Lessons Learned from Cherry Blossom Festival Made FIGMENT a Success

June 14, 2019

Our community has just experienced the best outcome of representative government.

After the highly successful programming of the Cherry Blossom Festival, and the unanticipated issues of overcrowding and transportation, residents, in true Roosevelt Island tradition, did not sit back and suffer these problems in silence.

 

The good news, beyond the fact that there were no injuries or police incidents during the Cherry Blossom Festival, is that our concerns were heard. The complaints were used constructively and successfully in preparations for the FIGMENT Festival held on June 1 and 2.  

 

Lynne Strong Shinozaki, President of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, spearheaded the effort to make RIOC understand the importance of having residents voice their concerns in a public arena. Shinozaki convinced RIOC to hold a Town Hall so feedback and suggestions from diverse constituencies might be shared.

 

 Figment Town Hall held as a result of Lynne Shinozaki's urging

 

Shinozaki also worked closely with our elected officials to emphasize the need for relevant

agencies to learn residents’ concerns before the FIGMENT Festival. Assemblymember

Rebecca Seawright called a separate meeting of all the different agencies involved, including the FDNY, The NYC Ferry, MTA, NYCEM, NYPD, to name a few.

 

At the first RIOC sponsored Town Hall gathering, residents, including parents of young children, commented with their perspectives. At the second gathering, sponsored by Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, Shinozaki, armed with our community’s’ concerns, reviewed the event planning around the upcoming festival. She stated that contingency plans prepared by the decision makers of the pertinent agencies must specifically address the concerns of our residents.

 

Through the course of discussion, misinformation and misunderstandings were

clarified. Representatives of the city agencies and others developed plans, including

arrangements for separate access lines to transportation for residents, hospital visitors and

Island employees, if overcrowding became a problem.  

 

 Crowds swarmed the Island to get to the Cherry Blossom Festival in April; there were no such issues at the Figment Festival, weekend of June 1 and 2

 

Understandably, it is difficult to make a comprehensive plan for an event that has not been held on the Island before. The mixed blessing of this year’s extreme crowding for the Cherry Blossom Festival is that it gave the community, RIRA and RIOC the opportunity to learn about extreme crowding situations and to use that new knowledge to make a comprehensive plan that incorporates the concerns of our residents.

 

Many residents attended the joyful FIGMENT Festival. It was a success; programmatically it

engaged participants and attracted many visitors to the Island. In terms of transportation and crowd control issues, it was a delight for residents and visitors alike. Island merchants

registered increased sales, and some groups had the opportunity to fundraise by selling water, beverages and snacks because there were limited food trucks on site.

 

Let’s celebrate the success of true representative government, as RIRA, RIOC and local

agencies worked with FIGMENT to create a memorable event.

 

 Sign directs visitors to the red bus

 

Lydia Tang represents residents of Island House in the Roosevelt Island Residents Association. She served as Co-chair of the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee and is a member of the Social, Educational and Cultural Committee.

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