We’ve experienced the first week of spring and not a moment too soon. It seems ironic that the only spring-like day over the past week was actually on the last day of winter. Still, beggars can’t be choosers and I’m watching buds popping all over the Island and with great anticipation.
My interest was to ensure that Roosevelt Island would be included, specifically for our transportation and recreational needs. It seems that I’ve been only half-successful. The overview on potential ferry service primarily includes the Hudson River and the New York Bight, with East River service only up to 34th Street in Manhattan and Hunter’s Point in Queens. As our island population has expanded, it is clear that our existing public transportation, the F train and Tram, are not adequate for our needs, especially during the morning commute. I hope we can convince “the powers that be” that the future viability of this residential community depends on better City transportation. Currently, given the capacity of the boats and the potential frequency of service, ferries will not solve our problems. However, they will provide some relief and…any port in a storm. You can read about the extent of city planning in the soon-to-be-released Comprehensive Citywide Ferry Study and in Goal 6: Enhance the Blue Network to be found in Vision 2020.
The material pertaining to Roosevelt Island is located in Chapter 4: Neighborhood Reach Strategies/Reach 1 – East River North/Roosevelt Island and Roosevelt Island, Southern End. To summarize: It includes an evaluation of our tidal energy potential and river currents, the potential for launching boats, the use of our east channel for recreational boating and limiting shoreline erosion, and “ensuring that the redevelopment of Goldwater Hospital [property]…reflects the proximity of the waterfront.”. An encouraging item for our southern end is the intention to “support an improved Southpoint Park with a waterfront esplanade.”
This plan reflects the City’s best intentions, and only that. What actually is built or implemented will depend on funding and the “squeaky-wheel syndrome.” Which means that RIRA must continue to encourage our elected representatives to support our waterfront enhancement and to advocate for the people-moving needs of this island community.
This proved to be a group particularly well versed in Island issues and the City and State politics that impact those issues, as I knew they would be. The discussion was far-ranging but focused on those topics where a City official could make a difference. I got the ball rolling, asking for a copy of the 2010 census highlighting changes in Roosevelt Island demographics. Smith discussed the problems, when calling 311 and 911, of responders not knowing where Roosevelt Island is or that it is part of Manhattan. Shull noted the poor signage to our island from the Queensboro Bridge. There was considerable interest in the future of Goldwater Hospital, slated for abandonment by 2014, and the potential for a science and engineering center, perhaps affiliated with Stanford University, that might utilize the site.
I’ve discussed the plans to enhance the City’s waterfronts earlier in this column, and we discussed the possibility of renovating the oil dock on the east channel for use as a ferry station. Smith mentioned that we must have water access, if only for emergency evacuation. Scott noted that the current administration would not be in office, given term limits, when this plan might bear fruit ten years from now, but suggested working on a “greenway grant” to develop our waterfront. He made it clear that he recognizes Roosevelt Island as an intrinsic part of Manhattan.
Allen asked the Beep to investigate poor sidewalk access for the wheelchair-bound disabled throughout the City. O’Conor cited the running water on the Manhattan-side subway platform, hidden by a door but audible to riders, as well as the broken station doors, and Helstien pointed out the ongoing problem with pigeons that has never been adequately addressed. Scott promised to follow up with the MTA. Mincheff noted that the Manhattan-side Tram Plaza has become a collecting point for the homeless and suggested that a commercial presence there might make the plaza more attractive and welcoming.
Evans asked the 64-dollar question about Stringer’s plans for the 2013 mayoral election, and the Borough President said he was “looking into it,” noting that New York needs a “more collaborative form of government.” I reminded Scott that he is invited to Roosevelt Island Day in June, noting that I could arrange his-and-hers gurneys at the RIRA blood drive for the Beep and his new bride. You can’t turn down an offer like that!
A word on kiosk etiquette: Never cover up someone else’s signage; not even a little bit, unless it is dated material and has expired. A little courtesy goes a long way and there’s plenty of room for everyone’s notices. You will find the agendas for each month’s RIRA Common Council posted several days before each meeting.