The RIRA Column
As this column is being written, the city is preparing for what could be the worst winter snowfall in recent history. We are predicted to receive up to 2 to 3 feet of snow, in a blizzard causing treacherous conditions for nearly 10 hours. Newscasts warn of empty grocery shelves, long lines for emergency supplies and gas, and worried New Yorkers rushing to beat the anticipated shutdown of the subways and trains. As with all weather forecasts, one must take such predictions in stride; but as New Yorkers, and especially as Roosevelt Islanders on our little ship in the East River, we cannot underestimate what Mother Nature may blow our way. At the time you are reading this column, I earnestly hope that you, your family, and your friends and neighbors were able to check in on our community’s infirm and immobile and help them prepare for the storm, were able to lend a helping hand to those in need as they sought shelter and comfort, and were able to successfully and safely weather the storm.
Although a blanket of new-fallen snow can easily mask the imperfections of our Island and transform it into a winter wonderland, it is the melting of the snow and its mix of salt and sand that remind us of what lies underneath. To that end, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the number of recent complaints to RIRA, RIOC, 311, and the City about the failure by dog owners to curb their pets and pick up after them. Although required by City law, and fineable by up to $200 for failing to do so, a number of residents continually choose not to pick up their dog’s feces, not only causing unsanitary and unsightly conditions, but exposing both children and adults, young and the infirm, to the diseases, bacteria, and environmental hazards that uncollected waste can represent. Because of the recent number of complaints, RIRA, RIOC, and Manhattan’s Community Board 8 have begun investigating how to amplify enforcement.
As an owner of two medium-sized dogs, I understand the annoyance of having to pick up after animals, especially in the rain or frigid temperatures. But it is not an option for me and my family, nor should it be an option for anyone else not to pick up after the dog. Although RIOC and individual buildings are being asked to install more waste receptacles in highly-trafficked areas, plus signage reminders of the laws requiring pick-up, it is up to each and every one of us – pet owners and non-pet owners alike – to seek community enforcement of such rules. With an Island of such limited space but with an exploding population – of both humans and pets – it is up to us to ensure that the beautiful walkways and parks that we all enjoy are not, come spring, filled with animal waste.
Turning now from picking up your dog’s poop to picking up a bike: Citi Bike -- the City’s bike share program – is beginning the Phase II expansion of bike stations. By the end of 2017, the program intends to double in size, with 6,000 more bikes and 375 new stations. When Citi Bike first rolled out, I and now-Councilmember Ben Kallos fought for access points to the system that made sense for Roosevelt Islanders, including stations near the Tram on Second Avenue and near the 63rd Street subway station, with expansion to Roosevelt Island during either late Phase II or early Phase III.
Due to changes in the program, the effect of Hurricane Sandy, and recent partnering with Alta Bicycle Share, the Citi Bike program has reopened public comment on where the Phase II stations should be located. From now until mid-February or so, you can vote for and/or suggest locations at http://nycbikeshare.herokuapp.com/place/new. With Citi Bike now contemplating excluding Roosevelt Island from both Phase II and Phase III expansion, and RIOC’s opposition to a station on Roosevelt Island, it is important that you – as an Islander and regardless of whether or not you agree that Citi Bike should come to the Island – use this opportunity to have a direct voice in deciding where Citi Bike expands.
Lastly: Construction of the Cornell NYC Tech campus begins in earnest this month, with the official groundbreaking for the first of the Phase 1 buildings. Construction activity on the southern part of our Island will increase. As we brace for this historic moment and grapple with the reality of what our lives will be like for the next 20 to 30 years, it is imperative that each and every one of us closely monitor the activities. Note the number and times of day for trucks on our main artery. Be aware when our infrastructure – including buses and the Tram – are most affected. Report directly to RIRA, RIOC, Community Board 8’s Roosevelt Island Committee, and 311 any exacerbated or hazardous conditions, or failures to perform safely, that you may experience or witness. Construction of the last two Hudson/Related buildings will only worsen conditions, with Main Street’s parking being monopolized by workers who choose to drive to either project site to utilize the Island’s street parking rather than public transportation. The coming months, if not years, promise to challenge our lives on our idyllic Island, with our patience tested and our resources strained. But I have every confidence that we Islanders will do as we have always done, and take each day as it comes, while working hard to maintain and protect our quality and way of life.