Wrapping up 2018, it’s hard to not be struck by just how much change the Island – and The WIRE – experienced over the last 12 months.
While we’re not big believers in resolutions here at The WIRE, we did start the year with a sense that we wanted to dig into some of the issues that perennially pop up in Island conversations, starting with the state of the Island’s public middle school and fact that so many PS/IS 217 parents opt to look elsewhere when it’s time to apply for sixth grade. When I went to the library to do research – I often look through old copies of The WIRE to gain perspective, check facts, and provide context for current stories – I found that much of our Island history, including those old newspapers, had been thrown out.
Most of those archives have since been replaced, thanks to efforts by our NYPL branch and several history-loving Islanders; but still, it was an ominous beginning to a year that would prove rich with stories, challenges, and heartbreak.
It was a year that saw the Youth Center – run for over a generation by the Roosevelt Island Youth Program – thrown into turmoil as its longtime director was investigated for misconduct, the nonprofit was denied a new contract, and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation opted to take over operations permanently.
A series looking into legal trouble within the Island’s swim program, the Roosevelt Island Marlins, set off heated debate about who the program should serve, and offered yet another cautionary tale of Island nonprofit boards with little oversight. It also cost me a longtime friendship that hurts to this day.
In 2018, two RIOC board members stepped down from the Island’s governing body, leaving the nine-seat board with just five members in all, only three of which actually live here and know what it’s like to raise a family and grow older here. The year also saw the closing of the Riverwalk Bar and Grill, the closure of the Octagon soccer field, and the loss of the Island sledding hill.
Other losses hit harder. On a Sunday in mid-March, Dick Lutz, the former editor-publisher of this newspaper passed away, leaving us all in varying degrees of shock, disbelief, and devastation. I sat in Nisi for days interviewing heartbroken friends and colleagues for a Thursday print deadline. It was one of the hardest stories I’ve ever had to write.
Dick’s passing was a reminder to us that The WIRE must to do more than merely tell the community’s stories; it must also support those trying to build a stronger community. We were collaborators on the Word to RI project, the screening of Get Out!, and Reimagine End of Life; we had a table at Roosevelt Island Day and RIOC’s Halloween Extravaganza; and we have more projects in the works.
A look back at 2018
In early April, Kelly Turner, our managing editor, found out she would be moving away at the end of June. After that initial shock wore off, we were forced to think deeply about what the future of The WIRE should look like. The challenges of publishing a printed paper in the modern world aren’t unique to us, but that doesn’t make them less painful.
During the second six months of the year, we shifted our publishing to online only. Ultimately, we found we were publishing more content, more often. We also started a weekly newsletter to help Islanders stay up to date with the latest news. (Thank you to all who have subscribed. For those of you who haven't, you can do so here.)
I won’t lie, I sorely miss our print editions (and we are still investigating options for bringing it back). But I’m also proud to say that we’re still here, attending all of the meetings so you don’t have to, following up on tips, and digging into the stories that make our Island so unique. Thank you to so many of you for your overwhelming support.
In short, we’re not going anywhere. We’re too excited to see what’s on the horizon with new shops (please, please, please!), the opening of Amazon’s headquarters across the river, a remodeled Youth Center and library branch, and so much more.
As always, please feel free to drop me a line, provide suggestions, ask how you can write for us, send story ideas, and share your feedback. Here’s to a great 2019!