The RIRA Column

November 21, 2015

Jeffrey Escobar, President
Roosevelt Island Residents Association
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Although it seems like only last week that we were polishing off the last of Thanksgiving turkey and watching the last leaves of our trees turn a golden hue, the holiday season is now upon us in full swing. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate during this joyous time, there’s a special feeling as a community when the twinkling of lights illuminate our nights. It’s as if each light sends a new spirit of love, hope, joy and renewal through the heart of our community. Thank you to our friends, neighbors, and family who attended our Island’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony and our annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony last weekend, as well as RIOC, Amalgamated Bank, Urban American, the Octagon, and the Island’s countless other vendors and supporters who made the events possible. For those of you who were able to attend, I truly hope that Santa’s visit was a magical one for you and your family.

The Holiday Season is a cherished and magical time on Roosevelt Island, and I cannot think of a more wonderful way to kick off the season than being surrounded by all of you, my neighbors, family, and friends while we all exchange a bit of holiday cheer.

G&T Program at PS/IS 217

The Holiday Season is a time for planning for the New Year. As many Island parents look to begin planning for their children’s next year, on Monday (December 14) at 6:30 p.m., the Roosevelt Island Residents’ Association, in conjunction with the Roosevelt Island Committee and the Youth and Education Committee of Manhattan Community Board 8, and PS/IS 217 and the PTA of PS/IS 217, will be holding an education forum on the Gifted and Talented (G&T) Program at Roosevelt Island’s PS/IS 217. Are you a parent whose child is currently enrolled to take the G&T Test early next year? Is your child re-taking the G&T Test? Are you a parent contemplating having your child be tested for G&T? Do you have questions about the G&T curriculum, how it differs from the regular curriculum of PS/IS 217? Do you want to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the G&T program, how school choice works, and what are your options?

Have all of these questions and more answered directly from the New York City Department of Education Enrollment Director Daniel Hildreth, Principal Beckman of PS/IS 217, and the G&T curriculum educators at PS/IS 217 during Monday’s forum. Hear and share stories with other parents whose children are either already in the G&T program or are actively seeking admission. And come advocate for more G&T classroom space at PS/IS 217. For those attendees who arrive early, a tour of the school and G&T classroom spaces will be hosted by the PTA at 6:00 p.m.. For more information, contact Jeffrey R. Escobar as Chair of the Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Board 8 and President of RIRA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and point your browser to – scroll down and click on the Youth & Education Committee page.

Public Purpose Funds

The Holiday Season is a time for steadfast faith and support. After nearly two years of questioning and debate, during the December 3rd RIOC Full Board Meeting, the RIOC Board approved the report of RIRA’s Public Purpose Fund (“PPF”) Committee and adopted the recommended 2015 allocation and disbursement of funds as approved by the RIRA Common Council. More importantly, earlier that day Governor Cuomo signed the relevant legislation as introduced by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and supported by State Senator Jose Serrano. If you will recall, the conflicting recommendations by the State’s Authorities Budget Office brought into question the future of the PPF program and the ability to provide support to our Island’s 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. Separate legislation, now in the works, will deal with the PPF for future years. Many thanks to Assembly member Rebecca Seawright’s office for working so closely with the Common Council in ensuring future allocations, the Government Relations Committee and its Chair Joyce Short for pushing the dialogue to our electeds’ attention, and to the PPF Committee and its Chair Dave Evans for working with RIOC and all concerned parties so that this year’s allocations and disbursements (as well as future allocations) are sure to happen.

Community Polling

The Holiday Season is also a time for reflection and renewal. As we turn to the New Year, your Common Council of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association will be rolling out its Community Polling Initiative to poll and understand what issues and programming you, the Roosevelt Island Community, will want next term’s Common Council to undertake. Through the use (beginning in January 2016) of online polling and both traditional and social media, Town Hall meetings with both members of the Common Council, and building representative lobby meet and greets, RIRA will be creating an action plan to be executed by next term’s Common Council shaped directly by your opinion. Do you believe that the Island cannot safely sustain a bikeshare program? Attend one of the Town Hall meetings during the new year and express your concerns. Concerned that the makeup of the Retail Corridor is not reflective of the Island’s needs? Participate in our online poll. Are our Island’s northern parks patrolled enough during the summer months? Voice your concerns directly to your building representative during a lobby meet and greet. The RIRA polling initiative will be rolled out in the next few weeks, so please stay tuned on how you can directly influence the initiatives of RIRA’s next term, and how you can get involved in the coming months.


Unfortunately, the Holiday Season can be one of tremendous waste. Beginning with Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season, an incredible amount of food waste is produced. Whether it be due to holiday parties, increased get-togethers, holiday snacks and goodies, or holiday celebrations, the Holiday Season not only brings cheer, but also an increase in food scraps and organic waste. Did you know that you can now compost your fruit, vegetable, flower, and bread scraps? Every Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., you can bring your food scraps and leftover organic matter to the NYC Compost Project hosted by BIGReuse at the Roosevelt Island Outdoor Market, and BIGReuse will compost the materials locally and do the rest – all without your leaving the comforts of our Island. Not only will the compost be used locally to rebuild our soil, neighborhood by neighborhood, and in our city’s street trees, parks, and urban gardens, but you will be doing your part to help reduce our local landfill waste by 20%. Kudos to the Roosevelt Island Garden Club, PS/IS 217 PTA, the Roosevelt Island Girl Scouts, iDig2Learn, and Anthony Longo of the RIRA SC&E Committee and RIRA Common Council for working to make this capability a reality. Go to for more information on what you can and cannot compost, and how you can help volunteer with this great initiative.

Call for RIRA Treasurer

The Holiday Season is also time for change. As many take the coming of the New Year as an opportunity for change, unfortunately so does our Common Council Treasurer. Pursuant to our rules, having held a call for candidates within the Common Council who hold an Accounting Degree or CPA Certification, we now turn to you, our Roosevelt Island Community, for a Treasurer. Do you have either an Accounting Degree and/or are you a certified CPA? Do you have experience supporting non-profit organizations? Looking to get more involved in your community or joining the RIRA Common Council? Now is your chance. By becoming the organization’s Treasurer, not only will you have an opportunity to support RIRA, but you will automatically become a voting member and advocate for your community. Interested? Drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions or concerns. Looking forward to hearing from you!

The Holiday Season

Lastly, the Holiday Season is a time for giving, and as we use the next few weeks to reach out to family and friends, I hope each of us will take the time to also open our hearts and arms to those members of our community who are lonely and in need, who are less fortunate than ourselves, or who are merely looking to be touched by the holiday spirit. Whether it be through the spread of holiday cheer to an Island neighbor, visiting with the members of our aged or disabled, the purchase of a tree from and in support of our PS/IS 217 PTA, or donation of toys to the numerous charities on the Island, please take the time to reach out to a member of our community, to whom you have not before, and ensure that they, too, have a happy holiday. Because even though it is easy to focus on receiving at this time of the year, it is often in the simple act of giving that we find the greatest happiness.

This Holiday Season, whether you celebrate the story of a child born far from home to parents guided only by faith, light candles in celebration and commemoration of the miracle of a light that would not extinguish, gather family and friends to celebrate the seven principles of community, or ring in New Year with the singing of The Auld Lang Syne, may you and your family celebrate a message that has endured through the ages – that no matter who we are or where we came from, we as friends and neighbors are called to love and respect one another as brothers and sisters, and as fellow citizens of our community. Happy Holidays!

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