David Stone
Rendering of a new Roosevelt Island Tram elevator expected next year, after many delays.
Rendering of a new Roosevelt Island Tram elevator expected next year, after many delays.
File photo provided by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp.

It started with a simple question from a concerned resident who relies on the Roosevelt Island Tram elevator but doesn't trust it, an uneasiness shared by many. She also noticed that no inspection certificate was posted. What's going on? we asked RIOC's new leader Shelton Haynes.

Since taking on vast new responsibilities as acting president/CEO after Susan Rosenthal was fired under foggy conditions, less than a month before, Haynes put in consistent twelve hour days, committed to fixing a broken agency.

Even so, late on Friday, he promised answers early the next week.

Then came heavy rains from Hurricane Fay and a shutdown of the elevator on Saturday.

"The Tram elevator on the Manhattan side is currently out of service due to water damage suffered during last week’s storms. Contractors have been on site working on the issue and anticipate repairs to be completed by the end of this week," public information officer Terrence McCauley wrote

"We hope to get the elevator back online as soon as possible."

The Tram elevator has often seemed to be clinging to the threads of mechanical life support in recent years as a variety of obstacles slowed construction of a replacement to a crawl. The burden for elderly, physically challenged and other passenger avoiding subways for various reasons increases.

"The new elevator project was delayed due to COVID-19 related shutdowns that affected the glass fabricator located in the United Kingdom, and is slated to be completed in Spring of 2021," director of programs & partnerships Erica Spencer-EL explained the most recent in a string of delays.


But the question of a missing inspection certificate remained. New York City requires an annual inspection by the Department of Buildings.

"The Tram elevator is exempt from NYC's requirement for DOB inspections Category-1 and Category 5 filing inspections, as this is considered a NYS lift," Spencer-EL answered.

"However," she added, "routine maintenance is scheduled monthly and includes inspections and validation of overall lift safety and operational performance. A log book is kept in the elevator mechanical room indicating that all line items have been checked routinely during monthly inspections."

A record posted inside the car is reassurance for passengers and required for elevators falling under DOB regulations, but that'll become less of a factor once the new elevator lifts off next year.