the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) and its President, Tad Sudol, Roosevelt Island will have the privilege of welcoming the arrival, on Tuesday, April 26 at 11:00 a.m. at Southpoint Park, of the Blue Dragon to its permanent home. Created, sculpted, and donated by world-renowned Swedish artists Ulla and Gustav Kraitz who were inspired during their 2014 tour of Roosevelt Island by our community’s strong commitment to, and continuing embrace of art, Gustav Kraitz offered to donate the children’s sculpture, rather than sell it to a museum, so that generations of Islanders and visitors to the Island will also be inspired to experience art in such a beautiful setting and community as ours. The children’s sculpture calls for and allows children to climb and interact with the sculpture, and we hope that you will come to Southpoint Park and interact with the sculpture either during its unveiling on April 26 at 11:00 a.m. or during your next visit to Southpoint Park. Thank you, Ulla and Gustav Kraitz, and kudos to Ëlisabeth Stapen, Tad Sudol, RIVAA, and the SC&E Committee of RIRA for making this dream a reality!

RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival

The arrival of Spring means the arrival of the annual RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival, and this year’s event will be happening on Saturday, April 30, from 12 noon until 5 pm at the Manhattan Park Theater Club Plaza located between 10 River Road and 20 River Road at Manhattan Park. First started in 2011 in response to the tragic earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, the RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival has grown to be a cherished Island event to celebrate Spring, and will include a variety of Japanese musical performances, a martial arts demonstration, dance artists, a traditional Tea Ceremony, and picnicking with neighbors on the West promenade of the Island. We hope you will join us and our neighbors for this year’s celebration, as well as the blooming of the cherry blossoms that are so prevalent on our tiny island. This year’s event promises to be another great and beautiful day of community and world-class performances.

Open Space Stakeholders Plan

Speaking of Southpoint Park, RIRA and other Island stakeholders received notice that RIOC is initiating a Community Stakeholders Plan for the open spaces at Southpoint Park. The goal of the Project will be to develop, with RIOC and other Island community stakeholders, an implementable plan for the future development, protection, and use of the open spaces at Southpoint Park which reflects our Community’s priorities, values, and vision.

The effort to represent the interests, concerns, plans and goals of RIRA, and the Island residents that it represents, will be spearheaded by the Chair of the RIRA Planning Committee, David Lawson, and we invite you all to be part of the discussion. Please contact the Chair of the Planning Committee at either or for more information on how you can ensure your voice and view can be heard and be an active member of the debate, as well as plan on attending the RIRA Planning Committee’s next meeting.

Tramway Elevator

On Tuesday, April 12 at the Theater Club at Manhattan Park (8 River Road), in conjunction with the Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Board 8, GC Eng & Associates, PC, engineering consultants to RIOC for its proposed elevator modernization and ADA compliance project, as well as RIOC staff consultants and engineers, appeared before the Island Community to give a report on the finalized planned design, work, upgrade and replacement of the existing elevators at the Manhattan Tramway Station at Tramway Plaza. The purpose was to gauge community concerns regarding both the current elevators, the site logistics for providing elevator service while the work is ongoing, design issues with the plans for the new elevators, and the timeline for completion. As presented, the proposed work is necessary to i) bring the existing elevators into ADA compliance (which they currently are not) so that proper service may be given to the substantial number of mobility-impaired residents who live and work on Roosevelt Island, and ii) alleviate and correct the nearly six years of shutdowns in service and maintenance issues that have plagued the elevators and the residents of Roosevelt Island who utilize them. As GC Eng & Associates had pointed out, the existing Tramway Station and its elevators were originally meant and intended to be temporary when constructed in the 1970s, and therefore have outlived their useful life.

As presented, the work would consist of taking down the existing elevator and the ADA service elevator and its existing shaft, and constructing two new, large, ADA-compliant elevators on the south side of the Tramway Station on its easterly edge towards Second Avenue. The proposed location of the elevators would permit larger, ADA-compliant elevators to be constructed while giving expanded entry/access, proper waiting areas on the platform, and improve exiting passenger flow. The new elevators would be independently operated, have improved and faster travel speeds, and would be glass-wrapped and illuminated. RIOC announced that bids for construction of the elevators are currently out, with an anticipated construction commencement date of September 18, 2016, and final completion/operation anticipated to be a year or so later on October 18, 2017.

After the presentation, community members voiced questions and concerns as to both the existing problems and current state of the elevators; contingency plans as to operation of the elevators while the construction is ongoing; and the proposed luminescence of the elevators and its shaft and its effects on the surrounding residences and businesses. Particular concerns were raised as to whether moving the elevator shaft from its existing location to the easterly edge of the Tramway Plaza, would create a larger footprint of the facility than originally constructed, thereby allegedly taking away space from the adjoining park; what the plan was for replacing the trees that would need to be removed for the construction to occur; and whether or not the sizing of the elevators was practical in accommodating the mobility impaired who rely on motor scooters.

Due to the number of concerns raised by both the public and members of the Committee who voiced concerns as to the proposed luminescence on the surrounding residences and businesses, the possible impeding of the flow of pedestrian traffic, and possible reduction of park space, the Committee agreed to ask that RIOC and GC Eng & Associates, PC also present at the [Community Board 8] Transportation Committee in Manhattan (possibly jointly with other committees that may be of concern) to allow residents who reside near, work at, or use the adjoining park to voice their concerns. The issue continues, but if you have any questions regarding the meeting or would like your concerns heard and/or questions raised, reach out to me, as co-chair of the Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Board 8, at .

Uptick in Animal Waste

As spring and warm weather take center stage and Island residents move their lives from burrowing indoors to the amazing outdoor spaces we all share and love, I would be remiss to not mention the number of recent complaints and calls to RIRA, RIOC, 311, and the City of the failure by dog owners to curb their pets and pick up after them. Although required by City law and finable of up to $200 for failing to do so, a number of residents continually choose not to pick up their dog’s feces, not only causing unsanitary and unsightly conditions, but exposing both children and adults, young and the infirm, to a number of diseases, bacteria and environmental hazards that only uncollected waste can present. Due to the number of calls and complaints, as of late, RIRA, RIOC, and Community Board 8 have begun investigating how to amplify enforcement. Truly, the issue has reached palpable proportions as a large number of entries by our Island children to the RIRA “On Roosevelt Island, We …” public service campaign has focused on the need for neighbors to clean up after their pets and properly dispose of animal waste.

As an owner of a medium-size dog, I can sympathize and understand the annoyance of having to pick up after our animals, especially when rains fall or conditions are less than ideal. It is not an option for myself nor my family, however, nor should it be an option for you or any dog owner, not to pick up after your dogs. Notwithstanding seeking from RIOC and individual buildings the installation of more waste dispensers and receptacles in and around highly trafficked and used areas, as well as signage reminding of the local laws requiring pick-up, it is up to each and every one of us – pet owners and non-pet owners alike – to seek community enforcement of such rules. With an Island of such limited space, and with an exploding population of both humans and pets, it is up to us to ensure that the beautiful walkways and parks that we all enjoy are not ones, come summer – when we need our outdoors the most – that are filled with animal waste.

Tags: RIRA Column

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