Change is difficult! The first residents of the WIRE buildings (Westview, Island House, Rivercross, and Eastwood – now Roosevelt Landings) have survived less open space, more building developments with thousands of new residents, Four Freedoms Park, and the Cornell Tech campus.
Following these changes, over the course of a few years, a clash over the future of the Youth Center has erupted into an open, sensitive, and disturbing divide in our community. It is downright depressing. I believe this current situation not only poses a serious challenge but also a tremendous opportunity. Do we want to define ourselves by angry words or shall we take a moment, think, and strive to have conversations that lead us toward something for the entire Island community that’s constructive, cooperative, and collaborative?
For the record, the recent legal inquiry and report about allegations made against the former head of the RIYP had nothing to do with the quality of services our youth received during its tenure. I, and the Board members of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, openly acknowledge the praise and testimonials many adults and young people gave at our January and March meetings. However, the RIOC Board’s decision to withdraw the grant award was a difficult one that reasonable folks could differ over. And when RIYP shut down its operations last Friday, RIOC acted fast in making the decision that we would not leave our parents and students without a program.
As you are probably aware by now, RIOC reopened the Youth Center last Monday, under our supervision, as a free afterschool drop-in childcare center for students in grades 2-8, open five days a week 2:45-6:00 p.m. Starting Monday, March 12, the center will offer extended hours 6:30-8:30 p.m. for youths 13-21. The center will remain open through June 26, the last day of the current school year. RIOC is exploring what will happen after that. We will not leave you high and dry.
The previously planned renovation of the entire building will also start in the next few months, and be completed in phases to avoid disruption of ongoing activities. We’ve held two parent meetings, sent out group emails and advisories, and held numerous other informal meetings to gather your input on programs and services that are most desired – including weekend evenings for teens, music instruction classes, SAT prep, and homework assistance – and getting those re-established as quickly as possible. (Please contact Roy Magsisi, our new Youth Center director, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions about our current operations).
Many of you also have asked us about the status of youth sports programs and summer camps. Both were offered by the former RIYP, when it operated both the center and the Beacon program headquartered at PS/IS 217. Beacon programs are free school-based community centers – supervised by the City of New York Department of Youth & Community Development serving children five and older, and adults. There are currently 91 Beacons located throughout the five boroughs of New York City operating in the afternoons and evenings, on weekends, and during school holidays and vacation periods, including the summer.
The Roosevelt Island Beacon program, under new leadership since September 2017, needs our input on the kinds of programs, including sports, we would like to see here on the Island.
I invite you to join me in planned discussions (dates and times to be announced soon) with Beacon leadership to address these and any lingering issues involving inclusion, past assumptions, and future opportunities that we should be pursuing to help all our Island youth and young adults develop and get ahead.
Feel free to email me at email@example.com to offer your thoughts, ideas, or to join me in future discussions about how we might participate together for the enhancement and healing of our community.
Helix and Bike Ramp
The first phase of construction for Helix repairs is a demolition. On Monday, March 12, the contractor will start the demolition of the outer lane. Signs and traffic lights were installed earlier this week to help manage traffic. Please note that all over-size delivery vehicles, and their business destinations, must coordinate with the Public Service Department at 212-832-4545 at least 48 hours prior to delivery date.
As we previously noted, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, relocated to Good Shepherd Plaza from its previous home under the Helix, has been warmly received by residents and visitors alike. We are considering making the relocation permanent.
The request for proposals to construct a bike ramp off the Roosevelt Island Bridge will be issued this month and we hope to begin construction on that project by the summer.
Manhattan Tram Station
The Manhattan Tram Plaza, the official gateway to the Island from Midtown, is getting a major facelift by way of a new glass elevator project set to begin this month also. The renderings of the project show an enhanced, sleek platform and a ritzy glass-walled elevator powered by electric motors that drive traction cables and counterweight systems.
The rusty seawall railings that encircle the Island and serve as the official buffer between our Island and the East River are all scheduled to be replaced and repaired this year as well. The concrete spall repairs – where the concrete has broken up, flaked, or become pitted due to constant freezing and thawing – have already begun on the Island’s west side.
The RIOC Board’s Real Estate Committee voted February 27 to move forward on fabrication of the RI welcome sign. The big red letters – which I’m sure many of you have seen or heard about – are set to be displayed near Tram Plaza for a three-month trial period to allow a lengthier time to gauge public comment. I have a $1 bet with Judy Berdy, operator of the Roosevelt Island Visitors Center and president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society (RIHS), that the welcome sign will increase foot traffic to the center and result in more business and revenue for RIHS. When I collect on the bet, I’ll share with you how many more dollars she’s made due to influx of more customers.
In addition to the welcome sign, the much-needed and often-asked-for wayfinding signs and kiosks – which will offer visitors additional information and directions to Island businesses and landmarks beyond the Tram – are set to be installed in August.
Rebuilding Is Important
Development, decline, revitalization, and redevelopment. That is the story of how Roosevelt Island was, and how it sits now in its history. Rebuilding our infrastructure – roads, ramps, bridges, railings, elevators, and seawalls – is critical, and something I hope you also deem important. But most important is the rebuilding of our personal relationships. We know that Roosevelt Island is a special place for a host of reasons. We can rekindle that original sense of unity, which Roosevelt Islanders describe with pride. It CAN be done only when we band together.