To the Editor:
Roosevelt Island is a safe, tight-knit, and friendly community and it is our home. So here is sad news. Last Thursday, January 12, an Island mother went to the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery (RIDN) to pick up her son. Steps from the school, she saw a man smoking what she believed to be marijuana right next to the playground. The playground was packed with children so the mother politely asked the man to refrain from smoking so close to the children. He cursed at her and told her to stay away. She told him she was calling the police and took his picture. In response, he attacked her. He knocked her to the ground and kicked her, next to her young son. The man walked away and the mother called the police and filed reports both with the Public Safety Department and the NYPD.
Later that day, in pain, injured, and understandably frightened and shaken up, the mother alerted the more than 600 members of the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network, a community organization and social network for Roosevelt Island parents, about the attack she had suffered. This led to a flood of empathic messages from the community. It also brought up numerous reports by other parents about their own experience with marijuana-smoking here.
Many parents wrote about it being omnipresent, that it is seen and smelled by our children on a regular basis. Many parents feel no action is being taken to curtail the problem. Some parents went as far as reporting not feeling safe on Main Street, only taking the Red Bus or only walking there when not having their children with them. These reports were shocking for some of us.
We send this letter to inform and alert The WIRE and its readers about this incident and the underlying issue of open substance abuse on the Island, even close to areas with parents and children such as schools, daycares, and playgrounds.
We ask that we all come together as a community and look for ways to prevent such incidents in the future, and to make our home safer and more pleasant for children, parents, and all residents.
We forwarded the report to RIOC’s president, board, and Public Safety Director, our elected officials, representatives from our public school PS/IS 217, Cornell Tech, the Roosevelt Island Community Coalition, and to RIRA’s Public Safety Committee. Here are four ideas for an action plan for our community:
1. More Public Safety patrols, especially around playgrounds, schools, daycares, and the few known areas where marijuana smokers congregate, namely along the two sea walls of the Island. Public Safety can help here and we thank Chief Jack McManus for his commitment to increased patrolling.
2. Posting prohibitive signs in our community to educate about the law on substance abuse. Smoking marijuana in public spaces is illegal in New York state. We thank RIRA’s Public Safety Committee and its Chair, Erin Feely-Nahem, for starting a campaign and preparing a meeting to address this topic.
We suggest installing signs at the places named above (that would be clearly visible and short), to simply inform residents “Smoking Marijuana in Public Spaces is Illegal.” Also, designated “No Smoking” areas similar to the ones in front of buildings could be established around playgrounds and parks.
3. A long-term strategy to provide alternatives to substance abuse in our neighborhood. Can we get consultation from an expert on how to help our community deal with substance abuse effectively? For example, if we know that this is an issue mainly affecting young adults in our population, is there another community in New York which dealt with the issue successfully? Can we learn from them, borrow their expertise, and get the same change in our community?
4. Finally, we need better, ongoing communication between the community and our Public Safety department so that all residents feel heard and protected.
Public Safety Chief Jack McManus and RIRA’s Public Safety Committee are preparing a public forum where parents and all residents can meet McManus in person and speak with him about any concerns they have regarding marijuana smoking and other public safety issues on the Island, as well as the work of our Public Safety department itself.
We would like to thank everyone who responded right away with support and actions promised. But let’s not stop at words. Let’s act. We all, and especially our children, deserve a community where we feel safe and at home.
Coordinator, RI Parents’ Network
standing with and on behalf of the victim in this attack