Yesterday, January 25th, 2023, East Side Access finally opened, and Roosevelt Island loses big. It loses with missed opportunities after enduring years of daily eyesores.
by David Stone
For a couple of years now, the occasional rumble of trains rolling through beneath the Roosevelt Island subway platform reached waiting riders. But now, as the sounds come on schedule, they’re a reminder of how political negligence failed the aboveground community.
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Roosevelt Island loses with every Long Island Railroad train passing below. It’s a story of unheard appeals and simple negligence by the New York State government.
How Roosevelt Island Loses
While the monstrously overpriced East Side access project – aimed at winning conservative Long Island voters – continued under construction, the primary gateway to Roosevelt Island presented visitors as well as residents with an uglier than ugly introduction.
The once benign airshaft for the tunnel under the East River became obscured with construction fencing and a striped concrete barrier. Inside lurked portable toilets, trash and scattered equipment. Plus a mysteriously secret mosaic meant to beautify what’s now become a new state parking lot.
But the esthetic insult is the least of it.
What Roosevelt Island loses most is access of any kind. Although the pandemic temporarily lessened demand, the persistent need for increased transit options went unaddressed while the simplest solution possible slipped by. For a decade.
That’s because the tunnel giving Roosevelt Islanders subway service has a twin underneath it. While Governors Cuomo and Hochul coughed up $12 billion to serve a handful of Long Islanders, just a few million more could have added a platform and access for a transit-deprived community.
What Was Needed
Platforms like those accommodating F Trains could be built. Then, add elevator, stairs and escalators, and you’re done. Of course, that’s neither simple nor easy, but what are the options?
Because the Tram, Ferry and Bus options are limited and often near capacity now, increased subway service was and is the only reasonable option. So, how do we get it?
At one RIOC board meeting, the discussion ambled into building surface access to the N and R tunnel that runs deep below Roosevelt Island. But aside from ridiculous costs and shutting down the tunnel during construction, that requires passengers going all the way down to Southpoint Park for access.
But that’s nuts when a simple solution idled on Main Street.
Political malpractice sunk the possibilities because no politician listened or, if they did, took action. New York’s governor runs both the MTA and RIOC but can’t get their heads together for OMNY on the Tram.
What chance did expanding subway access have?
Whatever chance once existed, it’s gone now because with East Side Access nearing full service, Roosevelt Island lost any chance for being part of it.