Roosevelt Island Parents Network
The Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network (RIPN) is a social network and community organization that serves over 450 Island parents, keeping them connected both online and through various family-oriented events and activities.
The roots of RIPN go back to the summer of 2012. I ran for a seat on the Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) and took over as the organizer of the Island Kids Baby Group. We were about 15 mothers, keeping in touch between meet-ups via an email list. After some time, I thought it would be useful to have a network for all parents, not only for mothers of babies, so I launched RIPN. Today, our 450+ members are parents to children of all ages, with the majority of the children under six years old. Any parent or primary caregiver (e.g., grandparent) who lives on the Island or nearby can become a member.
There is plenty of information and experience that can be helpful among parents of differently aged children, like reviews of available schools and day-care centers. Parents of older children can also provide a different perspective as well as refreshing or calming views on challenging topics for new parents. RIPN offers these and other services to its members, all volunteer-based and free of charge.
In our online discussion platform, organized as a Google group, members can ask questions and exchange information they consider relevant or interesting for other members. Examples include inviting other parents to join for an activity like a museum visit, information about children’s classes, informing the group about lost or found items, and links to family-related articles. Members share baby equipment like car seats, they hand down clothes and other items, and they quickly inform the group of unexpected occurrences, such as when both elevators of the Tram are out of service. We also provide timely updates on sudden Island incidents, such as last year’s water-main break. During Hurricane Sandy, member families connected via the Google group and immediately started offering warm showers, food, and freezer storage to those affected. Other examples include supporting each other with information, resources, and services needed in a specific situation, such as organizing clothes donations after the earthquake in Nepal.
We act as advocates for parents and families on various Island quality-of-life issues by interacting with RIOC, RIRA, and other organizations. The swim classes for babies and toddlers that we established at Sportspark are a good example of how RIPN works and how it can serve the community. Many parents were the leading members on this issue, going to Sportspark and inquiring at the manager’s office, and providing instructor contacts and a list of families who were ready to join the classes if they were offered. We finally got the Mommy & Me swim classes started after about two years of team effort. Another example of our advocacy efforts are the elevators and the gate at the Tram. We worked with RIOC and POMA on the elevator replacement project, which is now on RIOC’s agenda and approved in its budget. Part-time personnel are now stationed on the Island side during morning rush hour, assisting parents with strollers, seniors with walkers, and people in wheelchairs by opening the gate. RIPN is also a member of the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition (RICC), adding the voice of parents and families to the community advocates during the construction of the new Cornell-Technion campus.
We also organize events and activities for families. We host a Parents for Parents workshop series, with panel discussions on topics such as available options when choosing a kindergarten. Parents participating in the Playroom Share Project host free play dates in their buildings’ playrooms or community rooms on different days of the week so that other families can join. This project is particularly popular in the winter when families are looking for indoor activities. Every Friday since last June, our RI Moms on the Move (RI MoM) walking-and-exercise group has been meeting at the Tram kiosk. Pregnant women and moms with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers meet and walk together, usually to Southpoint Park and back. After that, we continue with some exercise led by our fitness coach and Island mom of two, Paulina Mansz. We have started a dialogue with the Senior Center, and hope to organize future events for children and seniors together. We also partner with other organizations, as we did with RIRA for the Easter Egg Hunt, iDig2Learn for Earth Day, and with our school and library to help promote voting for the Island projects on the Participatory Budgeting ballot.
We hope that RIOC will consider providing free meeting space at the Cultural Center for no-budget, volunteer-based, and community-benefiting Island organizations such as ours at least a few times a year. For now, our monthly Crafts with Kids events, where children and parents get together for a free crafting activity and a related story time, take place at the Senior Center or in various Island buildings’ community rooms. This involves a separate booking process for each activity, the help and participation of an additional member, and in some cases a cash deposit – and the community rooms are not always available. Having a consistent place to meet would make the organization of these free-of-charge events for the Island community much easier.