The RIRA Column

Mar 28, 2015

Jeffrey Escobar, President
Roosevelt Island Residents Association
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It seems that slowly, but surely, Spring is beginning to finally come to our little ship floating in the East River. Flowers are beginning to bloom, birds can be heard chirping in the air, woolen jackets are being (albeit slowly) stripped in favor of lighter ones, and the days are growing longer and brighter. After what seemed like an endless winter, we are finally tempted to leave the confines of our apartment in favor of a walk outdoors along our boardwalk, have coffee with our neighbors at Starbucks or a little visit to the Four Freedoms Park. Whatever may tempt you to venture out and enjoy life on our Island, make sure to enjoy this precious time – there truly is nothing more magical than Spring on Roosevelt Island.

We are very fortunate to have a vibrant community filled with leaders and individual who truly care for Roosevelt Island and its residents. Whether involved through local politics and governance, the PTA and our local schools, religious institutions, afterschool and childcare programs, the Senior Center, building tenant associations or other community organizations, or RIRA and its committees itself, Island residents day in and day out work tirelessly to better our community.


The Social, Cultural and Educational Services Committee and its Chair, Lynne Shinozaki, are some of those community leaders and individuals who deserve recognition and our thanks for tirelessly making our everyday lives on our Island that much more special. Chances are, if you are reading this after Saturday morning and you have young children, you have just come back from the massive Easter Egg festivities that the RIRA SC&E Committee worked on putting together this past winter to bring to you. At the time of this writing, over 500 Island children were expected, if not registered, to attend the Easter Egg Hunt; with countless hours of services, books and monetary support from over 30 Island organizations, neighbors and businesses donated. Easter Bonnets, the Easter Bunny, raffle prizes, story-telling and more, there is no better way to spend a newly spring morning. Many thanks to St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Catholic Church, Church of the Good Shepherd, RIOC, RIPN, RIYP, Manhattan Park, The Octagon, RY Management, Roosevelt Landings, PTA OS/IS 217, Island Kids, MST&DA, RISA, RIVAA, CERT, Main Street Sweets, Fuji East, Starbucks, Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society, Costco, Riverwalk Bar & Grill, the Roosevelt Island Girls Scouts Troop, Bike New York, the Shops on Main Street, the members of the SC&E Committee and our friends and neighbors who came out in droves to help stuff eggs, organize donations, and deal with event logistics – without all of your help and dedication, this year’s event could not have happened. See you next year!

Earth Day

Speaking of dedicated community leaders, an update from Christina Delfico: “iDig2Learn will host Earth Day, Saturday, April 18th (rain or shine), on the Tram lawn, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., with free activities for all ages.

“Come on out and join the festivities with flower power as we celebrate Earth Day and plant outside together. Activities include planting colorful flowers, uncovering the Earth’s treasures in an archaeological dig activity, creating sculpture from nature, art projects and more. Come show some love to our Island.” For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Delfico also invites Islanders to vote for the PS/IS 217 Green Roof at the Visitor Kiosk from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on that day.

Green Roof on the Ballot!

Anyone living in District 5 (Roosevelt Island, Upper East Side, Midtown East) who is 16 years or older can vote for this exciting project. You don’t need to be a US citizen or registered.

Schools the world over are taking advantage of their roofs to provide vital 21st century skills. It is the metamorphosis of these underutilized spaces into outdoor classrooms that provide students with research stations and outdoor learning labs to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in a natural setting.

Students master the latest in renewable energy, using photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and solar panels and even collect data to monitor changes in air quality.

Imagine 6,750 square feet of under-utilized riverfront roof that can be transformed into a Green STEM learning hub with views of Manhattan. Even if you don’t have children attending PS/IS 217, this project supports Roosevelt Island in so many ways. In addition to exciting the next generation about science careers and building up a skilled workforce, this extended outdoor learning space can support the arts, theater, and dance, reduce pollutant stormwater from entering our rivers, are beautiful for neighbors to look at, and extend the life of the roof while reducing energy costs year round. A school green roof hits multiple areas of programming, including common core standards such as math and literacy while incorporating science, engineering and nutrition. Additionally, working outdoors with living things helps to strengthen children’s ability to nurture, problem solve, and work in teams while enhancing their natural inclination to imagine, explore and observe.

A green roof also provides a space for middle school students to take a break mid day to rejuvenate and improve focus and, therefore, retention.

Your voice is your vote. Voter turnout proves Roosevelt Island has a strong voice. And allowing 16-year-olds and older to participate demonstrates the power of young voices to change their community.

The PTA and Principal Mandana Beckman, along with Ursula Fokine, PS/IS 217 Science and Math Coach and Sustainability Coordinator, have been supporting this project since 2013 and believe that students do best when they know what they are doing and why they are doing it. They and strive for this clarity when teaching. In 2013, Principal Beckman applied to the Borough President for a PS IS 217 green roof School Construction Authority (SCA) feasibility study – and she won it! In February, she applied to Borough President Gale A. Brewer for funding and now that the project is on the City Council member Ben Kallos Participatory ballot, the school is that much closer to making this dream a reality. But they need your vote.

There are already dozens of successful school green roofs in New York and the Borough President has supported many. The benefits of green roofs include:

• science and technology learning opportunities (renewable energy sources like wind and solar, data collection and study of weather and air quality),

• the finding that students exposed to garden-based learning scored significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students who did not experience garden-based learning,

• promoting good eating habits by demonstrating the origin of fruits and vegetables,

• providing a beautiful outdoor space for teachers and students to extend K-8 learning,

• reducing rainwater overflow of pollutants into our waterways,

• conserving energy by keeping the school warmer in winter and cooler in summer,

• providing city children with much needed exposure to living systems through plants,

• taking advantage of the finding that garden-based learning promotes interest in science and careers in science.

These students are future scientists, urban planners, architects, teachers, engineers, farmers, politicians, policy makers, programmers and stewards of our planet.

Please show our politicians the Island has a powerful voice, spread the word and vote. There are multiple opportunities to vote on Roosevelt Island.

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