Search for Tram Elevator Contractor Will Start Again

Written by Briana Warsing. Posted in Volume 37, Issue 10 - February 4, 2017

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) has scrapped its latest search for a contractor to build two new elevators at the Manhattan Tram station, and will instead send out a new request for proposals in the coming weeks, said RIOC President Susan Rosenthal at a recent RIOC Operations Committee meeting.

Rendering of the chosen Tram elevator design.
Rendering of the chosen Tram elevator design.

Construction of two new glass elevators was supposed to have started last fall after the design was approved at an April Community Board 8 meeting. The new design, by engineering firm GC Eng & Associates, would replace the two current elevators that have proved difficult to maintain and prone to breakdowns.

According to Rosenthal, the search was withdrawn due to insufficient candidates. The request for proposals received only three bids, two of which were not completed correctly. “Procurement laws disqualify bidders [who don’t follow directions] from participation,” explained Gretchen Robinson, RIOC’s compliance and internal controls officer.

“We really worked hard at doing pre-solicitation marketing,” said Rosenthal of the last request for proposals. She says RIOC reached out to Andrew Winters, Cornell Tech’s senior director of capital projects, and Mike Russo, RIOC engineering consultant from Hawkins, Webb and Jaeger, for advice and names.

Rosenthal affirmed that a revised bid would be released in the next couple of weeks and that the terms would be altered in hopes of attracting more interest. She said, “We are going out again, and we will really make an effort to market it. We are rethinking how to do the rating. Maybe price is not as important as quality and experience. We are going to send out letters with pictures of [the design]. I think this is a fantastic, high profile job.”

“We are going to ask additional questions, and it will have a lot more focus,” RIOC Vice President and CFO Kimberly Quinones said of the new bid.

Many seniors, parents, and Islanders with disabilities have expressed mounting frustration with the Tram station’s current elevators, which have experienced repeated breakdowns in the past few years, at times necessitating a shuttle service between the Island and Manhattan.

“The elevator breaks down quite often and it is not ADA compliant,” explained GC Eng & Associates’ Shigehiro Shishido at the unveiling of their winning design in the spring during a community meeting in the Manhattan Park Theatre Club. “Our goal is less maintenance. As you all know, the existing condition, how difficult it is to just press the button, close the door. RIOC has been doing the best they can do but it is difficult to maintain this type of elevator.”

The new design would replace the existing elevator and wheelchair lift with two new glass elevators offering increased user capacity. Each elevator would be able to hold 2,500 pounds (or 7-8 people) and would run simultaneously, according to A. Scott Falk, chair of Community Board 8’s Transportation Committee. The new elevators will also be ADA-compliant, providing enhanced visibility, greater reliability, increased lighting and security, and improved circulation. (So, hopefully, that urine smell will be gone forever.) According to Shishido, the glass is a safety measure. “This Second Avenue Tram station is a rather dark area. We can give a little lightbox to improve the safety, and it’s a small enough park.”

For easier boarding and greater safety, the waiting area for the elevators will be 15 feet wider, requiring the removal of four trees from Tramway Plaza park. Shishido explained, “In the existing elevator, it’s very difficult to get in, especially with a wheelchair, getting off the Tram, [it’s] too narrow.”

RIOC’s request for proposals to build new Tram platforms, both in Manhattan and on Roosevelt Island, proved more successful. RIOC received seven bids, “which is pretty good,” Quinones said. Rosenthal added, “we are excited about that. We have a rating committee and we’ll be announcing it [the winning bidder and timeline].”

Tags: RIOC construction Tram

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