The RIRA Column

Feb 28, 2015

Jeffrey Escobar, President
Roosevelt Island Residents Association
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It’s hard to believe, given the extreme temperatures and winter storms that our little Island has had to endure over the past couple of months, that, as you read this column, it will be the last day of February and only three weeks (specifically, 20 days and counting) until the first day of spring. The opportunity to finally shed the layers of winter clothing, open the windows, and bask in the warmth of the season will be welcomed by many. Living in tight urban spaces in one of the largest cities in the world, we tend to forget how much we rely on the outdoors as an extension of our living spaces. Winters like ours remind us, in the spring, how lucky we are to live on our little Island in the East River, with parks, recreational areas, promenades, and abundant outdoor spaces.

SC&E Events

The coming of spring also brings an opportunity for us to leave the isolation of our apartments and to come together to celebrate our lives together as a community. This past winter, your RIRA Social, Cultural and Educational Services Committee has been hard at work, laying the groundwork for this year’s events. With the SC&E Committee’s mission this term to celebrate the rich and wonderful diversity of the people who make up our community, not only is the Easter Egg Hunt slated to return for the last weekend in March, but so are the Cherry Blossom Festival in late April and Roosevelt Island Day in June, plus some new events, including a RIRA-sponsored team entry for the Roosevelt Island Relay for Life on June 20, a Festival of Lights and Bollywood Dinner in November, and the return of the RIRA Showcase in December. Each of these events is a unique opportunity for you to get to know your neighbors, enjoy some laughs with friends, learn more about the cultures that comprise our Island residents, and help our Island children build bonds that will last a lifetime. If you’re interested in knowing more about these events, have an idea for other events, or want to volunteer some time or talent, please reach out to Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, chair of the SC&E Committee, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Hike for Life

Speaking of spring, the New York Blood Center – a local non-profit with which RIRA often partners – will be holding its Hike for Life on May 2. For a small individual or family fee, whose proceeds will help fund the New York Blood Center’s lifesaving mission, you and/or your family can join like-minded participants for a 3-, 5-, 11-, or 32-mile guided hike on the Greenbelt Trail as far as Sunken Meadow State Park. Beginning at Heckscher State Park in Smithtown, you’ll be able to hike all or parts of the Trail. For more information, go to nybloodcenter.org/support-us/hikeforlife/ or email the Hike For Life Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (Also look for the RIRA-sponsored New York Blood Center Blood Drive table at the Farmer’s Market, starting in May, to sign up to donate blood on Roosevelt Island Day.)

Public Purpose Funds

As highlighted in prior columns, the future of the Public Purpose Funds continues to hang in the balance, as RIOC and similar public benefit corporations digest the January 13, 2015 policy opinion released by the New York State Authorities Budget Office. Many Roosevelt Island applicants for Public Purpose Funds were recently notified that RIOC, in light of the guidance, has put the process on hold until other public benefit corporations have acted or taken a position based on the guidance. As such, RIRA’s participation in the Public Purpose Funds recommendation process is also on hold until further notice. Although news of any potential loss of non-profit funding is always disheartening, it is especially detrimental to Island organizations that count on such funding to be able to provide their services. If you or your family participate in or receive services from any of the organizations that rely on Public Purpose Funds, please be sure to lend your support to that organization(s) – by donating money, or providing services, or volunteering time or talent – so that it will not fall by the wayside, as do so many non-profits in the city.

Tram Elevators

Lastly, and with personal emphasis, the current, prolonged Tram elevator breakdowns need to be rectified immediately by RIOC and the other stakeholders. We’ve recently received many complaints from Island residents, voicing frustration and anger about the length of time it’s taking to complete the repairs, and the inadequate substitute services for those who must rely on the Tram. The failure to fix the elevators on an expedited basis has affected all segments of the Island’s population, particularly mothers of small children, the elderly, and the mobility-disadvantaged. The shuttle bus service, available only for those with limited mobility and only on weekdays, is grossly deficient. RIRA’s Island Services Committee continues to field resident complaints about the shutdowns and the substitute service, to inform RIOC of the community’s exasperation, and to push for the elevators’ repair as soon as possible. We also encourage you to continue expressing your concerns directly to RIOC via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., as well as to the office of our new State Assembly Member, Rebecca Seawright, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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