The Roosevelt Island Tram Is Not Safe. Everyone Knows It Except RIOC

The Roosevelt Island Tram Is Not Safe. Everyone Knows It Except RIOC

Just hours after we learned of the latest incident on the unsafe Tram, apparently in response to a New York Post article, RIOC President/CEO Shelton J. Haynes acknowledged “a few instances of Tram swaying over the past weeks” More misinformation followed.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

In posting their whitewash press release, covering up real instances of dangerous swinging out-of-control, RIOC and operator Leitner-POMA turned to Global News, not local resources. In short, their joint press release denies that “an unsafe situation has occurred” at any time.

That’s a lie. And no local media resources got the message apparently aimed at reassuring tourists to keep coming.

We will always prioritize rider safety and work to ensure every rider has a pleasant experience on our Tram.

Shelton J. Haynes, RIOC President/CEO

Note: Yes, of course, “RIOC PRESIDENT & CEO SHELTON J. HAYNES” appeared in the screaming headline.

Haynes referred to “these periodic interruptions” and promised that they’d be “solved in short order.”

After two months of frightening incidents, “short order” is no longer among the possibilities.

The press release was attributed to the invisible “Akeem Jamal, Assistant Vice President, Communications & Government Affairs Roosevelt.”

Jamal is not allowed to speak with local media and has not appeared outside Blackwell House since summer.

So, Here’s the Truth and Why the Tram is Unsafe

If the months-long series of swinging freely, stressing the cables supporting the Tram, isn’t proof enough, consider that it’s getting worse.

A couple of hours before RIOC posted its press release, The Daily got this email:

“I had a very frightening ride last night coming home on the tram,” a reader wrote.

“The car lost power /stopped on the descent to Roosevelt Island (the north car) and the car swung like an amusement park ride.

“People were very upset and even though I was sitting down, it brought on some of my vertigo. (I was fine after a few hours.) The woman sitting next to me was pregnant and we held on to each other.

“I have been on the Tram before when it stopped and swung but this was three times as bad. I am not exaggerating when I say it was like one of those amusement park rides.”

A Roosevelt Island Resident

Hey, Shelton! This is not a “periodic interruption.”

And the Post article quoted a Cornell Tech student:

“I [was] thinking, ‘okay, if this keeps swinging like this, I think we would hit [the tower]. At the last second, the tram got jerked back into place. A lot of people, probably like a third of the people in the car, fell over.”

Neither is this a “periodic interruption.” These, along with others already reported, were injury-causing accidents that neither RIOC, Public Safety nor Leitner-POMA reported.

That’s irresponsible, but is it even legal?

Pretending these things don’t happen on something like a daily basis. Will not fix anything.

Back in early October, this incident was not the first.

Flashback: The Way We Were, 2009, Before the POMA Tram

It’s a little muddy now, but I shot this video 14 years ago. It was the day after the Yankees last won the World Series and one of my final rides on the original Tram. You can hear neighbors chatting casually, and the cabin is not stuffed to the gills with tourists.

This was transportation we needed and appreciated.

October 10th, 2009.

The old timer had enough issues that an update was needed, not necessarily a complete rebuild.

Almost immediately after the current Tram went into operation, experienced Tram riders noticed that the new system was less smooth than the one it replaced, especially as it reached its high points atop the towers.

Regardless of claims by Leitner-POMA and RIOC, stability and, of course, safety continued deteriorating until today’s frightening operation. Cabins no longer glide easily into the stations but inch in as if braking is not reliable.

And there’s the swinging and swaying, the abrupt stop throwing passengers to the floor, and the operator’s hapless inability to correct the issues.

Cabin jamming and continuous, uninterrupted operations based on economic necessity appear to have trumped passenger safety.

The Reality of An Unsafe Tram

Although neither RIOC not Leitner-POMA will admit that these “frightening” incidents happen, the next in the pile of lawsuits will likely come from one or more people injured during a Tram ride.

In a world where responsibility mattered, contracts would be reviewed and irresponsible executives canned. The resources trusted as guardrails – FDNY, NYPD, DOT, elected officials – would run in and help the community.

But as reported yesterday, Governor Kathy Hochul, who ultimately runs RIOC and is responsible for the Tram and public safety, has other things on her mind. And none of the others ware willing to speak up or step in.

2 thoughts on “The Roosevelt Island Tram Is Not Safe. Everyone Knows It Except RIOC

  1. I was wondering if the riders who experienced this frightening experience, especially if anyone fell, could file a lawsuit against RIOC?

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