The RIRA Column
January 21, 2017
During the afternoon of January 12, while walking her son home from the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery, an Islander was physically assaulted and injured by an individual after she asked that the individual not smoke what she believed to be marijuana near one of the playgrounds on the west promenade in Manhattan Park. Although understandably shaken up, she did not suffer egregious injuries. The incident was reported to both NYPD and Public Safety, and our resident is working closely with the authorities to identify the individual.
As a father of a six-year-old, learning of the incident is both jarring and disheartening to me. One thing almost all of us on the Island have comfort in, is the relative feeling of safety and community that we all share. A physical assault on a parent in front of her child by someone who was asked to refrain from drug use near a playground where children were actively playing is not only disturbing, but unheard of here. I write of the incident not to cause alarm, but to inform and ask that we come together to find solutions as a community on how to prevent similar incidents. As a tight-knit community that regularly touts its low crime rate as a reason to live, work, and play here, incidents like these should not (and will not) be tolerated.
In response to the incident, I have asked that RIRA’s Public Safety Committee (PSC) jointly convene a meeting with our Public Safety Department, RIOC, and the community to discuss the current status of the incident, as well as what steps and efforts we can take as a community to ensure the safety of our residents when faced with such circumstances. An action plan should be discussed and Islanders should be informed as to what we, as individual community members, should do if and when we encounter illegal substance use on the Island, as well as the efforts being taken by both the Public Safety Department and the local authorities to monitor public spaces, especially those near schools and playgrounds. Please stay tuned for the details so you can plan to attend.
Public Safety Committee
As some of you are already aware, the PSC has been actively working on clarifying our position and finding solutions regarding the open use of marijuana near our Island children and schools, in response to a noticeable uptick of complaints of such marijuana use. During its January 3 meeting, prior to the incident, the Public Safety Committee had reached the following resolution and statement:
PSC Statement on Marijuana Use
The RIRA Public Safety Committee (PSC) has received some complaints regarding the public smoking of marijuana in various locations, including near or around PS/IS 217 and other areas where parents with young children are present.
The smoking of marijuana in public places remains illegal. Violators are subject to a summons and a time-consuming and potentially damaging expedition through the NYC Criminal Justice bureaucracy.
The PSC is sympathetic to parents who do not wish their children to be subjected to second-hand marijuana smoke in the areas cited above. We would like to ask the community to respect community members’ request that areas around children’s play areas or schools remain smoke-free.
The PSC does not favor a “harsh crackdown” on individuals, often young adults, who might engage in this offense publicly, due to misconceptions about the recent easing of the law; instead we wish to emphasize the following:
The PSC asks that voluntary self-restraint and consideration guide future behavior in regard to this issue.
More Work to Do
Although I highly respect the work of our PSC and of its Chair, Erin Feely-Nahem, in light of recent events, it is clear that this statement simply does not go far enough. I have asked the committee to seek community input on the proposed statement, and for the committee to present its proposed statement to the Common Council during its February 1 meeting at 8 p.m. in the Good Shepherd Center. Moreover, the proposed statement shall be discussed as part of the public forum that the committee is organizing with RIOC and the Public Safety Department in response to the January 12 incident. Together, as a community, we can hopefully ensure that this unfortunate incident is an outlier that will not occur again.
Jeff Escobar, President
RI Residents Association