Thursday, October 10, 2013

Report From RIRA President Ellen Polivy - Roosevelt Island Life And Death, Passings Of Construction Adviser Adek Apfelbaum, Young Ben Imbrogno And Building Our Community

Adek Apfelbaum Testimony To 2/6/13 NYC Planning Commission on Cornell NYC Tech Project

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Ellen Polivy sends the following Report To The Community:
In this column I am focusing on the theme of building our community. I focus on two people recently departed who made a difference here and the wonderful fairs and performances and celebrations that bring our neighbors together. All these gatherings create an active engaged community.

In last month’s column I wrote that Roosevelt Islanders started hugging to celebrate the memory of the young island resident Ben Imbrogno who died at the way too young age of 21. At his memorial this past Saturday strikingly similar speeches were given by each person who remembered Ben. Each gave their version of how it felt to get a hug from him and to feel truly accepted for themselves. Ben gave love and elicited love from everyone he knew.

Image Of Ben Imbrogno

The apt quote on his memorial program was from Henry David Thoreau. “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.”

The mother of one of Ben’s friends remembered when her son met Ben. He was the new kid in school. Ben immediately embraced him in a big hug, a greeting and friendship. He knew every day would start with one of Ben’s hugs.

What stood out for me was that despite his struggles with learning difficulties in an achievement oriented world, Ben was able to focus on the gift that he did have which was his ability to be really present, to listen and to respond as a warm human being.

That gift came from a young man who was unable to achieve what most young people feel are the important things in life. Success in school. His lasting gift to all who knew him is that he changed the way they view what is important. Perhaps it was his struggles that gave him the precocious insight that school or financial success is not what matters. Perhaps it was the unconditional love of his parents that gave him the self esteem to keep putting himself out for people. Regardless of the reasons, the lesson he taught us is that how we treat each other is the key to success.

The number of hugs given in honor of Ben Imbrogno were 1,546. Keep it up! I would like to see the Ben hugs become the traditional count at each RIRA event. If you are willing to play along, I will be happy to report on the number of hugs that were given in the next two weeks and in any column thereafter where I get a cumulative count. We need to make our world a kinder and gentler place.

In memorium

The Roosevelt Island Community Coalition is saddened by the passing of Adek Apfelbaum, our construction advisor. He was a powerful help in dealing with Cornell and advising us on what we should be asking for. We will miss his kind and gentle manner and his steely will in fighting for the protection of his community. His son Randy, also a construction cost engineer, has generously offered to continue his father’s legacy of advice to the community.

We already miss Adek. We are deeply grateful to his son for continuing his work.

How wonderful it is to be on Roosevelt Island where people see the need, have the expertise, and step up. It is an even greater gift when their children see the need and continue that help.

Fall For Arts

The Fall for Arts festival, sponsored by RIOC, was a wonderful day in Southpoint Park. The activites were scattered around the lawn and the paths showing off the best parts of the park. I loved walking aroundwatching the children and parents participate in the many art activities.

The activities at the park were mostly geared to children but many could be enjoyed by all. Tables were set up by local community groups and artists to allow participants to experience different art forms. I stood on line at the candy sculpture and watched two artists create the Chinese art form making crispy delicate delicious dragons on a stick out of dripped molton sugar. It was both beautiful and fascinating watching an artist create whimsical characters out of such a simple substance. RIVAA gave a pastel class in their gallery and other artists created the large murals that we will see beautifying the lawn on the south side of Rivercross and perhaps eventually being moved to Motorgate for a permanent display.

Creating a sense of community

What makes our community so full of life? It is the participation of the residents in the multitude of activities that exist here.

RIOC, to its credit brings the community together in the many annual fairs and programs it sponsors. We have movies in the park summer, Fall for arts in Autumn, It joins Urban America in sponsoring Roosevelt Island Day and the Halloween parade and festival, The Christmas tree lighting festival happens when the snow might be falling. Other groups jump in and sponsor other annual events that draw crowds. The Menorah Lighting event is sponsored by Roosevelt Island Chabad with jelly donuts and cider for all. RIRA has begun sponsoring an annual Easter Egg Hunt and Cherry Blossom Festival.

Moving on to the regularly scheduled events that are open to all. RIRA has a monthly meeting on the first Wednesday of each month at 8pm at the Good Shepherd Community Center. The first Sunday of each month is a fabulous jazz ensemble at the Gallery RIVAA with dancing and food. RIOC has a monthly meeting and monthly committee meetings. Toastmasters meets twice a month.

For women only, there is a monthly womens movie group. Women watch a film that focuses on theme about a women’s issue. Afterwards is a discussion ably facilitated by a psychotherapist. The Roosevelt Island women’s health organization has monthly meetings that bring women together to discuss how to improve their physical well being. Healthy food is served at both these events. These two groups give women a chance to interact and get to know one another.

Sponsored by RIRA, the cherry blossom festival and the Easter Egg Hunt and the RIRA showcases which emphasize the talents of our residents.

The Main Street Theater and Dance Alliance provides quality entertainment.

The R &R concert series brings us quality music in memory of Rosemarie and Robin Russell who used to run the music school and bring musicians to Roosevelt Island to entertain.

Last but not least, the WIRE and this blog and the kiosks are the three important communications outlets on the Island. Without each of them the ability to reach out to the community would be severely limited. is becoming a tool as well with our RIRA committee meetings and events being posted.

The biggest way to feel a sense of community it to get involved and volunteer to help create any of these wonderful events. Many people are needed to produce every activity. One of them could be you. Please choose something and get involved. The activities are listed in the WIRE under coming events or you can email me or contact us at our website and ask how to get involved in a particular organization. We will put you in touch with the right person.

The Korean Association offers the gift of a Pavillion

Southpoint park has lots of lovely nooks and crannies and is a fun place to amble. It is lacking several things. One is running water and real bathrooms. The other is a covered structure. The Korean Association has generously offered to gift the park a beautiful pavilion in the shape of pavilions in use all over Korea. Such traditional structures have been shown to be sturdy and maintenance free structures that withstand the elements. They provide covered seating areas and open space for relaxing and socializing. At our last RIRA meeting the Common Council agreed to support the concept of a Pavillion in Southpoint park. It is now up to RIOC real estate committee and the engineers to evaluate the form and structure of the Korean design and determine whether it is a structure that could be placed somewhere in the park. They will also determine whether and where there is a place for it in the park.


D. Evans said...

Thanks for this report Rick. I am saddened to learn of the passing of Adek. He really enlightened so many of us on the Island and his efforts in the RICC were superb: Dave Evans