The Franchises Subcommittee voted to approve a new franchise agreement for the Roosevelt Island Tram at the request of the Mayor’s Office. On January 5, 2017, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted 5-0 to approve a resolution granting a new franchise for the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. The tramway is an icon of New York City tourism and has been featured in several films such as Odyssey, the Ultimate Trip (1977), Nighthawks (1981) and Spider-Man (2002). The tram services the 14,000 residents on Roosevelt Island daily—approximately 2.5 million people ride the tram each year.
The Roosevelt Tramway was opened in May 1976, and for 13 years it was the only way on and off the island besides the bridge. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation was created in 1984 by the New York State Legislature as a public benefit corporation to maintain the aerial tramway. The original franchise agreement expired in 1995 and in the decades following, the City Council and the Corporation were unable to complete a successor franchise agreement due to disputes over advertising on the tram.
Since 1995 the Corporation has continued to operate and maintain the tram. The Corporation has also continued to pay the franchise fee of .5% of gross receipts which was agreed on by the City and the Corporation in 1990. In fiscal year 2015 that fee equaled $25,483.
In 2010, the Corporation and the State of New York invested $25 million in the refurbishment of the tramway. The tram was shut down for nine months during the upgrade which involved the replacement of all components except for three tower bases.
The new franchise agreement will allow the Corporation to place advertisements in the interior of the tramway stations and cars, but will not allow for advertisements on the exterior portions. The Corporation will be required to retain an independent licensed and qualified engineer for safety inspections. The Department of Transportation plans to receive regular reports on the maintenance and safety conditions of the tramway. The new franchise is set to last 25 years with an option to renew for an additional 25 years.
The resolution will be voted on by the Committee on Land Use at its next scheduled meeting on January 10, 2017.
CC: Hearing on Resolution 1349-2017 (Jan. 5, 2017).
By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).