Friday, February 3, 2023

You're Invited To Roosevelt Island RIVAA Gallery Essence Créations Exhibition Opening Reception Celebrating Black History Month Saturday February 4 - Watch Video And Learn How Black History Month Began, African American History In NYC And The 1619 Project

Roosevelt island's RIVAA Gallery (527 Main Street) is celebrating Black History Month with an exhibition titled "Essence Créations" from February 2 - February 26. You're invited to the exhibition's opening reception on Saturday, February 4 from 6 - 9 PM.

According to RIVAA Gallery:

Beginning February 2, 2023 RIVAA Gallery will present work by a diverse group of artists for Black History Month.

The exhibition “Essence Créations” focuses on positive and creative expression in the visual arts.

Curated by Lorraine Williams, the exhibition includes the Pax Rawanda Embroideries with Juliana Meehan, Andrew Nichols, Ida Owens, Albert Dépas, Mona Coichy Haigler, Aziza and others.

We look forward to welcoming you either to our opening reception on February 4, from 6-9 or anytime throughout the exhibition which remains open until February 27, 2023.

"Essence Creations" Thursday, February 2, 2023 - Sunday, February 26, 2023

Reception: Saturday, February 4, from 6-9 pm, 2023

Hours: Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am -5 pm Wednesday and Friday from 6-9 pm

CBS New York interviews Dr. Damion L. Thomas, curator of the Smithsonian National Museum Of African American History about Black History Month. According to Mr Thomas:

... Black History Month started as black history week. It was founded by Carter G Woodson in 1926. He chose a week in February because it also encapsulated the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass which were two days African Americans have been celebrating going back to the 19th century. So for 50 years it was a week long celebration. Then in 1976 as the nation was celebrating its 200th anniversary, people decided that this week long celebration should encompass the entire month of February....

... We can trace African American history in New York all the way back to the period of enslavement. Many people don’t realize that by 1700 New York had more enslaved people than any of the other colonies. Most of the enslaved in New York worked as domestics and maids and butlers. Some of them worked on the dock, unloading ships. New York abolished slavery in 1827, which was quite late for some of the northern states which had already taken that step including places like Massachusetts....

Here's more on African American history in New York City

 and an interesting interview about the 1619 Project with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

UPDATE 2/13 - Scenes from the RIVAA Gallery Black History Month Essence Créations exhibition opening reception.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Watch NBC New York Fascinating Video Report About Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Past And Future - Friends Of The Ruins Propose Memorial To Those Who Died From Covid 19 And Frontline Health Care Workers Fighting Viral And Infectious Disease

NBC New York reporter Ryan Baker recently visited the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Ruins. He reports on the fascinating history of the Smallpox Hospital and a possible future use of the site being proposed by Friends Of The Ruins as a Memorial to:

... those we lost to COVID-19 as well as scientific advances and the frontline workers fighting viral and infectious disease....

Learn more about the mysteries of the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital and Friends Of The Ruins proposed memorial from this prior post.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Update On Long Delayed $11 Million Roosevelt Island Sportspark Facility Renovation - RIOC Announces Appointment Of New Sportspark Management, But No Info On Opening, Programming, Scheduling Or Pricing Yet - Take A Sneak Peek At New Swimming Pool And Basketball Court

 Reported September 14 2022:

... The Roosevelt Island Sportspark Pool and Gym closed September 1, 2021 for an $11 million renovation currently being undertaken by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC)....

... RIOC originally projected the Sportspark renovations to be completed by the Spring of 2022 but that was pushed back to September and then the Fall of 2022....

Reported December 15, 2022:

... During the September 29,2022 RIOC Board Of Directors Meeting, RIOC President Shelton Haynes reported the Sportspark Facility substantially completed but target opening date delayed until late Fall/Winter. 

During the October 20, 2022 RIOC Board of Directors meeting, Mr Haynes said the Sportspark renovation is about 95% complete.  RIOC is waiting for punch lists work to be completed and Department of Buildings and FDNY inspections. Mr Haynes added that RIOC hopes to open in a couple of months, if not sooner...

... The facility’s grand opening is slated for Late-Winter 2023, equipped with a new aquatics and management teams;...

During the December 22, 2022 RIOC Board Meeting, RIOC General Counsel Gretchen Robinson reported:

... Sportspark, which I know everybody's excited about, is a project that we are sure the community will love. We have a new team in place and enhanced services. 

We're still working with New York City agencies to get inspections done which will be easier after the holiday season. 

We did send out a notification last week that in January we will provide a lot of pertinent information so after the holidays please check your advisories.... updates on permitting, pricing and other pertinent information will be provided at that time....

On December 29, I got a sneak peek at the renovated Sportspark swimming pool and basketball court from outside through the widows as well as the two new Pickleball courts and posted the video on Roosevelt Islander Instagram Page.

A few days later the Sportspark windows were completely covered up preventing anyone from looking inside.

The good news is that Sportspark may be opening sooner rather than much later. RIOC announced yesterday the appointment of new Sportspark management.

According to a RIOC Tweet today:

and press release yesterday:

Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) President & CEO Shelton J. Haynes today announced the appointment of Joseph Natale as Director of Sportspark and Philip Flynn as General Manager of Sportspark at Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

“Joseph and Philip both bring their unique experience to RIOC, having been rising stars in their respective roles in the private and public sector,” said RIOC President & CEO Shelton J. Haynes. “Joe’s wealth of experience at Equinox has already paid dividends as he shares his transformative ideas to bring Sportspark to industry standards. Phil too brings to RIOC over a decade’s worth of experience at premier not-for-profits – giving him a unique advantage in navigating state government coupled with his astute background in programming.

"First, I'd like to thank RIOC President & CEO Mr. Shelton J. Haynes for the opportunity to be a part of RIOC and join such a motivated team,” stated Joseph Natale. “What excites me the most about overseeing the new and improved Sportspark is the ability to offer our members best-in-class programming, a high level of member service standards, and new amenities never seen at Sportspark. The member experience will be at the forefront of everything we do."

Natale is an 11-year veteran of the fitness industry, initially starting as a personal trainer and working his way up into management for nearly the past decade. Most recently, Natale held various roles at Equinox, including Assistant General Manager, General Manager, and Senior Manager of Personal Training. Natale’s ability to lead and develop teams, streamline operations, and create an exceptional member experience are all values RIOC seeks for the future of Sport spark. Natale holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management of Sports Industries from the University of New Haven and earned a number of certifications, including NASM-CPT and NSCA-CSCS.

General Manager Philip Flynn commented, "First and foremost, I want to thank RIOC and President & CEO Shelton J. Haynes for giving me the opportunity to help uplift Roosevelt Island in my new role. I am beyond excited for Sportspark to open and show off all the new upgrades to the residents of Roosevelt Island. My goal is to be another resource for the community with a strong focus on health and wellness at the center."

Flynn possesses over a decade’s worth of experience working in the not-for-profit sector. Flynn served as the Athletic Director for Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Roslyn, NY, the only full-service JCC on Long Island’s North Shore dedicated to serving every aspect of community wellness, regardless of age or ability. At the JCC, Flynn was charged with the development and implementation of all sports programs and activities. He promoted sports programming growth, safety, member satisfaction, and member retention through sports program participation and facility excellence. Flynn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Management and a Masters degree in Sports Management with a Minor in Economics and Sports Marketing from the State University of New York at Cortland. Flynn was a DIII athlete in both soccer and track while attending the State University of New York at Cortland.

But still no information from RIOC on a Sportspark opening date, programming, scheduling or pricing. 

On January 24, I asked RIOC President Shelton Haynes and Assistant VP of Communications Akeem Jamal:

I'm working on a story about the opening of the Sportspark facility.

I'd like to interview you about the project and RIOC plans for upcoming programs and community use schedules.

I would also like to take a tour of the facility and take video.

Could we do an interview at Sportspark in the next few days.

No response.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Mayor Eric Adams Reports On The State Of New York City In Op-Ed Submitted To Local Community Media - "We Are Going To Build A City For Working People, One That Is More Affordable, Safer, Cleaner And More Livable" Says Mayor Adams

New York City Mayor Eric Adams submitted the op-ed article below to local NYC community media including Roosevelt Islander Online.

According to Mayor Eric Adams: 

Community Op Ed: A Working People’s Agenda
Last week, in Queens — the borough I grew up in — I reported to New Yorkers on the state of our city. I outlined what we’ve accomplished in the year since I took office, and my vision for the future. We are going to build a city for working people, one that is more affordable, safer, cleaner, and more livable.

We focused on four essential pillars: jobs, safety, housing, and care.

Because without a strong working class, this city cannot survive.

Working people need good jobs and pathways to get those jobs. And those jobs need to be able to support a home for New Yorkers and their families.

That is why we are reimagining our workforce system, connecting 30,000 New Yorkers to apprenticeships through a new Apprenticeship Accelerator. It’s also why we are creating the jobs for the future, through our first of its kind biotech start up incubator that will be home to the next generation of transformative companies, and our Kips Bay life sciences hub, which will help create jobs and train New Yorkers for high demand careers in the life sciences, healthcare, and public health.

And we are ensuring that more city dollars go to minority and women-owned businesses as well as creating a new Nursing Education Initiative to support 30,000 current and aspiring nurses over the next five years.

And while we are finally seeing crime begin to decline in New York City, we must continue to make our streets safe, and it starts with getting New York City’s Most Wanted off our streets.

We are going to get the roughly 1,700 known offenders responsible for a disproportionate amount of the city’s violent crime off the streets.

And we are going to keep our streets safe by holding reckless drivers accountable. We are going to go to Albany to get legislation passed that increases the penalties for serious crashes, running red lights, and impaired driving.

Our city cannot be livable unless it is clean and sustainable. So we are investing millions to make our city cleaner and greener.

Last year we launched the country’s largest curbside composting program in Queens in order to Get Stuff Clean, and by the end of 2024, composting will be citywide and year-round. We are electrifying our city vehicles, and we have reached a deal with Uber and Lyft to have a zero emissions fleet by 2030.

And we are going to build on the success of our Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs by creating permanent community spaces in each borough.

We must have homes for working people. We are working to add 500,000 more homes across all five boroughs—so that everyone has an affordable place to live. We are going to build in every borough and every neighborhood. And that means creating housing in areas that currently only allow manufacturing and office uses while protecting good jobs in the center of our city's economy. We are going to make Midtown Manhattan a true live-work community. And we are building more housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods and near transit hubs. I recently announced plans for 6,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs around four new metro stations in the Bronx. And at Willets Point we're working to build the largest new 100 percent affordable housing development in 40 years — that’s 2,500 new, affordable homes for New Yorkers.

Building new houses is essential for our future, but we also need to address the housing crisis today. So we are going to protect tenants and help New Yorkers stay in their homes by investing over $22 million in tenant protection programs.

We must also ensure that the social safety net is there for working people, so we are expanding it; making it easier for New Yorkers to access public benefits and healthcare. This is an agenda for working people.

As we pursue these programs, we want to keep New Yorkers up to date on the very latest. That’s why we’re launching a new initiative to talk directly to New Yorkers about the issues you care most about. You can sign up for this email newsletter at to receive breaking news and updates on city initiatives — all tailored to your personal interests. Whether it’s a new park opening, or a new Open Streets in your neighborhood, you’ll be the first to know.

Mayor Adams was asked about Roosevelt Island governance and other issues during a January 6, 2023 community press roundtable. Watch the video here.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Watch Video Of Last Friday Evening's Roosevelt Island Blackwell Park $5 Million Redesign Project Community Meeting - RIOC Reveals Initial Plans And Receives Input From Residents, Construction Anticipated To Begin In The Fall Of 2023

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) is in the process of redesigning Blackwell Park.

Last Friday evening January 27, RIOC hosted a Blackwell Park Re-design community meeting to share current plans and seek comments from the Roosevelt Island community. 

On very short notice, about 25 residents attended the meeting at the Good Shepherd Chapel. RIOC President Shelton Haynes was not in attendance. Instead, RIOC Director Of Capital Planning & Projects Prince Shah made the presentation for the $5 million project which is, as of now, anticipated to begin construction in the Fall of 2023.

Here's video of the meeting which began with an introduction by RIOC Assistant Vice President of Communications Akeem Jamal and overview by Acting Chief Operating Officer Mary Cunneen.

The project and online community survey results are summarized in these slides from the RIOC Presentation.

Mr Shah did an excellent job with the presentation and noted why this particular project is so important to him personally.


Mr Shah said that RIOC intends to keep the Roosevelt Island community informed as the Blackwell Park re-design project moves forward.