Seniors Consider Safety Needs

Island pioneers who arrived here as youthful 20- and 30-somethings are now senior citizens. According to Rivercross resident Mary Cavanaugh, “Although a lot of us are reluctant to consider ourselves senior citizens, more than 80% of the Rivercross community is comprised of seniors.” Island House and Westview probably share similar numbers.

Seniors On Safety (SOS) initiated by Cavanaugh with the help of three Rivercross neighbors, organized a March meeting in their building offering all kinds of specialized information for seniors.


Cavanaugh offered information on Access-A-Ride which provides transportation for the temporarily or permanently disabled. “You can call a car service and get a receipt from them that includes the driver’s name and send it to Access-A-Ride for reimbursement. You do need to be an authorized Access-A-Ride customer.”

For safety and peace of mind, Cavanaugh also said, “It it is essential for every senior to have a buddy; someone to connect with daily” and she recommended the use of medical alert devices.

Medical Alert

Pointing out that “80-90% of fatal events occur between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., a medical alert system can be life-saving.” With that Cavanaugh presented her medical alert pendant which is unobtrusive and worn all the time. Information about three different companies providing medical alert systems along with other similar information was shared at the meeting.


Rivercross has a computerized system, called KeyTrak, that allows the building to provide the keys to enter an apartment if there is no response. Marianne Russem, a member of the Rivercross Board of Directors said, “However, it is only as good as the information provided. If you have two locks but provide only one key, it won’t work.”

Ready New York

Margie Smith presented information about Ready New York, published by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). “New York has unfortunately had its share of emergencies over the past decade. What we’ve all learned is that everybody thought they were prepared. Some were, but many were not. OEM has published a packet entitled My Emergency Plan containing telephone numbers of city agencies that respond to emergency situations. It also includes a checklist of important [personal] information so that, if you are unable to communicate, helpers will be aware. Most important thing to have is a Go Bag which contains essential information about your medication, doctors, emergency contacts, photo IDs in a waterproof container.” Smith said that she was given a Go Bag by CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) a number of years ago and keeps it in a closet next to the door so she can easily retrieve it if she has to exit quickly.

There are some emergencies where it is better to stay in your home. Among recommended items for sheltering in place are a gallon of water per person per day, canned food and a manual can opener, as well as a list of emergency contacts. Pointing to a stack of Ready New York folders, Cavanaugh suggested that the audience members, “sit back some afternoon when you’re sitting around with nothing to watch on TV,” and go through the list provided.

Rivercross has incorporated many senior friendly features, Russem noted, including improved accessibility, better lighting and a ramp to the roof deck. She continued, “We all have to take personal responsibility. We have to make plans. We have to know where our medications are, know who our neighbors are. We have to know who our buddies are.”

Russem also suggested putting a list of medication and doses and emergency contact information in a small magnetic case (which she ordered for those interested) and attaching it to the inside of the door leading into the apartment.


Linda Heimer spoke about CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), explaining that CERT is composed of volunteers, “who must undergo a police check, sign a code of conduct, take eleven classes, and pass a test before becoming eligible to participate. Although the OEM was started in 1996, it did not become a full member of city government until after 9/11. The CERT teams report to that agency, now called NYCEM (New York City Emergency Management). In an emergency, team members can only step in with NYCEM permission which is given to the team leader, Howard Polivy.

In addition to being available to assist First Responders, she pointed out, the team has participated in Tram rescue drills, searches for missing persons, and is frequently used for traffic and crowd control for various Island events, “such as 5K races, the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the Annual Egg Hunt.”

Fire Prevention

Heimer also discussed fire prevention. She recommends turning off all electronic devices at night and a nightly check of the stove. She warns against using frayed or damaged electric cords and, instead of extension cords, suggests that each electric device be plugged directly into wall sockets. Baking soda or salt puts out a grease fire. Space heaters are fine but should be four feet from anything flammable, including furniture, drapes, curtains, dish towels or bedding. “I have a portable heater,” Heimer shared, “If you tip it even slightly, it turns off. So if you’re going to get one, get one like that.” She also demonstrated the use of small fire extinguishers and made information available on where to purchase those appropriate for apartment use.


“Our mission is to provide assistance to the homebound, disabled, and seniors on Roosevelt Island to enable them to maintain independent living with safety and dignity,” said Louella Streitz of DASH (Disabled Association and Support for the Homebound.)

Some of the work done by the volunteers includes: weekly visits or phone calls to the homebound, taking disabled persons out for walks or to buy groceries, picking up and dropping off prescription medication, helping with completing complicated forms, writing letters and, with the Roosevelt Island Girl Scouts, arranging a fun birthday visit.

“A sense of community is what DASH seeks to create on the entire Island so that no one would ever feel alone or uncared for. I hope you will join me in supporting this idea and becoming involved with DASH, be it as a volunteer or a person needing assistance. DASH could help you to create a support system. Please reach out to us,” concluded Streitz.


EMS (Emergency Medical Service) historically takes a long time to get to the Island. Public Safety Department (PSD) Director Jack McManus agreed to take the issue to NYCEM and figure out a way to prevent this from happening. McManus also suggested that “West Roadway and Roosevelt Island Bridge” be given as the cross street when asked by EMS.


McManus pointed out that, in the three years he has been the Director of Public Safety, community relations have improved greatly. He introduced Officer Kurian of the 114th Precinct as one of the CPOP, or Community Problem-Oriented Policing officers. Officer Kurian and his partner spend most of their shift driving around the Island on the look-out for trouble or potential trouble.

Kurian reminded the audience, since this is tax time, to beware of phone calls from people saying they are from the IRS and to send money for taxes. He also mentioned that emails asking for money should likewise be ignored.

After the meeting concluded, Mary Cavanaugh expressed her appreciation to the 75 shareholders who attended and her thanks to the Rivercross Board and building management without whose assistance, such as door drops and refreshments, the meeting would not have happened.

Tags: Island Life SOS

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