Beginning January 18, all Island residents will have the opportunity to tell their representatives what they really think about life on the Island.
In the November 21 RIRA Column (The WIRE, November 21, 2015, available online at tinyurl.com/wire3606), Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Jeffrey Escobar presented the Community Polling Initiative as a way to “directly ask you, our Roosevelt Island Community, which issues you believe directly affect you as an Island resident.” The poll will be available both online and via printed ballot.
The goal is to pinpoint the areas most widely considered in need of support so RIRA can allocate its resources and efforts accordingly. RIRA’s Community Polling Chair, Adib Mansour, says the poll will help fulfill RIRA’s mission to serve and improve the Island community. “RIRA as a whole needs to know the answers to a host of questions [in order] to identify areas of need, plan, and concentrate our efforts to better serve our community.”
Mansour says he had the idea for the survey when he was elected to RIRA in November 2014. “[Before my election to RIRA] I worked with kids and their parents for soccer for about 10 years and the Beacon afterschool program for two years, so I had a lot of interaction with lots of different people… and I realized there are a lot of different issues. We [at RIRA] can’t pretend we know all of the issues.” He discussed the idea of a survey with Escobar, who said it was something he had also been thinking about. After the idea was presented, RIRA unanimously passed a resolution to do the community poll.
The categories included in the survey were chosen by RIRA Committee Chairs, and could include building upkeep, construction concerns, public safety and security, health concerns, youth engagement, transportation issues, and senior services. When developing the content of the survey, Mansour sat with the chairs of RIRA committees – including Island Services and committees focused on the needs of seniors, youth, and parents – and gathered their ideas. He thinks this helped create a survey that is inclusive of the different issues people of different demographics might have. “A lot of it is from my interaction with the Island,” said Mansour, who has lived here for 29 years. “I am trying to reach all different levels.”
When asked which issues he thought would be most common in the results, Mansour says he was expecting the results to be diverse, ranging from building vandalism to disabled accessibility to the more recently discussed problems regarding the accessibility and maintenance of the Helix. “I think we’re going to get a lot of different responses, and I think we’re going to be surprised… we don’t even know [what] might come up.”
As to how RIRA will prioritize the issues that do come up, Mansour says RIRA will “go with the numbers.” After the survey is complete, the complaints mentioned in each category will be tallied, and any additional comments – the survey will have blanks where survey takers can elaborate on their responses – will be considered. Mansour says RIRA will “analyze all of the responses and use percentages to see how many people from different parts of the Island have a common issue.” Mansour says there is currently no budget set aside to specifically address issues brought up by the survey, but adds that the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) is “ready to be a partner.” RIRA could also approach Councilman Ben Kallos and Cornell for additional resources. “I think RIRA has a lot of connections and possibilities… [but] it will depend on the issues.”
Mansour wants to emphasize the importance of everyone filling out the survey because “it is a tool for everyone to be heard.” The survey will only be effective (and the resulting actions satisfying for residents) if all Islanders participate. “The more we hear, the more we can understand the issues and deal with them.”