In response to community complaints about the open use of marijuana on the Island, and in the wake of a January 12 assault by an off-Islander who was accused of smoking pot near a playground, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) voted in February in favor of placing anti-pot signage around the Island. A couple of weeks ago, the signs finally went up.
Within days, they were vandalized.
Signs posted near the Manhattan Park playground were vandalized almost immediately.
According to Erin Feely-Nahem, chair of RIRA’s Public Safety Committee (PSC), her group had already been brainstorming signage ideas for months when the January 12 incident happened. After a Public Safety forum was held to address the incident, the Committee’s plans changed. In February, Feely-Nahem told us that she believed that the Public Safety forum was instructive in determining where the community stands on the issue of pot smoking in public.
This week, however, she acknowledged that the signs did not have the intended effect. “The final draft [of the signs] did not include the educational component, which was to ask for the cooperation of ‘smokers’ within the community, in respecting the idea of staying away from places children play. Without that ask, perhaps the message was too harsh, and provoked those we had hoped to obtain ‘buy-in’ from, in order to try and provide a smoke-free environment around the areas where children play.”
As to the committee’s next steps, Feely-Nahem said, “We waited a long time for the specialized signs, and were surprised by the quantity [just three signs were ordered]. The choice of where they were placed was determined by the Chief [PSD’s Jack McManus], with a focus on the existing problematic areas. The message, due to the difficulties in hanging them, was obstructed, which might have also encouraged their vandalism. The PSC will meet and discuss how to proceed.”
Adib Mansour, RIRA representative for Island House and the designer of the sign, says the January 12 attack was not necessarily a reflection of 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.
At least one of the vandalized signs has been removed.