As editor of The WIRE, I strive to maintain an organizing principle that runs throughout the reporting, writing, and editing of this newspaper.
The principle is simple: Roosevelt Island will thrive as a community, or it will fail as a collection of strangers.
In keeping with this ideal, one of my first story pitches was to write a series of profiles of past RIRA Presidents. In describing the tumultuous, often bizarre, history of the Island, I was struck by how often the participants remembered their term/s as a series of funny anecdotes, rather than the tooth-and-nail battles they were at the time.
Remember when Sylvester Stallone shut down the Tram? Remember the meeting in the church to change the RIRA constitution that had people afraid they’d lose their apartments?
As Carl Sagan once said, “The Earth is a very small stage, in a vast cosmic arena.” That’s called Perspective. It is an understanding that a Big Picture exists. Past RIRA Presidents gained it, and at The WIRE, I have tried to maintain it.
The Longer View
The news of the day is little more than a blip on a radar screen that stretches far beyond our limited view. And Islanders are blessed with a variety of news sources for day-to-day events: the Parents Network email list, Facebook groups, Rick O’Conor’s Roosevelt Islander blog, as well as the (eminently dispensable) RIOC alerts. We also still engage in the old-fashioned method of chatting with our friends and neighbors at the playgrounds, the deli, Main Street Sweets and (again soon) Trellis.
What I try to do at The WIRE (and whether I am succeeding is up to you), is to find the news stories – but more importantly, I try to find the stories within the stories, the ones that have the potential to bend the reed of our shared history toward a greater, stronger community. This week, we have a big one.
The announcement that the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery has been accepted by the DOE as a universal pre-K (UPK) facility represents a major victory for the Island, one that was brought about by the tireless work of so many people, and the resolve of a community working together.
Whether you have kids that will directly benefit or not, all Islanders should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. This is what you can do when you work together. You can provide first-rate educational opportunities for our kids. You can give working parents a break from the exorbitant costs of childcare, and you can continue to build our Island as a village, rather than a grouping of concrete buildings, united only by geography.
In time, we will laugh and remember when we only had 18 half-day pre-K seats. And many of us will never know an Island that didn’t have a Cherry Blossom Festival, an Easter Egg Hunt, two youth baseball and three youth soccer leagues, or even Roosevelt Island Day; all wonderful examples of community-building through engagement, dedication, and hard work.
It’s true that in the long run, our problems may not amount to a hill of beans. But this is our hill, and these are our beans. And starting in September, we will have 50 new beans in our local pre-school. Congratulations, Roosevelt Island.
There are those who complain about the state of things, before grudgingly accepting the status quo; and there are those who organize and work to make things better. The real story of how RIDN won approval of 50 UPK seats for the Island is really about the tireless efforts of the many Islanders who fall into the latter category. They organized and they got it done.
First, our local elected officials deserve a thank you: Councilmember Ben Kallos, Senator Jose Serano, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and their respective staffs. They listened to the community and they worked for us. They continue to earn our trust, respect and votes.
The parents, our Island neighbors: so many worked on this achievement, it is impossible to call them all out individually. RIPN and Eva Bosbach deserve credit. The people who translated fliers into six languages to help get the message out deserve credit. The parents who provided their information to prove the need for additional UPK seats deserve credit.
RIDN Director Pam Stark reached out to countless parents and had one-on-one meetings with so many of them (including myself) to understand the needs of the community and put forth a winning case to the DOE (not to mention the unknowable number of hurdles she and the RIDN teachers and staff must have cleared and red tape they no doubt hacked through).
And finally, Susy del Campo Perea. Her name was mentioned by every single person I spoke with for her tireless efforts to push this issue. She has our deep gratitude.BW