Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Bashful Bus and other Transportation Woes

This evening’s “Town Hall” meeting, sponsored by RIOC, to welcome and introduce Columbia University’s Urban Planning study, was moderately attended but clearly and quickly detailed the transportation issues confronting island residents.

The evening began with an introduction of Dr. Floyd Lapp who laid out the purpose of the study, or studio, as it called and that he will fade into the background and let the students hit the ground running. After delivering his introductory remarks he opened the floor to local residents and employees to each voice our major concerns and in many cases what we each believe will solve the major problems.

As expected the major culprits such as red bus schedules, subway overcrowding, and concerns what we will all do when the tram is out were raised. But also smaller issues such as switching the pedestrian yield signs on Main Street back to Stop signs and lighting along Main Street were discussed. Issues such as height differentials between subway platforms and subway cars were also brought up which greatly affect many of our wheel chair bound neighbors.

The location and efficiency of a possible ferry was raised but not dwelled by many attendees. The issue of an elevator to the Queensboro Bridge was brought up but the idea of a stair case, which would be the equivalent of 21 stories, was discounted by Dr. Lapp as unrealistic to be actually used by most residents.

One of the more amusing Red Bus tales told was by an Octagon resident regarding an Octagon Express bus that arrives when no passengers are ready at the Octagon which then swings through the stop and seems to park just out of view of the stop almost like it is hiding but still can be seen from the stop. Only after an Octagon Local swings through and picks up the then assembled mass of commuters filling the Local does the Express peek out and pick up the stragglers and then continues, almost empty, down Main Street to the subway and Tram. Is this Express really hiding or it just being bashful and shy? Who knows but it is indicative of a larger transportation system that is clearly out of sync and behind the greater need according to the residents that attended this Town Hall.


  1. Part of the problem with the Red Bus is that there is no public explanation of how it works.

    Case in point: I've heard many people complain about the "hiding" Octagon Express. The reason that it "hides" is that it runs on a schedule, leaving the Octagon on the 00, 20, and 40 minute marks. Therefore an "assembled mass of commuters" should not bother getting on a local if the express is close behind. In point of fact, most Octagon residents seem to know this, but some do not. I myself lived in the Octagon for 2 months before I discovered this. The Octagon Express is probably the most effective transportation on this island.

    I would agree that it's odd that the local and express often pick up at the Octagon at around the same time, but I think that's just because the local runs so often.

    During off-peak hours, all we're told is that the Red Bus runs every 15 minutes and is timed to meet the tram. We're told that the tram runs every 15 minutes. In effect, I guess this means, "We don't run continuously, yet we refuse to commit to running on a schedule." In practice, it seems to "sort of" run on a schedule.

  2. I really don't understand the no-schedule policy the RIOC is taking with the red bus. Does anybody have an explanation that actually makes sense for the lack of a schedule? And if the driver actually have one why is this not made public information?

  3. Thank you Anonymuous for educating many Roosevelt Islanders regarding the schedule for the Octagon Express. I concur that the red bus is probably the most effective transportation on the island and maybe all of NYC - all for a mere $.25. I thank the many professional, pleasant and courteous drivers of the red buses.

  4. First Anonymous commenterJanuary 23, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    Roosevelt Islanders rejoice!

    The Octagon says that they sponsored this, so maybe now the Octagon-haters can stop hating.

  5. Most efficient? Are you out of your mind? No explanation as to when it runs, half the drivers are NOT courteous. Hours spent sitting at night waiting for a bus that never comes. Thankfully The Octagon got the GPS tracking on the buses so we now have a vague hope of finding out when the elusive bus may appear.

  6. the people in octagon have lots of money so i do not care about the red bus if it comes or not you people are always crying about the red bus , why dont you all move to the upper east side there are 2 new buildings going up on 86 street and lex also 86 and 3rd. i stand in the rain and snow and the octagon express bus passes us by. so who the hell cares about you rich sods, you are no better then the people who live in eastwood. i hope you all get to hate living here so you all move out and then the middle and low income people can have this island back in which it was build for in the first place not for you people making the income you are making. we need a place to live too .go to the upper east side the people are just like you .sods,.

  7. But if we moved to the upper east side we wouldn't be able to be a part of your beautiful life and might miss some of the pearls of wisdom that you cast before us like truffles.

    Are we not men? We are the Octagon Residents!

  8. dont you understand. we dont want your kind here . you belong on the upper east side .

  9. forget about riding the bus try walking .you are all lazy. better yet with all the money you people have why dont you all just buy a fleet of buses.

  10. As the ghost of a smallpox victim I'm sick of all of you.

    Please leave or I will both haunt you and ghostly cough on your generic breakfast cereal.

  11. Octagon folk are rich? Seriously - do you even KNOW anyone who lives at the Octagon? There are many different levels of income here. At the end of the day you are just annoyed there's an express bus that passes you by while you wait. The fact the owners of the Octagon PAY for that bus service and the GPS service so we can actually get down the end of this godforsaken island is quite frankly nice and much more than the RIOC has ever done. As for move to the Upper East side - I wish I could. This miserable island needs more people like you keeping it the same old boring retail wasteland that it is - why bring in better things when the same old garbage doesn't work.

  12. I'm confused. Is January 23, 2009 11:15 PM an actual Octagon-hater, or a satire of an Octagon hater?

  13. all of you who were in the eastwood building committe should all go to hell ,you all just looked out for your selfs. you all got l.a.p.

  14. Eastwood residents are a joke. They're the reason the island is a wasteland. Thank god for Southtown and Octagon. Otherwise it would be one giant projects island.

  15. Well, well, well: Let's all put our cards on the table, shall we? The current Eastwood Bldg Cttee (9 members) does consist mostly of LAP tenants, although at least 4 members, 3 elderly & 1 disabled, must be in Sec 8. The remaining 5 Cttee members are in LAP, so yes, the majority of members are in the LAP program, but only by a slim majority. We need more involvement in the Cttee by Sec. 8 Eastwood tenants. We welcome their participation at our meetings and in advance of meetings, we try to distribute/post meeting notices throughout the complex. Tenants can help organize the bldg by becoming Floor Captains, or they can join a subcommittee, or even initiate projects/write letters to elected officials/gov agencies etc on their own. The Cttee welcomes any tenant involvement which can further the interests of all Eastwood tenants. We have a wonderful building, as run-down as it is, it is bold & rocklike, and a great example of progressive architecture, unlike the ticky-tacky bland "vanilla" boxes that were built at Octagon & Southtown.

    In Eastwood, the Sec. 8 tenants are 75-80%, LAP pgm about 130, the rest market rate. We need Sec. 8 residents at our meetings, esp with submetering looming on the horizon. We are trying to delay the onset of submetering and we may need to raise money to pay for legal expenses. Please come to our meetings, which are held on the 2nd Wed of the month, usually in the 12th Fl community rm @ 546.

    My friend, with the economic disaster, the proud and (formerly) rich are being threshed like the empty materialistic nonentities they of course are. The banks are all bankrupt,the US gov is now definitively in debt up to its eyeballs, the list of financial calamities goes on & on... The residents of Southtown & Octagon who thought they had it made? Oops... NYC in a time of high unemployment means social unraveling, which means all sorts of problems which haven't even started yet in earnest, unfortunately. We'll see how many affluent Octagon & Southtown residents actually stay for the upcoming downturn...

    My friend: The million-dollar condo owners of Southtown? Their apts aren't worth a dime now! My friend, fear not: These Southtown condo owners are as puffballs... they blew in on trust fund interest but because of the economic implosion, their money is all gone and soon they will be selling/walking away from their apts & departing as well!

    Economic reality will force the Octagon & Southtown developers, Related & Becker, to finally open the doors of their grandiose "palaces" to the very poor people of NYC they once refused to rent or sell to, as there soon will be very, very few rich people coming to NYC, under the new economic circumstances.

    Unless, that is, the developers go bankrupt first, which might lead to a State takeover of Octagon/Southtown; at that point, it'll be anyone's guess if these bldgs really become "projects"... perhaps placed into Mitchell-Lama..

  16. you do not understand i am not talking about the eastwood building committe of todat.. i am talking about the eastwood building who pres. was ron vass. who made the deal when eastwood was being sold .see he got avery very very good deal for the people in lap because he and everyone else on the committe was getting into the lap program. the people who got sec.8 . got a very very very bad deal .and i am not talking about my 80 year old mother who gets sec.8 i am talking about the people who work and have kids .living at home . we are the ones who got a bad deal i want my money back . the committe did nothing for me and people like me . they all can go to hell.

  17. True - with kids who are working & living at home Sec 8 tenants do have a tough time. Bring your concerns to the tenant cttee meetings -- especially to let those that negotiated the Agreement know how Sec 8 played out for this group of tenants. I understand what you are saying; you have a legitimate complaint and the question is: Can it be addressed in a class-action lawsuit vs the landlord. That is, the Agreement as it pertained to Sec 8 tenants was unfair and did not in fact protect the original moderate-income tenants with kids who may be working and living at home who were placed into Sec 8. Therefore the Agreement should be amended to protect this group of tenants, which was the underlying point of the Agreement -- that all the original tenants be protected - either in Sec 8 or LAP. Without this protection RIOC would not have let Belson get the lease i.e. privatise, or so RIOC said.

  18. i am so happy i have a person who agrees with me thank you . now how do i go about doing something about this.

  19. A very good question. You can start by bringing up the problem at the Church meeting tomorrow.

    Also, please feel free to print out, copy, and otherwise distribute the following press release re our sub-metering problem:

    Roosevelt Island Risks Depopulation and Collapse of Multi-Ethnic Mixed-Income Community if Hundreds of Mostly African-American Residents are Driven out of Roosevelt Landings/Eastwood Apartments due to Extraordinary Price-gouging on Sub-metered Electrical Charges by Landlord

    ### For Immediate Release ### For Immediate Release ### For Immediate Release ###

    New York City, February 6, 2009 – In the mid-1970s at a time of severe economic and social distress in the City of New York, Roosevelt Island was developed by the State of New York to provide affordable housing for all New Yorkers regardless of income level, class, race, color or creed. To further this goal, the site of Roosevelt Landings, an apartment complex previously known as Eastwood, was set aside to provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. A developer named Jerome Belson then constructed Eastwood Apartments for 1,000 low- and moderate-income families. These residents found a haven at Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings, as the complex was open to all and was operated fairly under the supervision of the Mitchell-Lama Federal guidelines. Eastwood Apartments represented hope to the hundreds of mostly African-American residents who at last had found a just landlord, in many instances after having escaped predatory housing situations.
    The above was the case until the building owner in 2005 exited the Mitchell-Lama program, at which time he was entitled to begin renting any vacant apartment on a market-rate basis. The building however, was still bound by the original ground lease issued by the State of New York to continue to provide affordable housing for the tenants in residence at the time of the 2005 exit. This provision of the ground lease transfer prohibited the landlord from abruptly increasing the rents for the existing or original tenants and thereby forcing hundreds of tenants into eviction, or homelessness, or back into the substandard housing from which they had originally escaped.
    This provision of guaranteeing affordability and protection for the 1,000 mostly African-American moderate-income families who were in residence at the time of exit from Mitchell-Lama, was the condition for the transfer of the ground lease from the State of New York to the owner in 2005. The transfer of the ground lease then enabled the owner to do many things such as secure financing; eventually, the owner, Mr. Belson, sold the building at a handsome profit. Afterwards the building was sold again, or flipped, to the latest building owner, a New Jersey-based corporation called Urban American-Putnam Holdings Co. (UA-PHC). UA-PHC is controlled by a family of New Jersey developers called the Eisenbergs. The Eisenberg family devised the corporate name “Urban American” to camouflage their intent and their actions throughout their real estate holdings, which is, to price their accommodations at such an extraordinarily high price as to render them unaffordable to most African-Americans, or so-called “urban” Americans. Thus, although the corporate name Urban American sounds “urban” the reality is Urban American-PHC, that is, the Eisenberg family, buys, with the backing of investors such as Putnam Holdings and hedge funds, “urban” properties such as Eastwood Apartments and turns them, by means of the imposition of extraordinarily high rents applied to vacant apartments, into properties mostly if not exclusively inhabited by Caucasian-Americans, or as the real-estate industry prefers to say, “upscale”. It has been documented that this type of gradual “ethnic cleansing” is occurring at other properties of UA-PHC throughout New York and New Jersey. In the case of Eastwood Apartments on Roosevelt Island, in New York, UA-PHC has implemented a program which will result in the eviction of hundreds of African-American families all at once. The program, which the Eisenberg family has disguised as the implementation of electrical sub-metering, is unlawful, as well as de facto discrimination, as the affordability of the apartments of these hundreds of African-Americans is protected by the provision of the building’s ground lease which guarantees affordability to continue for these families, no matter which owner or corporation holds the ground lease. Will America allow the Eisenbergs and their backers from Wall Street investment banks, to unlawfully turn hundreds of mostly African-American families out onto the streets, victims of the unlawful violation of the building ground lease?
    The Eisenbergs evidently think there is a lot to a name, as it was the Eisenberg family who, in 2008, decided to change the building name from Eastwood Apartments to “Roosevelt Landings”. By so doing, the Eisenbergs signal a break with the past, and the law. It is New York State law as embodied in the General Development Plan of Roosevelt Island which mandates that Roosevelt Island be founded as and continue to remain a multi-ethnic mixed-income community and it is a condition of the transfer of the ground lease of Roosevelt Landings or Eastwood Apartments that the apartments of the existing, or original tenants continue to be affordable. The Eisenbergs have violated the General Development Plan as most if not all of the post-exit, market-rate apartments have been rented to individuals of Caucasian descent and they are about to also violate the ground lease provision by unlawfully evicting the hundreds of African-American families who are protected by the ground lease provision.
    Let us remember that Roosevelt Island was developed in the aftermath of more than a decade of social unrest in the United States. Those years saw the realization of voting rights, equal-opportunity protection in housing and employment, and general enfranchisement following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Roosevelt Island was built to afford equal housing opportunity and represented the hope of a united, integrated community, a defiant answer to the severely polarized and unfair social, racial, and economic conditions which had led to violence and the shedding of blood in the streets in New York City and many other communities throughout the United States. Roosevelt Island, by its ongoing peaceful existence declared: Yes, it is possible for various ethnicities and communities to peacefully live side-by-side, even in the middle of one of the most polarized cities in the United States; and yes, we do get along very well.
    The building name change thus advertises UA-PHC’s rejection of New York State law, the building’s ground lease provision, and the hundreds of African-American residents who have been residing in the building since the time it was known as Eastwood Apartments, in favor of the new, “upscale” mostly Caucasian Roosevelt Landings residents. If anything, this new name crystallizes the profit-driven but illegal aim of the Eisenbergs to reverse decades of social progress by renting the market-rate apartments at such an expensive price they re-instituting de-facto racial discrimination, and by so doing, reject and isolate the hundreds of African-American families (the original residents) an action which, under the Federal equal opportunity housing laws, is of course, illegal.
    To return to the story of Eastwood Apartments, however: The Eastwood Apartments (or Roosevelt Landings) ground lease rule regarding the continuation of affordability remains in effect (and enforceable by law) no matter who the building owner happens to be so that even though the ground lease was in the hands of UA-PHC by 2007, this corporation could not derive additional profits from the building by raising all rents at once to market level. UA was anxious to do so because UA had bought the building at a grossly inflated price, the prior owner (Aaron Schron, the owner of, among other properties, the Empire State Building, who had bought & once again sold Eastwood via Mr. Schron’s Cammeby’s International LLC company) having exploited the run-up in property prices at the height of the real-estate bubble in New York City to realize an even greater profit than the original owner Mr. Belson; in fact, Mr. Schron bought and sold a building housing hundreds of moderate-income African American families for a record-breaking price for residential real estate in New York City. Facing an immense monthly payment on a record-breaking mortgage note, UA-PHC, the new (and current) owner, had to find a way to either unlawfully evict the hundreds of African-American families from their newly-acquired property, or find some other unlawful way to de-facto raise the rents to unaffordable prices which would yield the same result and thus clear the building for the new “upscale” Roosevelt Landings tenants, the only tenants who could afford the extraordinarily high market-scale rents for vacant apartments by the new owners .
    UA-PHC has now found a way to turn out onto the streets hundreds of African-Americans families: By implementing, in their characteristically deceptive and unlawful way, a little-known State Law calling for electrical sub-metering to be put in place in all multi-family dwellings in New York. This law, which represented an effort to control energy usage, UA-PHC has now twisted to its ends, and made itself the “retailer “of electricity, as well as of housing, by likewise selling electricity at a grossly inflated price to its tenants at a price-gouging rate that is a quadrupling of the wholesale price UA-PHC pays Con Edison for electricity vs. the “retail” price it then sells the same electricity to its tenants and also declaring that the resulting unlawfully inflated electrical bills are the same as rent, thereby finding a way to render the housing of the hundreds of mostly African-American families, the original families, unaffordable, which will lead to the dream of the Eisenbergs, the forced and as we have seen unlawful departure of the African-Americans even though they are still protected under the ground lease rule stipulating the ongoing affordability of their apartments, and the arrival (or shall we say, the Landings) of the new upscale residents, who, in a sad commentary on the current state of the economy, are usually students who, as the dwelling is a temporary residence for them, have no qualms about splitting an apartment up with room-mates even to the extent of constructing temporary walls, so that with several individuals sharing the extraordinarily high rent and starting in March 2009 the equally inflated price of electricity, they can actually afford one of the Eisenbergs’ apartments. The resulting apartment conditions can be crowded and unsafe. Because of the Eisenbergs, Eastwood Apartments will thus be transformed into a kind of boardinghouse populated by grim mostly Caucasian youths who know they are being taken advantage of, but because of the general lack of affordable housing in New York City, have decided to put up with substandard conditions in shared apartments for the time being. This group of tenants, which was the group the Eisenbergs hoped to attract (the Caucasians) even this group may not be able to put up with the latest effort of the Eisenbergs to increase their profits by going into the electrical retailing business by means of sub-metering. This group too has repeatedly indicated they will leave (or be evicted) if they are subject to unaffordable electrical utility bills due to the hyper-inflated price the Eisenberg family wishes to charge. In the end, the Eisenbergs may be left with no tenants, but only the reality of foreclosure once UA-PHC fails to make payments on their mortgage. This final destruction of Eastwood Apartments/Roosevelt Landings if the unlawfully inflated price of electricity under sub-metering is implemented is a certainty, and the default of UA-PHC will lead to the final downfall of the Eisenbergs in the real-estate business. Their departure from the real-estate industry will be cause for celebration by their price-gouged tenants from New York to New Jersey. Perhaps then the Eisenbergs can go into another retail business where, if they mark up the price of an item by 400%, at least a consumer has a choice to buy it or not Eastwood/Roosevelt Landings residents have no choice other than to be price-gouged on electricity by the Eisenbergs or be evicted or leave; their lives and futures have thus been hijacked by the law-breaking Eisenbergs.
    If this story sounds unbelievable in our current time of enfranchisement and progress, believe it, because it is true: Hundreds of mostly African-American families living in the exact center of New York City, a City known as the heart of liberalism and progressive social and political laws and policies, hundreds of African-American families are now at risk of being turned out into the streets because of the greed of the Eisenberg family of New Jersey, operating under the corporate name of UA-PHC. Can you do anything to raise the alarm so that the lives of hundreds of African-American men, women, and children are not shattered by the loss of their homes, or by having to hand over hundreds of dollars of unlawfully inflated electrical charges to the corporate hold-up men, the Eisenbergs?
    Yes, you can:
    1. Alert your pastor/minister, and ask that you be permitted to address your congregation regarding a glaring example of the possible re-institution of wholesale racial discrimination in New York City by means of the unlawful price-gouging of the price of electricity by a landlord, thereby leading to the departure of hundreds of African-American families and the arrival (or Landings) of (usually unrelated groups of) Caucasians.
    2. To prevent this tragedy and to forestall a precedent-setting mass eviction of African-American men, women, and children, each and every one of us must then get in touch with authorities such as elected officials especially local elected officials, as well as the District Attorney’s office and Federal anti-discrimination authorities, and organizations such as the NAACP and yes, the Southern Poverty Law Center, to alert them to a possible major violation of civil-rights law, insofar as hundreds of African-American families are at risk of homelessness if UA-PHC begins assessing, as it intends to, unlawfully inflated electrical bills in the hundreds of dollars, beginning March 1st, 2009, bills which will violate the provision of the continuation of affordable housing embodied in the building’s ground lease, and will result in the de-facto and of course unlawful removal of housing/accommodation in effect eviction of hundreds of African-Americans residents.
    3. Please re-distribute, re-fax, or re-transmit by email this information to the authorities and officials and to as many organizations as possible, church, press, internet, government, that you think can help or can at least alert the people of the United States to this emergency; they in turn can take up the effort to protect hundreds of mostly African-American men, women, and children from unlawful mass eviction.