Saturday, November 1, 2014

Statement From Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) Candidate For Common Council President Jeff Escobar

 Image of RIRA President Jeff Escobar From CB 8 Speaks Video

Jeff Escobar is the current President of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA). On November 4, RIRA will be holding elections for its new Common Council building representatives, Vice President and President.

Mr. Escobar is running unopposed for RIRA President. Below is statement from Mr. Escobar in support of his candidacy for RIRA President.
Infighting. Internal politics. Organizational power struggles. These are not the foundations of what the Roosevelt Island Residents Association or its Common Council were founded on nor built upon. Unfortunately, as Vice-President, I was forced to ascend to the office of the President of the Common Council under such an atmosphere when the Common Council’s past president resigned earlier this year. Truly, what I had inherited was a dispirited and self-involved body that was representative of no one except itself, and who seemed to have lost both its way and its community goodwill.

When I undertook the office of President with only six or so months remaining of the past administration’s 24 month term, my goals were relatively simple: to bring stability to a house that had come unglued, to inject a sense of professionalism and community pride in those sitting members who chose to remain on the Common Council, to restore legitimacy back to the work of the Common Council, and to right the ship so that the new Common Council – the one that is being elected this year – would have a vehicle and foundation to be successful in its coming term. My thought was then, as it is now, that the only way that the Common Council can be focused on doing the work of the Island people is if it, itself, had rid itself of its inefficiencies, its internal politics and power struggles, and its focus on everything except the needs of the Island and its residents.

I will not say that complete success has been reached. We can and should always do better. What has been reached is a willingness and desire to get on with the work of the Island and to do what the Common Council was elected originally to do: to be the voice and advocate for the Island and to bind the ties that make us, Roosevelt Islanders, a community.

Community, Island Quality of Life, Families and Neighborhoods, Public Advocacy. That is what RIRA and its Common Council has always been and should always be about. To return to its core mission, RIRA and its Common Council needs a leader who can bridge the gaps and differences that divide our community; who has a strong sense of professionalism and community pride and understands that it is the greater good of Roosevelt Island that matters the most; a President who, above all, understands that debate and compromise – not victimization and constant threat – is how the work of the Island community can be accomplished.

For the last six years, I have been deeply involved with the Common Council, first as a building representative of the Octagon to the Common Council, then as its Vice-President in 2012 and now as its current President. During that time, I also represented the interests of Roosevelt Island in the City at large, appointed by the Manhattan Borough President for the last five years to Manhattan Community Board 8 and serving as chair of both its Roosevelt Island-Cornell Technion Task Force and the Roosevelt Island Committee. In my varying capacities and representation of the Island, I have watched as our Island, which was once considered a floating village of small town life in the big City, grapple with the challenges of being a symbol and example of growth and change within the City. As our population grows, as our socio-economic makeup changes, as the original Islanders age and both new and young legacies take root on the Island, our Island, our community, our Island way of life is facing insurmountable challenges that will change the identity of the Island forever. The question we must all ask this coming election is who do we want leading us into this age of change?

In various ways, I have answered that call. Working closely with the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition, and in my capacities on Manhattan Community Board 8, I have helped steer the Island through the ULURP process as it sought to secure concessions from the stakeholders of the Project which would ensure successful integration of the Cornell community into the Island while benefitting all who live, work and visit our home. During my short terms as RIRA President, I have tirelessly continued to advocate and support Island programs and initiatives which seek to bring a sense of community and neighborhood between all on the Island from its northern tip to its southern tip; just this past term I have been charged with – and if elected President will convene – a Town Hall meeting and conference of the Community and the stakeholders of the Hudson Related project as it comes to grip with the impacts the construction of the remaining towers will have on the Island. With RIOC, we have worked to ensure that our access to greenspaces and community resources and infrastructure remain intact while construction of the Cornell campus and the three remaining towers of Southtown are built. In such a short time as the organization’s President, we have come such a long way and done so much, but we can do better – we can do more.

With your vote and my election to the Presidency, I will seek and support initiatives which will ensure that not only that our Island way of life is preserved, but Island futures of our children, our grandchildren and all of those who come to the Island so that they, too, will enjoy the same idyllic way of life that we have had the privilege of enjoying. This will include calling on the Common Council to spearhead initiatives which will seek to open greater and expansive educational opportunities and support for both our private and public schools on the Island, from preschool to elementary to middle school upward; focus on greater and improved management of the Island’s infrastructure and transportation systems, including the accommodation of alternative means of Island transportation from the Red Bus to bikes; revitalize the preservation of greenspace on the Island while focusing on environmental concerns which affect both the Island and our neighboring communities, especially as the 92nd Street transfer station completes its refurbishment and the question of whether or not we will be seeing continuous refuse and garbage barges floating up past our Island on the East River remains; provide education to Island residents as the housing stock changes on the Island and the WIRE buildings begin their efforts to exit the Mitchell-Lama program; answer the question of why so many of us residents leave the Island and what it takes to ensure that those who are on the Island stay. To successfully spearhead such initiatives and ensure that successful results come to fruition, RIRA, the Common Council and Roosevelt Island needs a President as its leader who is cognizant of the need to work with, not against, RIOC, the City and the State in finding meaningful long lasting solutions, and who understands the benefits of building coalitions with all of the stakeholders on the Island.

When my wife and I moved to this little ship floating in the East River almost nine years ago to become one of the original residents of the Octagon, there was no Cornell campus, there was no FDR memorial, the original tram was in place, and the Octagon was barely built. Back then, when we told others we lived on Roosevelt Island, we were met with questions of where that was and why we moved there. Today, when we tell people where we live, we are met with comments of admiration for the Island, its beautiful setting and its community. I have always been proud to call myself a Roosevelt Islander, and I hope in this coming term to make you proud as well to call our little ship in the East River your home. Please vote for me as your next RIRA Common Council President.
Here's the list of RIRA Common Council Candidates

running in the November 4 election.