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Roosevelt Island Queensboro Bridge Access?

Roosevelt Island’s Old Connection to the Queensboro Bridge (Elevator Building 1916)

Last night, representatives from the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA)and the Roosevelt Island Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) made a presentation to Community Board 8 to physically connect Roosevelt Island to the Queensboro Bridge pedestrian and bike path. This is not a new concept. There used to be electric trolleys going over the Queensboro bridge and there was a stop at Roosevelt Island halfway across the bridge. People would then walk across to a building that had a number of elevators. These elevators were so big that they could fit trucks and automobiles that supplied the island.

The Transportation Committee unanimously approved the recommendation of the RIRA to recommend that the city conduct a feasibility study of pedestrian access to the Queensboro bridge and determine how evacuation of the island could be enhanced by this.

Below is the speech that was given by Ellen Polivy, President of the RIRA and a new member of Community Board 8.

Request for Direct access to the Queensboro bridge
I am Ellen Polivy. I am thrilled to say that I am a new member of CB8. I live on RI. I am a member of RIRA common council and a member of the Roosevelt Island CERT team. I am the only speaker and I will be brief. Joining me are Nurit Marcus and Neil Weissman, both of whom have been vocal enthusiast of the following proposal. In the audience is Howard Polivy, CERT team Chief and members of the RI CERT team and Matthew Katz, President of RIRA and other RIRA common council members.
As most of you know, The Roosevelt Island Residents Association is the only elected body on Roosevelt Island. At our February meeting, we passed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the feasibility of direct access to the Queensboro Bridge. We are asking that CB8 join us to ask DOT and any other relevant agency to do a feasibility study, and if possible help us try to ake it happen.
If you drop a plumb line from the center of the Queensboro bridge you would hit Roose-velt Island. We are asking for access to the existing Queensboro bridge walkway, either by steps, a ramp accessible to an electric scooter, or steps in combination with an ele-vator. A Queensboro bridge walkway already exists. It travels over Roosevelt Island and exits in Queens a mile and a half from our little Roosevelt Island Bridge. To walk or bike to Manhattan means first going three miles out of our way through a deserted in-dustrial neighborhood of Queens and doubling back over the Queensboro Bridge that goes over our island. All this for a three block trip! One possibility, a direct access spi-ral ramp would give walkers, bikers and scooters on both side of the river a way to travel back and forth independently. As example, Margaret Island in Budapest is the recrea-tional center of the city accessed by a ramped walkway over the Danube River.
We have two compelling reasons for our request:
One, Roosevelt Islanders need a fire escape. In an era of predicted natural disasters and national security disasters, we need another escape route off our island.
Second, Roosevelt Islanders need independent access to Manhattan. Our transporta-tion infrastructure is overloaded and we need a reliable way to get on and off the Island. The walkway would provide an additional benefit of giving Manhattan’s East Side resi-dents a new destination park in easy walking distance. If only there was a bridge.
For Roosevelt Islanders, a walkway is essential. It would make for an easier and cheaper commute for many people who would find it better and healthier to just walk to Manhattan rather than brave our crowded train. Our F train station is the last stop on the Queens side of the river. During rush hour, it is always packed and our residents often have to let two or three trains go by. Often on weekends the train does not stop on the Island in one direction or another. When our tram was out of service for months, Jes-sica Lappin requested that the DOT hold their repairs until after the Tram was fixed. She was told that this would be impossible due to the “discussion-stopper” excuse of “Heightened security measures”. On those weekends when the subway was diverted, a trip could take an hour and a half while we could have walked the three block distance in 10 to 15 minutes. We sometimes chose to stay home rather than take the long detour on the train. Everywhere else in Manhattan if the train is not running, people can take the bus, walk, ride a bike or hail a taxi. Not here.
Our disabled wheelchair and scooter residents complain that they cannot use the sub-way and tram because of elevator problems. It might be working one way, but broken at the other end. One disabled resident reported having to ride his scooter home over the bridge as he had no public transportation accessible to him.
After each of the disasters that we have had, blackouts,Sept 11, the subway didn’t run, the tram didn’t run. At times of high security boats get diverted to the East Channel and our lift bridge has to rise up to allow boats to pass and thus it is not available to the is-landers to get on and off the island.
Ironically ,our bridge, our only emergency exit, is sandwiched between two power plants. Diverting boats to the East Channel between the power plants and Roosevelt Island makes the power plants a more vulnerable target. When any emergency occurs in either of those locations our bridge closes. We get disconnected, captive. The fire department has to come by subway. But what if the subway is not running and if the tram is out as well?
Since our only escape route is also the route most vulnerable in an emergency, it is the escape equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse. We may well be losing our only exit off the island, precisely when we need it. The Queensboro Bridge connection, if not a perfect solution, gives us both queens and Manhattan access without dependence on subway, tram or the lift bridge.
There’s a lot ironic about Roosevelt Island. Again asking on our behalf, Jessica Lappin sent another request to the DOT for us. This time for Queensboro bridge access. Again they politely dismissed our request invoking the “heightened security measures”. It ap-pears that it is not us that they are securing Please tell us how a ramp or stairs up to an already existing walkway would cause any security problems for the DOT. We now have 12,000 residents with the projected growth to 20,000 residents. Imagine, 20,000 people and cars trying to escape over one very narrow bridge even if we didn’t have to wait for it to lift. And this at the same time that the subway and tram may be stopped. We need another escape route. What we do have is a garage with cars that will be go-ing nowhere if they cannot get off the island. So instead we have thousands of tires. Perhaps we can make little boats and float off the island. But that would cause a crisis for the Coast Guard as they try to rescue thousands of people floating down the East River in tires when alas, they might have been walking over the Queensboro bridge.
We have been told that there is an emergency evacuation plan but that we can’t be told what it is because it is secret. We can only guess that the reason for such secrecy is again “Post September 11, heightened security measures”. We were told to form a CERT Team. We did that. Our CERT trainers told us to have an emergency plan in place. Events in New Orleans showed us that we have to plan and we have to be able to help ourselves. We need alternative escape routes that are self propelled and not dependent on anything mechanical that could break down at the very time we need it. . . not dependent on anyone or anything other than ourselves.
Besides the needs of our population the walkway would bring many quality of life bene-fits for all New Yorkers, but especially for the upper east side residents and for Roose-velt Islanders.
It’s a lovely walk on a beautiful day. Just a short three block stretch across half of the East River is beautiful three mile river walk with breathtaking views of Manhattan and Queens and the site of the proposed 17 acre Southpoint park. The addition of a walk-way would give the the far east side of Manhattan the extension of extra outdoor space, extra amenities and an easy way to walk to COSTCO.)
Jessica Lappin has said that the Southpoint park will be the crown jewel of the Upper East side. This walkway will give Upper East Side residents direct and uncomplicated access to it.
In this era of obesity and epidemic levels of diabetes, a walkway allows another recrea-tonal opportunity for people to choose healthy habits. It is also better for world health by lowering auto emissions . When people choose to ride a bike or walk rather take the car, everyone benefits.
There is precedent for direct bridge access. See the photo on the handout. We used to have 3 elevators that carried people, cars and supplies. They stopped taking cars when the bridge to Queens opened in 1957. They stopped taking people and supplies when the tram opened. Then they were finally dismantled. Elevators could work for us again if they had their own backup generators, were kept in good repair and were regularly lev-eled to accomodate wheelchairs and scooters. An elevator could have a coexisting staircase, like in any of the high rise building that tower over the bridge on the Manhat-tan side.
Reports came out this week about global warming. this year will have a very active hur-ricane season. Future years will not be any better. Every prudent precaution should be taken to allow for evacuation.
In summary, it would be good for the entire CB8 community to have this walking alterna-tive to get back and forth to Roosevelt Island, and it is of critical and urgent importance for the residents of Roosevelt Island. It sure beats floating on tires.

Roosevelt Island Needs Direct Access to the Queensboro Bridge

Our transportation system infrastructure cannot handle the load anymore.

In an era of predicted natural disasters and national security disasters we need another escape route.

It is better for our health.

It is better for the world’s health if we make less car trips and cut on global warming.

There is already a fully used walkway on the bridge. All we want is to be con-nected.

We are reclaiming an access that was.

We simply would like to walk it.

We would like you to visit us without the operation and the cost of transportation


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