Sunday, September 29, 2013

Report From RIRA President Ellen Polivy - Roosevelt Island Hugs For Ben, Good Bye To Former CFO Steve Chironis, Ferry Service, Public Advocate Runoff Questions, Land Use Deliberations & More

East River Ferry Trip From Long Island City To Greenpoint

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Ellen Polivy sends the following Report To The Community:
Roosevelt Islanders are hugging

Something wonderful is happening on our island. A hugging project has been started by friends of Benjamin Imbrogno who passed away this summer. He was only 21. Lynne Shinozaki writes “In memory of Ben we are collecting BEN-HUGS. Ben was a young man who was always generous with his hugs, something we all loved about him.” For his memorial on Saturday October 5, we are asking everyone to honor this young man whose life ended too soon. Please start HUGGING. Count the hugs and let Lynne know the number by October 4. You can contact her through the website. Click on the “RIRA” button and then click on “Council”. You will see the list of all council members. You can then send a note to Lynne with your hug count.

I wasn’t lucky enough to know Ben, but I wish I had. I was moved to ask people about him. Friends and family described him as a loving and generous young man who really cared about people. His happy greetings made friends and strangers feel important and acknowledged - a young man who made a difference to everyone around him.

So Roosevelt Islanders, start hugging today. We are hoping that hugging becomes a habit.

Another loss to the Island.

Steve Chironis, RIOC’s Chief Financial Officer resigned last month. His departure is a big loss to the residents. Steve helped us in so many ways. He went beyond his strict job description and became a part of the community helping with youth and sports and supporting RIRA functions. Since he was here six years, he had the institutional memory that none of the present leadership has, knows what was tried and what worked and what didn’t. He will be missed.

Your vote counts for the Public Advocate runoff

October 1 is the runoffs for Public Advocate between Letitia James and Daniel Squadron. The turnout is expected to be sparse. Each and every vote really counts! If you are a Democrat, do Roosevelt Island a favor and vote. Elected officials pay attention to the locations that get out the votes. The people who vote are considered the base and treated very respectfully.

RIRA’s government relations committee has tried unsuccessfully to get the two candidates to have a debate on Roosevelt Island. But apparently Roosevelt Island is considered small. Can you imagine that? We need to change that perception. We may be small, but we vote.

On August 27, RIRA held a candidates night in which we asked candidates a set of questions that were intended to help each candidate understand and consider answers to our unique challenges. I have sent both Letitia James and Daniel Squadron’s campaigns the questions and asked for a written response. I will post the responses on the website. So far, no responses.

Questions to candidates

Affordable Housing - The new Roosevelt Island residential developments are all luxury rentals or condos. Even the "affordable housing" component of these buildings are made up of apartments only for hospital personnel at Cornell Weill and Memorial Sloan Kettering and not available to the general public. Within a few years Roosevelt Island’s earliest buildings will all have left the Mitchell Lama program. What will the candidates do to preserve affordable housing on Roosevelt Island?

Roosevelt Island was designed to be wheelchair accessible. One formerly Mitchell-Lama building, Roosevelt Landings, has a floor of accessible apartments enabling quadriplegic residents to live in the community. Former Goldwater patients have lived in these apartments for years on portable respirators, hospital gurneys and electric wheelchairs. A community doctor and nurse visit them as needed. This concept became a national model for mainstreaming handicapped people back into the community. In this now privatized building, rents are in the process of increasing to market level when existing tenants leave. The result: new handicapped tenants will no longer be able to afford to live in that building, and will have fewer options for living in on Roosevelt Island. What can we do to bring in subsidies so that disabled people can continue to live in our community? Today, when the national focus is on community treatment of very handicapped people, it would be an embarrassment for Roosevelt Island, once a model for mainstreaming, to regress.

Cornell - The Cornell campus is going to have a significant impact on the island, both during construction and once classes begin. Here are some questions we need answered:

-How do you make sure that Cornell will act as a good neighbor, protecting the needs of existing island residents and giving back to the local community? One of the hot button issues for the RI community is barging construction materials. Will you make sure your staff is aware of this issue so you can work with our community.

-How will you help enforce the agreements that are in the lease Cornell NYC Tech has negotiated with New York City?

-Cornell will be using Roosevelt Island resources but has yet to agree to pay any money to help with their share of costs of running the Island. What ideas do you have for ensuring that either Cornell pays or New York City returns to the Island enough resources from the PILOTs of the collocated businesses to pay for their share of the maintenance?


Roosevelt Islanders want ferry service. We feel strongly that a stop on the East River Ferry will be good for our community and tourists – who are increasingly discovering the Tram – will love it. Will you support this needed service?

Ben Kallos meet and greet

Ben Kallos candidate for City Council for Jessica Lappin’s seat will be doing a meet-and-greet with donations optional on Tuesday October 15 from 7 to 9 at Riverwalk CafĂ©. Come meet him and tell him what is important to you. I am sending him the same set of questions and hope he will answer them in writing.

NEXT RIRA MEETING: Land use deliberations

At our September Common Council meeting we heard three presentations about use of land in the city and on the Island.

Island Shakespeare would like to renovate a pier to bring their creative theater productions to Roosevelt Island

The Korean Association presented a very compelling gazebo design for Southpoint Park with a view of the United Nations.

The United Nations Development Corporation made a presentation on a office building they would like to build next to the United Nations Secretariat building. It requires purchase of a section of a city park but, if deal is approved, will result in among other things, completion of a section of the Greenway along the East River.

To achieve major change in the city takes deals, major cooperation of lots of groups and the inconvenience of many individuals. Sometime in the near or distant future, we will have a Second Avenue Subway, a beautiful Greenway along the river, AND we will have a ferry stop on Roosevelt Island. All good things to look forward to!

Please join us on October 2.