The RIRA Column

May 7, 2016

Jeffrey Escobar, President
Roosevelt Island Residents Association
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RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival

From traditional samurai and martial arts demonstrations to traditional Japanese musical performances and Tea Ceremonies, our little ship in the East River was abloom during this year’s RIRA Cherry Blossom Festival. Despite a change in venue, this year’s day-long festival still managed to attract a few thousand visitors to a number of event venues throughout the Island, as well as performers from as far away as Japan.

Attractions included a complimentary Sake tasting hosted by Island Wine & Spirits (with a line winding down the street), family picnicking sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network, family cultural activities hosted by the RIVAA Gallery, and complimentary luncheon with gift bags for the Island’s seniors and disabled sponsored by Neopolitan Express Food Truck. This year’s festival had something to offer everyone.

Many thanks go to Lydia Tang, 2016 Cherry Blossom Festival’s Chair, and Lynn Shinozaki as Chair of the RIRA Social Cultural and Educational Committee for their hard work in pulling the event together so quickly after the RIRA Egg Hunt, as well as the over 150 volunteers who contributed their assistance to the event throughout the Island.

Our deepest thanks and appreciation also goes to our event sponsors and partners Manhattan Park, Grenadier Management, RIOC, the J. Luce Foundation, the New York Tribeca Campus Lions Club, the Roosevelt Island Japanese Society, the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, Amalgamated Bank, Island Wine & Spirits, Cornell Tech and so many others for helping RIRA continue the tradition. The Cherry Blossom Festival hopes to move back to its regular home next year, so if you missed out on this year’s festivities be sure to be on the lookout!

P.S./I.S. 217 Green Roof

Congratulations to P.S./I.S. 217 in its efforts to bring The Green Roof project to our local Island school. Because the project garnered the third highest votes in this year’s Participatory Budgeting process, the school will receive, and be allocated, the full $500,000 needed to ensure the project will begin scoping and move forward in earnest, thanks to the efforts of our local City Council Member Ben Kallos.

Combined with Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright’s additional $500,000 in State support from the New York State Capital Project Fund and $250,000 in pledged support from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, our school’s dream of creating an open air classroom for STEM and arts enrichment learning for our Island children is closer to a reality, and we cannot wait to see what grows from it.

A big thank you and congratulations go to Christina Delfico, of iDig2Learn, for her relentless support and advocacy, P.S./I.S. 217 Principal Mandana Beckman and Instructional Coach Ursula Fokine, P.S./I.S. 217 PTA and its President Olga Shchuchinov, Girl Scout Troops 3244 & 3245 of the Island’s Beacon/Youth Program, Brownies Girl Scout Troop 3001 of Manhattan Park, and so many others for their continual support and efforts.

Southpoint Park Committee

From open spaces on our school’s roof to open spaces at Southpoint Park, the Community Plan for Southpoint Park Open Space Advisory Committee (formerly the Southpoint Park Open Space Stakeholders’ Committee) held its first meeting last Thursday to discuss an implementable plan for the future development, protection, programming, and use of the open spaces at Southpoint Park. They seek a plan reflective of our community’s priorities, values and vision.

Over 20 Island community groups and organizations, from RIRA and RIOC to the Wildlife Freedom Foundation, Inc. and Roosevelt Island Explorers, comprise the advisory committee, and a number of visioning goals and concerns were expressed and raised – from the need to protect and conserve the Park’s existing spaces, habitat, and ecology to the potential uses of the Smallpox Hospital and community programmatic needs. The venture promises to be an exciting one which will build on the current ten-year plan in place for the park started in 2010.

The Advisory Committee will meet again in July, and all committee meetings are open to the public to attend and participate. Can’t make the committee meeting? Beginning on Saturday, May 14, at the Island Farmer’s Market, then Saturday, May 21, at the Bike Walk NY Helmet Giveaway at Good Shepherd Plaza, and Saturday, June 11, at Roosevelt Island Day, you too can participate in the dialogue during pop-up events the committee will host to share information about the project and hear your vision for the future of the open spaces in Southpoint Park.

Go to for more information on the pop-ups as well as the activities of the Advisory Committee, and reach out to the RIRA Chair of the Planning Committee at either or for more information on how you can ensure your voice and view can be heard and be an active member of the debate.

Mortgage Open House

Thinking of buying a home on Roosevelt Island and a little lost on the mortgage process? Looking for lenders who are community-based and believe in re-investing in the local community? Consider attending our Amalgamated Bank’s Mortgage Open House on Thursday, May 19, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at 619 Main Street to meet with a registered mortgage expert who knows our local Roosevelt Island community, the mortgage products and financial resources that Amalgamated can provide to you, and whether you can qualify for a mortgage. Buying a home is scary enough. Let a neighbor and constant community partner help. For more information, contact longtime bank manager Albert Salas at 212-413-8775.

RI Day & Blood Drive

From celebrating spring to welcoming summer, the community activities on Roosevelt Island do not stop. Kick off your summer right and mark your calendars to attend Roosevelt Island Day on Saturday, June 11, for a day of community service, family fun, games, rides and more.

Not only does Roosevelt Island Day allow us to come together and strengthen the bonds that make us a community, meet neighbors old and new, and have another excuse to be outdoors, but it is also a day where Island residents can give back to the Island. Roosevelt Island Day was originally created as a day of Island service and beautification; it is a day where anyone and everyone is encouraged to pick up a shovel and plant new flowers and seedlings throughout the Island, to clean up and attend to Island elements that need attention, and to generally come together as a community to make this Island a more clean and beautiful place to live, work and play.

Interested in being a volunteer or want to help out? All you need to do is show up on Roosevelt Island Day, raise your hand, and you’ll be given a T-Shirt and a task that needs tending. We hope to see all of you there, and make sure you come by the RIRA Hospitality table hosted by the RIRA Social Cultural & Education Committee for some coffee, bagels and juice on us, as well as a chance to catch up with your fellow neighbors while you fortify for the day ahead of beautifying our already beautiful Island.

In the run up to Roosevelt Island Day on June 11, and the kick off to summer, RIRA will be holding its annual blood drive every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market until Roosevelt Island Day. Now in its 15th consecutive year, RIRA volunteers will be manning a sign-up table at the Farmers Market on Saturdays to sign up donors. The Blood Drive will culminate with the pledged donations to occur during the annual Roosevelt Island Day festivities. If you are able, be on the lookout for our table, and please sign up to donate. You can save a life.

RIRA Elections

While signing up to donate blood at the Farmers Market, take some time to speak to your RIRA Representative manning the table and find out more about how you can run for a position on the Common Council. This Fall, all seats on the Common Council and its Executive Officers positions (including my own) will be up for grabs in an Island-wide election for the new slate of Common Council Members and officers. As with the National and State elections, the Island elections will be a pivotal one insofar as the newly elected Common Council members will be dictating what initiatives and direction the new RIRA Common Council will undertake for the next two years.

Issues such as the explosion of the Island’s population as the remaining Related towers come online, the dwindling of affordable housing, the crumbling of the Island’s infrastructure, the lack of community programming, and the completion of Phase I of the Cornell Project and opening of its campus, will be just a few issues that the Common Council will be tackling.

Do you have an interest in collectively solving these, and many other, Island issues? If so, heed the call and run for a seat on the Common Council. If you have any questions about what it means to serve on the Common Council, how to run for a seat, or how to get more involved, please do not hesitate in directly reaching out to either your current Building Representative at or to me at .

Tags: RIRA Column

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