Finally, someone has a plan for the old Tram cars! The original cabins, which currently sit gathering dust behind Motorgate, were included as part of the Community Plan for Southpoint Open Space, a project outlying future development goals for the park just south of the Cornell Tech campus.
The Community Plan for Southpoint Open Space project was initiated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) to ensure that Southpoint Park keeps up with its neighbors, so to speak. Southern Roosevelt Island has undergone a transformation recently, with the past ten years bringing us Southtown, Four Freedoms Park, Southpoint Park, and Cornell Tech.
Led by planning firm Fitzgerald and Halliday, the Southpoint project was designed to be community-driven, and multiple meetings and surveys were held over the past year to gather input from Islanders. The firm presented the draft proposal for its final recommendations at the February 16 RIOC meeting.
The draft concept plan includes 15 recommendations, to be implemented in a three-phase process over the next 10 years. (Phase one would take one to four years, phase two would happen in five to seven years, and phase three in eight to ten years). Generally, the goal is to preserve space for passive use and create opportunities for active use.
Arnie Bloch and Mary Miltimore of Fitzgerald and Halliday said the group’s goal, from the community input they’d been given, is “to preserve and celebrate this dynamic, natural landscape and spectacular scenic viewpoints of the surrounding urban landscape, which both contrasts with and defines this tranquil setting.” They emphasized that they were not recommending major development of the park, saying, “Above all, Southpoint Open Space will remain a natural, open space for the Roosevelt Island community in its setting, use, and role.”
Miltimore described the concept plan as a “toolkit” for future enhancements to the park and that nothing was set in stone.
Specifics discussed at the meeting including enhancing the gateways, with the old Tram serving as a “gateway anchor,” as well as with signage – both ecological and historical. They want to put in a bike rack, benches for waiting for the bus, chess tables, and an opening next to the shoreline. Any new planting would be with indigenous plants. Public art will be showcased to improve the northern edge. Local food vendor permits were also discussed, as well as adopt-a-bench and adopt-a-tree programs. Proceeds would go to the park. A volunteer program was another idea floated both to help maintain the space, and build community.
For all three phases, the total projected cost is $560,000. To that Miltimore said, “When in doubt, we went high. It’s always better to come in under budget.” The first phase they estimate as $122,000, broken down into a per year cost of $30,000. The public comment phase ended on March 6. The next step is to provide the final community plan to RIOC.