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'Apple Store-style' Elevators at Roosevelt Island Tram Delayed: Officials

By Shaye Weaver | January 27, 2017 12:24pm | Updated on January 30, 2017 8:41am
 Once built, the new tram elevators on Roosevelt Island would be lit up at night, according to the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation.
Once built, the new tram elevators on Roosevelt Island would be lit up at night, according to the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation.
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GC Eng & Associates

ROOSEVELT ISLAND — Installation of two glass elevators inspired by the Fifth Avenue Apple store was supposed to begin at the Roosevelt Island tramway last fall, but officials are still searching for a contractor, they said.

The existing narrow elevator and wheelchair lift that frequently break down at the station are expected to be replaced by two new large glass elevators that will be installed 15 feet south of the current infrastructure.

Originally, the work was slated to begin in October 2016 and finish by fall or winter of this year, but the original request for proposals (RFP) seeking a contractor wasn't released until Sept. 30 and submissions were due by Oct. 21, the document shows.

Three contractors responded to the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation's RFP last year and only one of them followed the requirements, RIOC's president Susan Rosenthal said at the agency's Operations Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday.

That's why RIOC, the state agency that runs public services on the island, has "decided to throw out the bids and do the process again," she added.

"We worked hard at doing pre-solicitation marketing and got three bids," she said. "I don't understand why we haven't gotten more. I've been told [by contractors] that this is not a big enough job for the big guys and the big guys feel price-wise there are smaller guys that will bid less and they'll lose."

An RIOC spokeswoman would not say why the RFP was put out so close to the construction start time, or which companies had bid on the project, but Rosenthal said the agency would work to simplify the RFP and advertise it more aggressively this time around.

"We're also re-thinking about how to do the rating, and maybe the price is not as important as quality and experience," she said. "We may shift that around."

A new RFP will be released in the next few weeks, she added.

The Roosevelt Island tram got a complete upgrade 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.

Jeffrey Escobar, the chairman of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, said the delay will continue to affect the mobility of residents with disabilities, as well as those who use strollers.

"This project has been held up for some years now, and it is truly disheartening to hear, especially given how far along the design and engineering had come with the prior selected engineering firm," Escobar said.

"This means not only a further prolonging of reliable and usable elevators, but also
re-opening of the disagreement between local parks advocates and the advocates for Roosevelt Island residents who have been demanding completion of the Project for some years now."

The Roosevelt Islander blog first reported this on Wednesday.