When do Islanders Get a Turn to Play?

February 4, 2019

If the sold-out shows at this past weekend’s teen theatre performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream send one message regarding community, then RIOC’s recent press release further diminishing the amount of time we have access to our own fields stands in stark contrast.


In what other place do the local residents have to beg for field time like we do here? Where else are you forced to spectate from your windows overlooking those fields while non-residents play on them. When we see Zog packing up their stuff, we send group texts alerting our neighbors, we can play now.


Is this all in the name of “saving Island businesses?”


 Different local groups share the Octagon Field in between permits


Last October, a small group of residents concerned about the Octagon Field renovation met with RIOC President, Susan Rosenthal, and her team. Rosenthal said that she believes permitting the fields ultimately benefits residents because it brings traffic to the Island that will help support local businesses. I don’t believe Islanders should have to make that choice; green space or burgers? Soccer or beer? Pick-up games or brunch? Free play or pizza? 


It’s not fair to us, and although we do suffer for the lack of retail here, there has to be a better solution than the over-permitting of our fields, hoping that the visitors who come here to play kickball stop by Gristede’s or DuaneReade for their Gatorade instead of buying it elsewhere. The over-permitting here is so egregious that only one of the four fields will be available for Islanders’ use - and then only once a week.


Breaking that down further, since that one day a week is a Friday and most of us either attend school or work all day, it really boils down to a couple of hours that we, locals whose rent supports RIOC, can use our own fields. Where should we go to play soccer? Where should we go to throw around a football?


We’ve been complaining about this over-permitting for at least a decade, maybe two, as more and more of our designated green space is lost to fields available only by permit. Why do our voices not matter? Why can’t our kids kick a ball around after school? Why aren’t our informal men’s softball leagues not considered important?


RIOC’s press release states that “residents will be surveyed to seek new community usage policies for the renovated Octagon Field.” While this is a step in the right direction, this community input should be extended to encompass discussions about all the fields. Before making these types of decisions that have so much impact over our day-to-day lives, RIOC should start asking us how we would like to use these fields - and fully explain why they continue to make the decision to restrict our usage from them.


A new balance must be struck in favor of the residents of Roosevelt Island. Allow us to have a catch, kick a ball, throw a Frisbee, or fly a kite on spring and summer weekends or at night after a day's work, without having to fight with off-Island groups for crumbs of space.


It's time to work together to make a plan for how we want permitting to work so we can enjoy our spring and summer outside on our beautiful Island.


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