In response to community complaints about the open use of marijuana on the Island, and in the wake of a January 12 assault, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, known as RIRA, has approved new anti-marijuana signs, which are to be placed around the Island.
In the February 1 resolution, the RIRA Common Council affirmed the language for the signs, which also contain images of a pot leaf, a marijuana cigarette, and loose marijuana.
According to Erin-Feely Nahem, RIRA’s Public Safety Committee [PSC] chair, “The comments people from the community gave were that they wanted something with few words. Instead, we went with something catchy, that people will look at.” She says the Committee wanted signage that was educational in nature. “Despite the decriminalization, smoking [marijuana] in public is still illegal and you can get a summons in lieu of arrest, or you can get arrested for it. We felt that many people don’t understand because everywhere people are lighting up as if there’s no problem.”
The community’s catalyst for the signage may have been the January 12 assault, but Feely-Nahem and her Committee have been working on ideas for months. She believes that the recent Public Safety forum, held in response to the January 12 incident, was instructive in determining where the community stands on the issue. “A lot of information was shared. There were concerns on both sides. There are still people who don’t believe we should react excessively. And we had the other side. We invited building management. Manhattan Park, Westview and Island House representatives attended. [Urban American’s] Doryne Isely, sent a message regarding cameras she is looking into for Roosevelt Landings.”
She explained, “I think a lot of [the community reaction] was lack of education and misinformation. [Public Safety Chief Jack] McManus was able to let people know the difficulty of making an arrest – you have to actually see the person smoke. If you come up on a group of people surrounded by a cloud of smoke, you can’t do anything. So it can look as if [Public Safety] is doing nothing, but they can only make an arrest under specific circumstances.”
She also points to a petition hosted by the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network, asking for increased NYPD presence on the Island and expressing concern at a lack of proper response from both PSD and Island leaders, as evidence of some of the community’s misinformation. Feely-Nahem explained that she didn’t sign it because “I don’t agree with it, a lot of generalizations.” She doesn’t believe PSD isn’t responding to calls. As to a specific charge sent by the Parents’ Network regarding dealing along the promenades, she said, “I certainly have not seen dealing up and down the east and west seawalls. And I haven’t heard this. There are no stats that support these claims. That is why I didn’t personally sign [the petition].”
Adib Mansour, Island House representative and the designer of the sign, says the the January 12 attack was not necessarily a reflection on the attitudes of Islanders. “Jack McManus let us know the individual [involved in the attack] was arrested, and he was an adult, 40-years old,” not one of the cohort Islanders were expressing concern about at the Public Forum, namely Island youth.
RIRA President Jeffrey Escobar says the next steps will be up to the PSC. “With respect to the flier, [RIRA] approved the signage. At this point it is up to the Public Safety Committee with respect to [the posters’] use and posting for their anti-drug campaign and community service outreach.”
Susan Rosenthal, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation President, said that RIOC will be participating in the outreach by posting red “drug-free school zone” signs around the schools.