To the Editor:
My congratulations on the amendment to the RIOC [Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation] statute enabling the continuation of the Public Purpose Fund. The Fund began under then-New York State Housing Commissioner Richard Higgins, by devoting $2 million of the proceeds of Starrett’s construction of Manhattan Park. It continued with only minor disruptions until after I took office as RIOC President.
When the exhaustion of the $2-million Public Purpose Fund became imminent, I proposed, with the approval of the Board of Directors, to include $100,000 in RIOC’s annual budget to be distributed among qualifying Island organizations, based on recommendations by RIRA [Roosevelt Island Residents Association] with specific authorizing resolutions from the RIOC Board. It continued that way until the State ruled [in January] that there was no statutory authority for such disbursement of public funds, regardless of the worthiness and public purpose of the recipients’ programs.
Common sense has prevailed. The public purpose of RIOC to support and maintain a vibrant mixed-income community has been fully established. Kudos to all involved. Steve Shane
The writer is a former President of RIOC.
To the Editor:
Kudos to Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright for leading the way in getting the legislature to pass a bill allowing RIOC to expend up to 3% of its budget for Public Purpose grants. The RIOC Board now has the power to direct RIOC to increase next year’s budgeted Public Purpose funds to that full amount. I believe that this is a fleeting opportunity that should be acted upon before the current resident Board members are replaced by others who may have different priorities. The Youth Center’s Public Purpose funds have not increased in many years. This is a nice way to have the residents’ ground rent returned to enhance the community.
The writer is a former Vice President / Chief Financial Officer of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC).
To the Editor:
My husband’s life has changed. He used to walk to Gristede’s, do the shopping, and ride home on the Red Bus. He used to walk to the garage, drive to Queens, return to the garage, and come home on the Red Bus. For many months, he has been able to do neither. My husband is a senior with limited walking capability, and he needs the Red Bus. Unfortunately, the Red Bus no longer stops outside Motorgate, and I have yet to see any information on when this will change.
There are others, similarly situated, who have voiced concern to me. They are forced to stand outside Manhattan Park, waiting 15 minutes or more for a bus, rain or shine, snow or hail. Some have taken to sitting across the street, on the cement tree enclosure, straining for a sight of the southbound bus, and then making a dash across two lanes of traffic to meet the bus.
The only information about the bus situation that I have received is that there is a sinkhole where the bus formerly ran, in front of Motorgate, and no one knows what to do about it. Additionally, I have heard that the owner of Manhattan Park has refused to allow a bench to be installed at the “temporary” bus stop in front of the building.
Will anyone level with us and tell us what the actual problems and proposed solutions are? Winter is coming, and seniors standing in freezing weather waiting for a bus, or slogging across snowy streets, is an accident waiting to happen.
To the Editor:
On the morning of June 17, PS 217 classes 301 and 303 held their Field Day on Capobianco Field. It was a wonderful occasion for the children, the teachers, and the attending parents.
But during the activities we realized that the field was contaminated with many dog droppings.
This magnificent Island has become dirty because irresponsible dog owners are not cleaning up after their animals, thereby endangering children. I want my child to enjoy a healthy life here, and I hereby request that RIOC provide better signage regarding where dogs are not allowed, as well as reminders about curbing dogs and cleaning up after them. We need to protect the health of all people, especially children, who use and enjoy the green spaces here.
Alci da Silva
Dear Parents and Community Members,
As some of you already know, Island Kids has submitted an application to the Department of Education to start a full-day, free Universal Pre-K program at Island Kids. The program will offer the same high-quality programming found in NYC Public Schools, and would open an additional 18 spots for children on Roosevelt Island. We are also excited to announce that we’ve partnered with Urban American and Roosevelt Landings to upgrade our current space, and to make this much-needed service a reality by September.
Our application has been accepted for review, and we are waiting for an answer. Unfortunately, the DOE works on its own time schedule, and we are told that we will not get an answer until the second week of August.
We are writing to ask for your help! Please contact the office of Council Member Ben Kallos and reiterate the importance of an additional Pre-K program on Roosevelt Island. In addition, please ask them to help us expedite the review of our application so that we can open the program in a reasonable timeframe.
You can contact Council Member Kallos’ District Office at 212-860-1950 and/or his Legislative Office at 212-788-6865.
Executive Director, Island Kids
Your disregard for the correct operation of the Tram elevator and lift is inexcusable, and a severe lack of respect to all Roosevelt Island residents.
Residents have been demanding a quick solution to this problem for over a year now. You don’t respond to our emails. We attend your meetings and ask for suitable solutions, and nothing is done.
At one point this past winter, the community did not have a feasible way off the Island for over two weeks. The weather was blamed – that you did not know whether some parts had frozen due to below-freezing temperatures and water drip inside the elevator. Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network representatives physically went to RIOC to complain about both elevators being down. Charlene Indelicato responded, “We cannot guess how cold it will be, and where and which parts of the elevators will freeze.” It is now summer, and I’m sure none of the elevator parts have frozen or melted.
This community is proud to include seniors, disabled, handicapped, war veterans, and families with stroller-age children. This community needs the elevators working.
For those of us with strollers, the RIOC bus does not help. In many parents’ experience, the shuttle drivers do not allow us to lift up the front seats, like they do for wheelchairs, to park the strollers and get them out of the aisle, a big help for those of us with double strollers. Some drivers demand that strollers enter and exit through the back door, the one that doesn’t kneel. This should be addressed immediately.
When the lift is working, it can be impossible for people to use because it’s dependent on Tram personnel’s assistance, which can be more than a 10-minute wait. When asked why it takes so long to get their attention, Tram personnel have been known to respond that they cannot leave the turnstiles unattended because residents steal rides.
Remember, we residents pay RIOC’s and Poma’s salaries with our rents and maintenance fees.
It is time for RIOC to get a contract for preventative maintenance for both elevators, not solely corrective maintenance. Why were oil and hydraulic fluid allowed to accumulate in the cylinder and not pumped out when needed? Why did the ice just pile up at the door of the elevator when it could have been moved or melted with warmers? These preventative tasks extend the health of the elevator.
Another excuse RIOC gives is that the elevator is too old to find parts. I am sure there are older elevators in the city than this one.
We recently discovered that the RFP for the Tram elevators has not been sent out yet!! We are aware that a new Director of Engineering, John Bust, has been hired and that he needs time to review all the projects. But this community cannot afford more time with no elevators! This has to be fixed ASAP.
My three-year-old daughter asked Indelicato face-to-face to please fix the elevators. Indelicato answered, “I can’t promise you that!” If that is her answer to a kid, adults can not expect anything better from RIOC.
Susana del Campo Perea
To the Editor:
I am writing regarding a rather unpleasant experience, that I encountered at the Island Post Office, where I was treated unjustly by two rude employees of the Post Office. On Wednesday, July 15, 2015, at about 1:30 in the afternoon, I rode my bike, and entered a rather empty Post Office to mail a package. I placed my bicycle in the corner of the Post Office, away from everyone, as I have done for over 20 years.
I was suddenly verbally attacked by Postal worker Emily Boyd and told that I cannot park my bike in the Post Office. To which I replied; “It's empty and no one is here (other than the person she was assisting) and there was never an issued before.” She became very belligerent and rabid in her approach, and explained that it was the rules of the federal government and the Postmaster General. She added, “I will not service you, unless you remove the bicycle.”
I asked to speak to a supervisor. Wanda Bennett came from a back office and reiterated what Boyd had said. I asked if they knew the word “discretion” and if it could be applied to this situation? I informed them that the post office here is like a small town Post Office in middle America, and that the last two workers; Donnie and Mike, accommodated the residents of the Island and were part of the community. To which Supervisor Bennett and Postal Worker Boyed stated: “Well they are gone and we are here now!” It took them longer to refuse me service than it would have taken them to just accept my $5.30 to mail my package.
In the end, I was not able to mail my package and left with total confidence that there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, at the Roosevelt Island Post Office.
To the Editor:
Senator Jose M. Serrano recently inducted late Roosevelt Island resident Dominic Sciallo into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. Sciallo spent almost three years in active World War II combat duty, participating in three invasions. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor, as well as several service medals and individual badges.
Born in East Harlem, Sciallo moved to Roosevelt Island in 1977, where he was one of the founders of the Roosevelt Island Seniors Association (RISA) and served many terms as its president, and remained active in the community until he passed away earlier this year at age 97.
Senator Serrano would like to place a plaque honoring Sciallo in the Senior Center, but when his office called the Senior Center Director, Rema Townsend, she refused.
We feel that the plaque honoring Sciallo and his service to the country that he loved so much belongs in the Senior Center, which he considered his second home. Not allowing this honor to Sciallo is a grave disservice to a man who was admired and respected, and is remembered fondly by all who knew and loved him.
Friends of Dominic Sciallo
Editor’s note: Contacted about this matter, Doryne Isley responded that Roosevelt Landings owner Urban American will be honored to display the plaque honoring Dominic Sciallo in the Senior Center.
To the Editor:
It is relatively easy to have ideas. But the hatching of them is something else. For that, you need to have a Sherie Helstien in your life. Sherie – for the irremediably oblivious among us – is a longtime community activist, and vice president of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. It was she who organized and presided over the recent Island “Remembrance for Those Killed at Emanuel AME Church” event.
We have all, at one time or another, buttonholed on Main Street or at the back of an already exhausting meeting, told Sherie she is a royal pain in the tuchas. But ask her for help and she makes it all work. This moving and necessary memorial would not have happened without Sherie.
With only a few days’ notice, she contacted speakers, tested props, designed fliers, called Island housing administrators about posting them, and invited Island churches to participate. She did this with a humane vision of reaching out to those who had suffered so badly in Charleston. There’s a very kind and caring heart beating underneath those pumping arms. What would we all do without her?
The event offered a rare chance to talk fairly openly about race. Is anyone else interested in continuing that in some public, non-confrontational form?
To the Editor:
I grew up on Roosevelt Island, and moved back with my three children two years ago. There are many things I love about living here. Many changes wrought in the past 16 years since last I lived here have been wonderful.
The presence of dogs is not one of them. Now, lest anyone mistake me for a dog-hater, let me clarify. What I don’t enjoy is the presence of some dog owners. All you responsible, leash-using, poop-clearing, careful dog owners, this letter is not to you. This letter is to those dog owners who assume that, because they love dogs so much, they can freely ignore signs stating that grass areas and play areas should remain free of dogs. This letter is for those dog owners who think that children who are afraid of dogs should toughen up. It is because of those owners that I wish the Island had not started allowing anything beyond service dogs.
Forget for a second about having to make sure to look down for the inevitable dog excrement while walking around the Island. And forget for a minute about the dog that barks by the church at around 11:00 every night. Since my return, there have been some stand-out moments.
The first occurred when I was walking my eldest child to Capobianco Field to play. The entrance to the fence has a sign indicating that no dogs are allowed. And yet, another young mother was allowing her dog to not only run around but also urinate on the field - which meant I turned my son right around. Would you like to be running and accidentally fall face-first into dog urine? Well, neither would I. And I certainly wouldn’t like my child, who was at that point still falling as he ran, to stand up from a fall with dog pee on his face. It struck me that I don’t walk on grass that has signs telling me not to. Why was this dog-owner free to disregard signs meant to help keep all the inhabitants (two-footed and four-footed alike) happy and healthy? I wouldn’t go marching around the dog runs with no dog, leaving chunks of chocolate (or whatever else that might be unhealthy for a dog to ingest).
There is more. I was again walking with my eldest, this time to school. Like most children under five, he is both fascinated by and a bit scared of dogs. A woman with two dogs on a long leash was standing on the sidewalk chatting with a friend. As we went by, one dog rushed toward my son, barking and jumping. He gave a yelp and ran around to the other side of me to be safe. The woman holding the leash looked over at the commotion, and simply said, disdain and uncaring dripping from her voice, “He’s not going to bite you.”
When I was in first grade, my closest friend was bitten by a dog across her face, narrowly missing her windpipe. That injury landed her in the hospital and has given her scars for life. You may think your dog isn’t going to bite because it never has before, but, news flash, things happen. It is reasonable, healthy, even, for a child of three to be scared of an animal almost his size running toward him, making a loud noise and baring teeth. To that woman in particular: Your callous dismissal of my child’s fear was unkind and unreasonable. I am thankful every time a responsible dog owner pulls the dog in close when my child comes by, or gets down at the same level as my child and the dog to make sure everything is okay. For what it’s worth, a dog is probably not unlike a three-year-old—eager, excited, often too loud, getting too close to people they don’t know, hard to keep control of. But I have never allowed my child to run at someone he doesn’t know, trying to lick them and shouting at them. And when he does get too loud, or too close to his family or friends, I coach him, talk to him, and, yes, physically remove him so that he learns how he should behave. So please, dog owners, consider that perhaps you could do the same.
The final event is the straw that broke the camel’s back prompting this letter. I can deal with poop. I can even deal with my child’s disappointment from wanting to play somewhere but being unable because of urine or feces interfering. I can deal with cruelty and mockery by using it as an example for my children of how not to behave. What I cannot deal with is the inherent danger of a dog off of its leash. My son was playing with his friends at the sprinklers, throwing their hats in and out of the water. Two dog owners came by, with their large dogs leashed. The dogs were as tall as or taller than my three-year-old, and definitely outweighed him. One decided that, “because it was a hot day,” she could let her dog off the leash and into the sprinkler where the children were playing. That dog promptly snatched my child’s hat in its mouth, and began running circles around the sprinkler. My child started screaming and crying; his hat was in the dog’s mouth hat and a large creature was barreling unpredictably through his play space. Finally, the owner retrieved the leash, but it was a good many minutes later. She got control of the dog, dropped my child’s now slobbered-hat on the ground, and began to walk away. I was not the only parent angry that day about a dog running free in the sprinklers full of, and meant for, children.
Respect the rules, respect your neighbors, and respect your pets by helping them play nice with others. My hope is that, as it is unlikely that dogs will be once again banned from the Island, perhaps our friends and neighbors who own dogs can try to exercise a bit more caution and can be more respectful, around children and adults. I may not be afraid of them, but I have no desire to be sniffed at and pawed at by a dog I don’t know. I don’t want my child’s fear to be mocked or to grow because of irresponsible owners. So please, keep your dog leashed as per the law. Keep those leashes tight, or tighten them when you are walking by other people. Keep your dogs off the spaces that are clearly marked as not for pets. Respect the rules, respect your neighbors, and respect your own pets by helping them play nice with others.
And, though I said I can deal with it, it would be awesome if you would clean up the poop.