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'Apple Store-Style' Glass Elevators Coming to Roosevelt Island Tram

By Shaye Weaver | April 20, 2016 3:01pm
 A rendering of the new waiting area outside the new elevators at the Roosevelt Island Tramway.
A rendering of the new waiting area outside the new elevators at the Roosevelt Island Tramway.
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GC Eng & Associates

ROOSEVELT ISLAND — New elevators inspired by the Fifth Avenue Apple store will be installed at Roosevelt Island's tramway next year.

The station currently only has one narrow elevator and a wheelchair lift that frequently break down and has caused trouble for those with mobility issues for years, according to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state agency that runs public services on the island.

Plans to update the elevator and wheelchair lift have been on the table before, but only now are they moving forward, according to Jim Bates, the president of the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association.

"We were a little disappointed because it was supposed to happen five years ago and didn’t happen," he said. "Hopefully it will happen now, and it once happens, I'm sure it will please everybody."

RIOC plans to install two new glass elevators that will be larger, more reliable and accessed easier by those who are in wheelchairs or electric scooters, according to a representative for GC Engineers & Associates, which has been hired to complete the project. 

The proposal was presented during Community Board 8's Roosevelt Island Committee meeting last week.

The new elevators, inspired by the translucent lifts at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, will be located 15 feet south of where the current one stands at the island's tramway station, giving people more room to maneuver with wheelchairs and motorized scooters, officials said.

The existing elevators will be removed with the opening of the new ones, which will be ADA compliant and require less maintenance. In the case of a power outage, a backup generator will kick in, allowing at least one of them to work, the GC Eng spokesman said.

The tram underwent a complete modernization in 2010 when all of its cables and cars were replaced. Some residents said there was talk of renovating the elevator at that time, but the project never materialized.

Bates, who drives an electric scooter, said it's been an issue getting on and off the tramway even since the modernization.

"On the upper level, where we get out of the elevator, there is very little room to back out because there's a railing there to prevent us from making a turn properly," Bates said. "What happens is that it really delays us ... we're not the only ones that use the elevator. The elevator closes prematurely because we're not all loaded in on time because the elevator is not ADA approved."

Whenever the elevator malfunctioned, which had occurred every other day or so before its piston was replaced at the beginning of this year, Bates' commute back home from Manhattan was increased by at least an hour, he said.

Because he can't take his big scooter on the subway, he catches a bus to Long Island City and then back to the Island over the Queensboro Bridge.

RIOC plans to send out a request for proposals next month. Construction is expected to start in October, last for about a year and be completed in the fall or winter of 2017. The current elevator is planned to remain in use until the new ones open, officials said.

The Roosevelt Islander blog first reported the plans on Tuesday.


Tram Elevator

Tram Elevator

Tram Elevator

Tram Elevator