Monday, March 25, 2013

Report From RIRA President Ellen Polivy - Roosevelt Island Easter Egg Hunt, Defends Free Speech From Public Safety Department Director's Intimidation And Island Of Art

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Ellen Polivy sends the following Report To The Community:
RIRA President’s Column

In this column I am going to talk first about next weekend’s Easter Egg Hunt, then about Public safety and free speech and finally about the Island of Art campaign. This is a cross section of some of our current situations and it may feel strange in their juxtaposition. Some youths and their parents feel unfairly treated by public safety. Their ongoing experiences with officers darken their daily lives and affect their future job prospects. For them our community is not such a good launching pad. It may seem to some glaringly grotesque to talk about the Easter Bunny when anger and hurt abound. But we still need to nurture our children while we fight to protect them. I personally think it is important to celebrate the happy occasions whenever we can. It helps us ride out the unfortunate patches and gives us renewed energy to fight.

Easter Egg Hunt

The RIRA sponsored Easter Egg Hunt is Next Saturday March 30. It will be a grand time for everyone including parents and volunteers. Parents should preregister their children online at

We need plenty of volunteers. Opportunities to volunteer are available the week before the event and on the day of the event. On Saturday March 23 from 9am to 3pm we will be organizing the eggs and supplies at 2-4 River Road Community Room. On Saturday March 30 volunteers will gather at 9 am and then again at 12 noon at 2-4 River Road for our instructions.

Volunteers, please bring a shopping cart or wagon if you have one and dress warm. If the weather is bad we will move the entire event into the school. You can volunteer for the whole day or part of the day. Please RSVP to Lynne at

You can get your raffle tickets at the farmers market on Saturday.

Thanks to our generous sponsors

We are really pleased that we had such a great outpouring of support from our corporate sponsors. Kudos go to the following vendors for their donations and help:
  • Manhattan Park,
  • Roosevelt Island Youth Program, Inc.
  • Coach Scot’s Main Street Sweets,
  • Suzy Perea of,
  • Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation,
  • Roosevelt Landings,
  • RY Management,
  • Riverwalk Bar and Grill,
  • Trellis,
  • Starbucks,
  • Island Kids,
  • Fuji East,
  • Costco,
  • Rachel Marks Photographer,
  • Eiji’s Salon ,
  • PTA PSIS 217 ,
  • Gristedes,
  • Nonno's Focacceria & Pizzeria,
  • Riverwalk Crossing
RIRA greatly appreciates the generosity of all these organizations.

RIRA also wants to thank Gristedes for its generous grand opening celebration dinner at our last Common Council meeting. Our hungry Council members and visitors enjoyed the wonderful food and drink.

Free speech

I don’t always agree with what people say or how they say it. Some people can be downright vicious , hurtful and bullying in their communications. Much as I wish I could stop them, I cannot. Their speech is protected by the first amendment.

We are fortunate that we live in a country where people don’t get arrested for having opinions and speaking their mind. At least that’s the way it is elsewhere in the country.

On Roosevelt Island we can get arrested for getting verbally upset with a Public Safety Officer, or trying to negotiate a little more time while double-parked or leaving a field, or innocently taking photographs, or speaking up when you see an arrest being made. When Public Safety is involved, it seems speech is called “obstructing government administration” and can leave you psychologically and physically battered.

RIRA’s Careful approach to speech

The RIRA Public Safety Committee (PSC) carefully considers all of its communications and statements to ensure that all official statements are responsible. Official PSC statements have been based on the experiences of committee members and of the survivors of Public Safety abuse. When the committee puts out an official statement, whether in a letter to RIOC, a poster, or a public comment, it has been discussed, composed and voted on by the committee. The Public Safety Committee is a subset of the entire Roosevelt Island Resident’s Association which is made up of representatives of each building.

The Common Council puts out official statements after they have been carefully considered by the larger group of representatives , many of whom are not on the PSC committee. RIRA procedures are put in place to ensure that each decision has careful consideration.

In February, the Common Council voted unanimously to remove the leadership of the Public Safety Department after hearing some very wrenching testimony from the survivors of Public Safety's heavy handed management of situations and bad decisions. We heard situations in which simple traffic stops escalated into arrests and injury. We are in no way saying that all of Public Safety is bad. There are many officers that should be commended, who perform admirably every day providing many services to the community. Nevertheless, we are seriously disturbed by certain patterns of abusive behavior that must stop. And we believe that the condoning of such behavior comes from the top.

The Public Safety Committee statement on Free Speech

The PSC has issued a statement related to the cease and desist letters Public Safety Director Keith Guerra’s attorney sent to the WIRE, the Roosevelt Islander and to one individual who has been speaking out on his own.

The Public Safety Committee of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association resolutely defends our community media, The Main Street WIRE and the Roosevelt Islander Blog, as well as individual Island residents, against frivolous, fraudulent and foolish attempts at "legal" intimidation by the firm of Maloney Law Group, PLLC, at the behest of their client Public Safety Department Chief Keith Guerra.

Mr. Andrew Maloney and Mr. Guerra show as much regard for constitutionally protected press freedom as his department does for the constitutionally protected rights of Island Residents and youth who are harassed or detained and subject to abuse. Guerra's transparent and desperate attempt to suppress open discussion and debate is understandable. Because it is precisely Free Speech, translated into action, that has him and his top leadership isolated amidst rising public opposition.

We vigorously defend the right of all media and individual residents to report in print (on paper and in cyberspace), as well as verbally, the news and facts as they gather them. This type of intimidation will fail to silence us. Free Speech is our constitutional right and the best disinfectant.

Public Safety is Collecting Stories

The PSC needs everyone with stories to speak out now. Email your experiences with Public Safety to

Island of Arts

Jim Luce of the successful Orphans International would like to turn Roosevelt Island into the Island of art. Jim explained to me the concept: his team, which includes many Island volunteers, is working closely with Gallery RIVAA to promote via social media all of the Island’s cultural activities to strengthen our island's visibility and beauty.  He hopes to attract visitors to enjoy the arts and possibly make purchases.

We hope to hear more from Jim now that he is again locating on Roosevelt Island. Welcome back Jim. I hope that your team’s social media publicity efforts raise all our boats.


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