Over the last few months of discussion about the Roosevelt Island Youth Program, I have consistently heard from everyone that RIOC was to blame for mishandling the process and failing to be responsive to the needs of the community. While this is certainly true, did we expect anything else?
What saddens me, and what I did not expect, is the way in which a small group of residents and representatives would deem to so openly undermine the community that RIOC cannot seem to bring together. Is achieving the desired response through legal threats proof that a strong voice can evoke change, or proof that threats are the only way to achieve the desired result?
Community action should not be about getting what you want – it should be about understanding a broader set of concerns of a diverse group, this community. It would have been – or perhaps still could be – a far more productive, and ultimately better use of your energy, to act as representatives for the Island community. Use your energy to do what RIOC cannot.
Most importantly, stop thinking about how to keep people out; think about how to include them. Call a town hall meeting and collect information from as many people as possible. Do it without any institutions or threats to hide behind. Facilitate a meeting to collect input and share the findings in an open forum. Volunteer to assist a program that needs a better form of outreach. Stand close by at a soccer game and learn with your volunteer coaches and youth referees. Understand that your actions may have very difficult impacts on others.
Try to be a part of the whole Island community instead of breaking it apart.